A Realist’s View of Pregnancy

Never could I wrap my head around my friends having babies without a hint of fear. I just had so many questions. What if you experience complications? What if the baby isn’t healthy? What if…what if…what if? Those who knew me well attributed my concern to anxiety. While they’re not wrong, they’re not exactly right either. In my personal experience, I’ve perceived a kind of willful ignorance in some (not all) prospective parents; a ‘hope for the best’ approach to conceiving. While I do strive for glass half-full optimism, I still fancy myself a realist. I rely on cold hard facts when making decisions. The decision about children was no different. I calculated the risk/reward ratio of pregnancy and opted not to invest and I have, what I consider, a realist’s view of pregnancy.

Risky Business

What do you think is more dangerous: contraception or pregnancy? According to researchers, the risk for young and healthy women who take birth control pills is 240 times lower than the risk of death from pregnancy-related complications. Based on news clips and article headlines, I could have thought oral contraceptives to be riskier.

“Pregnancy is more dangerous (meaning, more likely to kill you) than the following: general anesthesia, hang gliding, SCUBA diving, rock climbing, canoeing, and air travel. In fact, pregnancy is 14 times more dangerous than the next riskiest activity (hang gliding).”

I’m an Ob/Gyn and I Never, Ever Want to Be Pregnant, Lisa Torres, M.D.

I’m not keen on becoming 1 of the 600 women in the U.S. who die as a result of pregnancy-related complications each year. In fact, I think I’d rather take up hang gliding… while on birth control.

Not only can pregnancy result in death, but you could incur a host of other symptoms:

  • Bleeding
  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Nausea
  • Heartburn
  • Constipation

Just reading the list makes me want to take Peptobismal. I also want to call my mom and 1) ask her how she had not one, not two, but three children and 2) give her kudos.

Rewarding for Some

Pregnancy is truly, and quite literally, a labor of love for some. Most, if not all, women who want to have children don’t get pregnant for the pregnancy itself. The pregnancy is a means to an end and the baby is the light at the end of the tunnel (no pun intended).

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with women who decide to take on these risks but here’s the caveat: They need to know the risks.

Become Informed

I don’t mean you should go up to every aspiring mother you see and start spouting off pregnancy complication statistics. Or if you do, please leave my name out of it ;-P But, every woman deserves to know what she’s choosing when she chooses to have kids.

We live in an extremely pronatalist society. What does this mean? Pregnancy, childbirth, and childrearing are viewed through rose-colored glasses. Recently, there were days you couldn’t even log into Twitter without seeing Beyonce’s maternity photos and read the praise that followed. Yet, this is what we’re not seeing:

A woman, who at 35 years old and carrying twins, is more likely to experience “miscarriage, premature delivery and stillbirth, gestational diabetes, bleeding complications, hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, C-section, chromosomal abnormalities in babies, and growth retardation in babies.”

The behind-the-scenes shot is not always as magical as what you’re seeing front and center. Regardless, it still deserves to be seen.

I think we do all women a disservice by showing only the pronatalist point of view. Instead, let’s be realists.

What do you think? How can you be a realist? Tell me in the comments section below!

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    • forevergulls (rebecca)
    • June 5, 2017

    Bleh! No thanks! Pregnancy is gross.

    Stretch marks, weight gain, vomiting, acne, skin discoloration, mood disorders, body odor…do I need to go on without repeating what has already been said? And what about the more disturbing side effects like, I dunno…DEATH?!

    I already have terrible hormones and endometriosis and a pregnancy can make those things exponentially worse. I pretty much hate my uterus and would be totally ok with removing it and donating it to a biology lab for anatomical studies. Hell, I’ll even prepare the jar of formalin for them! Good riddance.

    1. Your comment literally made me laugh out! I’m right there with you. I have to take medication for hormonal adult-onset acne just to keep it at bay. My hormones and I are enemies. Good riddance indeed!

    • Martha
    • June 6, 2017

    So true. I don’t know why women want to go through with it. And why society acts like its so beautiful. I agree with you 100% that the media and society should inform women of the real dangers of pregnancy. On the other hand, there are some women out there that don’t care about the dangers and want a baby so bad, even if it comes you deformed. And i think that is sick.

    1. Martha,

      You’re right. Even if society/media starts informing women of the risks, which I do hope they do someday, there will still be women turning a blind eye to it all.

      I watched a documentary some time ago (wish I could remember the name) and in it a soon-to-be father was interviewed. He and his wife just found out that the fetus had abnormalities and would be born with severe special needs. He was of course upset and admitted, “I don’t know if I’m special enough to raise a child with a special needs.” It broke my heart. Not every parent is naturally equipped to support a child with severe disabilities. Often when a couple tries to get pregnant, they ignore this very real possibility. Ignorance is only bliss for so long.

  1. Reply

    As someone who gave birth twice, I can confirm that pregnancy is just… awful, lol.

    There are lots of things they don’t tell you about either (calf spasms at night, terrible aches in your hips because relaxin is loosening your joints, bad heartburn, “morning”sickness that lasts all day like a bad hangover, etc).

    You don’t get *all* the symptoms but most women get a lot of them. Sure, there are women who have no problems, just like there are women who never get menstrual cramps, but that’s unusual.

    I was terrified. And labor was horrible- don’t listen to the “natural childbirth” crowd that says the pain is all in our heads.

    It’s really uncomfortable and you’re dying for it to be over near the end. The beauty is just in knowing you’re going to have the baby (assuming you wanted the pregnancy) and touching moments like hearing the baby’s heartbeat or feeling it kick for the first time.

    So, yeah, I agree, lol.

    One thing, though. Women do face higher risks in their 30’s, but I believe they are exaggerated. Believe it or not, much of the fertility research comes from 17th century French women- and women who didn’t have kids by their 30’s in the age before birth control were obviously likely infertile.

    I wanted to mention that because I believe constant media focus on the riskiness is a scare tactic pressuring women to have babies before they’re ready (pro-natalist, as you say). And I believe that having babies before you’re emotionally/financially ready, or before you’ve finished your education or gotten into a stable relationship because you’re fighting this supposedly rapidly closing fertility window is worse than slightly increased infertility odds.

    The average age of first pregnancy in some other first world countries is 30 or more, for example.

    That’s just my two cents. Thought I’d mention it because American women face a lot of pressure to have babies very young, which I’m guessing neither of us agree with 🙂

    1. Erin,

      Thank you for your perspective! I never knew that about the fertility research. I’m interested in learning more about that. You’d have to imagine fertility clinics also prey on women’s health risks in order to get people in the door earlier rather than later. You’re right, if women are to have children, it needs to be when they are completely ready. They shouldn’t just opt to have children young because that’s the easiest time to get pregnant.

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