Earlier this year, the CDC caused a frenzy (Dan Savage's May 25th Straight Rights Update sums it up) when it released a spooky series of guidelines recommending, among other things, that "All women who are able to become pregnant should treat themselves and be treated by healthcare professionals as being pre-pregnant". Understandably, many of us in the pre-pregnant community freaked out–I'm as concerned about my present and future reproductive health as the next lady, but treating me like a breakable baby incubator on legs is probably not the best way to assuage my fears. As if there isn't enough attitude about young women's potential motherhood out there–it seems like every time I pick up a magazine, I'm looking at another hysterical article about my ticking biological clock.
I sincerely hoped that the CDC's pre-pregnancy guidelines weren't evidence of a new trend, but apparently, my hopes were in vain. According to United Press International, the Maternal and Child Health Journal just published a series of articles on "pre-conception care" in the online supplement to its current issue. Maternal and Child Health Journal or not, I still have issues with the whole notion of "pre-conception care"–why not just call it "women's health care"? Isn't it enough to have healthier women, who will in turn have healthier babies, should they choose to become mothers? But then again, if a legit medical journal has solicited a small body of scholarship on the issue, maybe I'm making a fuss over nothing.
Then I read the third sentence of the lead article:
In the Old Testament, the following passage appears: "And the angel of the Lord appeared unto the woman, and said unto her, ‘Behold now thou art barren, and bearest not: but thou shalt conceive and bear a son. Now, therefore beware, I pray thee, and drink not wine and strong drink, and eat not any unclean thing.' "
Call me paranoid, but in the current political environment, I'm not sure I'm 100 percent comfortable with this biblical reference as a universal touchstone for reproductive health. And I appreciate that the medical community is looking out for my future, but in my personal experience, the pre-pregnant attitude often feels more like a negation of my existence than a genuine expression of concern for my well being.
An example: earlier this year, I was experiencing nausea and random stomachaches that I later realized were most likely stress-related. I went to my doctor's office, expecting a battery of questions and tests about my digestive system. Instead, I got one question: Is it possible that you're pregnant? Well, it's highly unlikely, but technically, yes, I guess it's possible. The nurse practitioner gave me a pregnancy test and sent me packing, after a stern line of questioning about what I thought I would do if I discovered I was pregnant.
The pregnancy test came back negative two days later, but my nausea and stomachaches persisted. I went back to my doctor's office and asked to see a gastroenterologist, who (after asking me if I might be pregnant) recommended that I get an endoscopy, which requires mild anesthesia. I agreed, slightly nervous about the prospect of anesthesia, since I'd never had it before.
When I returned two days later for the endoscopy, I was kept waiting for 45 minutes, at which point a nurse took me into a room and asked me to undress. I had some questions about the procedure, which she couldn't answer without the doctor. But she had one question of her own: Is there absolutely any chance you might be pregnant? Luckily, I had the pregnancy test to prove that I wasn't, at which point I was left in an exam room for the next hour, growing increasingly nervous about the anesthesia and the procedure, which still hadn't been explained to me. The doctor finally popped his head in to drop off a consent form (he was too busy to answer my questions about the procedure), then the nurse returned and hurried me into the exam room, where the anesthesiologist was waiting. No sign of my doctor.
Finally, when I refused to sign the consent form without an explanation of the procedure from my doctor, I got some answers to my questions. The procedure itself was uneventful, but the ordeal left me feeling like the entire medical team cared more about the non-existent baby in my uterus than the actual human being sitting in front of them, who was experiencing a legitimate non-reproductive health problem.
So I guess, in the end, what I'm trying to say about pre-pregnancy is this: I wouldn't mind the concern for my uterus if it didn't come at the expense of all my other organs, especially the one in the middle of my chest.