There’s a swirl of media and pithy opinions that pertain to women of child-bearing age this week that have come off as fairly oppressive. You’ve heard the news — this is about Zika and this is also about alcohol. First, there’s a new report out of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that stitches truths about unplanned pregnancy, alcohol use in child-bearing years and offers advice that has lit women and the blogosphere aflame. The CDC’s goal is valiant: inform women about risks alcohol has on developing fetuses, remind the public that nearly 1/2 pregnancies are unplanned and remind women to make “good choices.” On top of this, women of child-bearing age have been told that not only can we not take a trip to Mexico or Central America while pregnant because of risks from Zika, we learned earlier this week that we can’t have unprotected sex with our partners while pregnant if there is any chance of an exposure to the virus. Women planning on getting pregnant should also take precautions. As a reminder, Zika is a somewhat silent infection (only 1 in 5 who get it have symptoms) so the risk criteria is just based on where you go and where you’re exposed. If we women get the Zika virus while we’re pregnant or at the time of delivery, our babies can have devastating side effects. So the threat can feel very real.
Something that has to be said: public health recommendations in keeping families healthy will at times differ for men and women. It’s just the way it’s gonna be because of our differing roles in making and raising children. Nonetheless, I’m here to say I think the advice and the news this past week has felt like a big ton of bricks. Advice has felt unrealistic, sexist, and oppressive by many even though it’s based in smart public health data. For the first time in my life I’m relieved that I’m not thinking about having another baby. I mean it’s just a lot to toss around. That being said: IT’S A WONDERFUL TIME to have a baby. Let me do my best to frame up the alcohol conversation as a mom, feminist, pediatrician and health advocate. The updated recommendations/precautions on Zika will be in my next post:
Pregnancy, Women Who Can Get Pregnant, And Alcohol:
In the report’s summation, it advises women who 1) ARE pregnant or who 2) are TRYING to become pregnant to refrain from drinking. Pretty standard. It’s group #3, the group that MIGHT become pregnant causing a bit of unease. The report recommends that women who MIGHT become pregnant (capable of becoming pregnant) unintentionally & who consume alcohol, to either refrain from drinking altogether or use contraception. This includes women of child-bearing age (15 to 44) who are drinking, having sex, and not using birth control – roughly 3.3 million based on the CDC report. According to a study in 2011, we learned that about half of all US pregnancies are unplanned and, even if planned, most women do not know they are pregnant until they are 4-6 weeks into the pregnancy. Read full post »