Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Don't Pat My Belly: I'm Just Pre-Pregnant

In other keeping-women-down news (see below), federal guidelines now recommend that all women, from the date of their first periods, be treated as pre-pregnant. (Thanks to Bridget for the link.) So, in theory, the "women" (read: girls as young as eight years old, in some cases) that we aren't teaching sexual education to should have their bodies ready for any sort of accidental pregnancy take place.

New federal guidelines ask all females capable of conceiving a baby to treat themselves -- and to be treated by the health care system -- as pre-pregnant, regardless of whether they plan to get pregnant anytime soon.

Among other things, this means all women between first menstrual period and menopause should take folic acid supplements, refrain from smoking, maintain a healthy weight and keep chronic conditions such as asthma and diabetes under control.

That doesn't sound so bad, really. Women shouldn't smoke, shouldn't be over or under weight, and should take care of any chronic conditions they have. But saying that women should do this because they are little vessels for babies isn't right.

The recommendations aim to "increase public awareness of the importance of preconception health" and emphasize the "importance of managing risk factors prior to pregnancy," said Samuel Posner, co-author of the guidelines and associate director for science in the division of reproductive health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which issued the report.

Yes, women should take care of themselves before they get pregnant, when they know they may become pregnant. If a woman is even thinking about having a baby, she should know to look this shit up, or talk to her doctor. Yes, accidents happen. But women aren't just kept around to squirt out pups. Women should be healthy so they can continue making contributions to society. Not just because they may get pregnant and may have an at-risk baby.

This all mainly boils down to the fact that the United States' infant mortality rate is rising, and other countries have healthier babies.

The U.S. infant mortality rate is higher than those of most other industrialized nations -- it's three times that of Japan and 2.5 times those of Norway, Finland and Iceland, according to a report released last week by Save the Children, an advocacy group.

Well, now we kind of get to the meat of the issue, don't we? Do you know what Japan has that the United States does not? A public health care system. Yes, in Japan, you can walk into any hospital and get basic medical care for free, including pre-natal healthcare. I can't have my doctor rub my boob and look for cancer for less than $100 unless I have insurance. Do you know what else Japan has that America doesn't? A healthier diet. Ten days of time off from work per year. The United States' healthcare system sucks, and these little Dutch boy sticking his fingers in the dam (ew... perhaps not the best analogy for the topic) cures aren't going to fix it. Chemicals are in everything we eat, we don't get time off to think about anything, our cell phones are always ringing. I think having teenagers pop folic acid vitamins isn't going to fix the underlying problem: we're a country full of unhealthy habits and people.

Women should also make sure all vaccinations are up-to-date and avoid contact with lead-based paints and cat feces, Biermann said.
Well, damn. I really enjoyed all that contact with cat feces and munching on lead chips. I guess that party's over.

Some medical facilities have already found a way to weave preconception care in with regular visits. At Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, N.Y., a form that's filled out when checking a patient's height, weight and blood pressure prompts nurses to ask women, "Do you smoke, and do you plan to become pregnant in the next year? And if not, what birth control are you using?"

See? The problem is, with all the abstinence-only sex-ed girls are getting, they won't know what birth control is. Or they'll think that no birth control is effective since that is what they're being taught, so they won't use any. This whole thing is squicky because the CDC doesn't have a solid line. If you're going to prep a young woman for breeding, you've got to tell her what her options are in regards to birth control. If you're not going to tell her how she can stop a pregnancy, don't make her super-fertile. Also, the CDC should be focused on getting women to quit smoking and managing chronic conditions because Americans, both men and women, are, on the whole, unhealthy. Fix the underlying problems (poor diet, lack of health care, environmental contamination, stress) that cause infant mortality. Don't only keep women fit because we're the breeders.

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