Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Barefoot and pre-pregnant

The CDC is recommending that doctors treat all their female patients of a childbearing age as "pre-pregnant" whether they plan on getting pregnant soon or not. In addition to taking folic acid supplements, refraining from smoking, maintaining a healthy weight and other generally-recommended guidelines for good health, it is also recommended that:

Women should also make sure all vaccinations are up-to-date and avoid contact with lead-based paints and cat feces, Biermann said.

The report recommends that women stop smoking and discuss with their doctor the danger alcohol poses to a developing fetus.


Research shows that "during the first few weeks (before 52 days' gestation) of pregnancy" -- during which a woman may not yet realize she's pregnant -- "exposure to alcohol, tobacco and other drugs; lack of essential vitamins (e.g., folic acid); and workplace hazards can adversely affect fetal development and result in pregnancy complications and poor outcomes or both the mother and the infant," the report states. [Emphasis mine]

So, besides staying generally healthy and maintaining a nutritious diet, a woman ought not drink, clean her litter box, or be at work. I'm not really sure what options for living your life outside a plastic bubble this allows. What's next? Warning "pre-pregnant" women against wearing shoes?

These recommendations come in light of recent data that shows a very high rate of infant mortality in the US - the only developed nation whose infant mortality rate is worse is Latvia. While that's clearly a huge problem, I somehow doubt that women out living it up are the reason. If we knew women in other developed nations did not smoke or drink or work, then the CDC might be onto something.

This is just lazy policy. Instead of finding the causes of a higher infant mortality rate (Could it have something to do with a widespread lack of health coverage in this country?), the blame is being placed on women who are living normal lives. Unintended pregnancy rates are not increasing due to a lack of awareness and access to contraception - people just aren't being abstinent enough. Infant mortality isn't affected by our overpriced and underperorming healthcare system - women just don't care about their babies enough. This kind of thinking has come up as short as everyone has predicted, and it's just not cute any more.

I might also add how insulting it is that I am not encouraged to have healthy habits for my own sake, but for the sake of possible children I might have. What am I, chopped liver? Or, as Jessica at feministing (where I found this link) says:
The vessel will make sure to treat its uterus and surrounding matter with care for the preparation of the all-mighty fetus. The vessel puts the lotion in the basket.

UPDATE: Thinking about this issue, I'm reminded of this post Bad Feminist wrote about the requirement that women using Accutane also use two forms of birth control. Even if the situation is as dire as this report is making it out to be - which I do not think it is - what if you'd rather abort an unintended pregnancy than give up drinking and smoking? What if you'd rather terminate an unintended pregnancy than use two forms of birth control while on Accutane? These people clearly are not thinking outside the box.

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