I Didn’t know I was Pregnant

We saw an episode of 20/20 on Friday. The big headline was about a woman who didn’t know she was pregnant until she was giving birth. Everyone was marvelling how this could have happened. The woman had 3 children already so how could she not know she was pregnant? Complicating the situation, they revealed that the man had a vasectomy several years ago.
They tell the story about how the woman felt some ‘pressure’ and then all of a sudden she had given birth. Her husband called ambulance which was quite far away and the 9-1-1 operator had to talk her husband through cutting the umbilical cord and making sure everyone was fine. The event traumatized the older children. Eventually the ambulance came and mother and baby were taken away in the ambulance.
Now we can get to what really annoys me about the: “I didn’t know I was pregnant” story lines. Invariably, they start to talk about how shocked and amazed everyone is that the baby was born healthy! Citing a lack of pre-natal care they wonder how the baby could have been born healthy. Hello?!? Women have been having babies without ‘pre-natal care’ for millennia!
The medicalization of childbirth over the last 200 or so years seems to have convinced women that they cannot have babies without interventions. It is clear that pre-natal care has improved outcomes for babies and mothers. Generally if a woman eats a healthy diet and treats her body well she will likely give birth to a healthy baby. In many cases even if a women does not eat a good diet she will likely give birth to a healthy baby. The medicalization of pregnancy and childbirth in western nations, has turned women into health care consumers for very basic functions. Women in third world countries have babies without medical intervention all the time. Why is it so hard to believe that women in North America could do it too?
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Published in: on April 13, 2010 at 8:56 pm  Comments (2)  
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  1. I read this and then thought about what I wanted to say for a while before writing. I was very confident that I would not need any medical interventions while pregnant, but was looked after by my midwife for my entire pregnancy and delivery, as well as the first two months of my baby’s life.
    In my opinion, prenatal care is really preventative care. It goes without saying that women should not drink alcohol or smoke while pregnant, but if you didn’t know that you were pregnant, then consuming these things could be an issue. Also, pregnant women should not be taking certain over the counter medications (like aspirin) because some drugs can have a negative effect on the baby. Women have been having babies forever, but they did not always have healthy or viable babies. They also did not have access to the same potentially harmful substances that are readily available now (alcohol, tobacco, medications).
    All of my prenatal care was done by a midwife, as was my delivery. Other than weighing me and measuring my baby, I didn’t have any medical interventions. I declined the glucose test for gestational diabetes but did take the quad screen, which was my choice to take or not. I did take folic acid before and during my pregnancy to greatly reduce the chance that my baby would have a spinal cord defect. I delivered my baby naturally but was glad that I did it at the hospital should he or I need any additional care.
    I don’t think that the comment about lack of prenatal care should mean that the woman did not have any required medical interventions. I read it to mean that she didn’t know what to not consume during her pregnancy and that she didn’t have someone to monitor the pregnancy.
    This is my opinion after having a baby and watching the show.
    Erika

  2. I agree with you, Chris, that the over-medicalization of childbirth is a serious issue. I think things like ultrasounds, blood tests, pain relief during labour, etc, should definitely be available to women, but not pushed on them. I don’t think the majority of women are aware of either all the risks of the various common medical interventions, nor are they aware of all the effective non-medical/natural alternatives.

    What really makes me sad about stories like this (where a woman didn’t know she was pregnant until she gave birth) is what it says about her health &/or awareness of her own body. Pregnancy affects every single system of the body & changes so many things, I’m shocked that someone could somehow overlook all the signs. Or perhaps she had a number of health problems that had things in common with pregnancy symptoms.


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