I am a member of a few Mom Groups on Facebook. They are non-loss related. They are just groups where moms talk about mom things, like what to do about diaper rash and who has Ergo baby carriers on sale. While sometimes I can find out some good information, I don't often activtely particiapte in them because sometimes it's tough to relate to a mom whose world is crashing down because her kid won't eat green beans. However, my difficulty relating is not what this post is about. It's about something I have noticed in each and every group. Something my fellow loss moms have noticed in their "regular mom" groups as well.
It's the attitude of an untouchable pregnancy. The attitude that all pregnancies progress perfectly - and if a mother is worried in any capacity, she shouldn't be.
I have seen it happen dozens of times. A mother posts a concern regarding her pregnancy. Maybe she's started spotting. Maybe she's crampy. Maybe she has noticed a change in her baby's movements. Whatever the issue, she always asks if she should go to her doctor. 95% of the responses tell her not to worry. They tell her something similar happened to them, or to their friend, or to their cousin's neighbor, and everything was fine. Sometimes, she states she's asking in the group because she doesn't want to "bother the doctor" or be a nuisance to labor and delivery. She doesn't want to appear anxious to the professionals whose job it is to keep her baby safe. So, when the other women tell her not to worry, she doesn't. And everyone goes about their day.
I hate these posts. I hate them because when I do comment (without giving my specifics) that if she is concerned, there is no harm in calling her doctor to make sure, no one pays attention to it. Everyone says to her it's no big deal. I usually end up turning off the notifications because I just can't sit and watch this woman be assured everything is perfectly fine when it might not be. I realize I am jaded. I realize my experiences make me a little more cynical, but when did it become unacceptable to be concerned about your child?
I listened to the reassuring "everything is fine" comments. In my heart, I was very worried. I didn't want to call my doctor because I didn't want to bother her. I didn't want to look like a crazy person who needs to check on her baby all the time for no reason. Except, I had a reason, I just didn't know it. When I voiced my concerns, everyone said they were sure everything was fine, and I believed them because why wouldn't it be?
12.4% of women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. To help decrease those odds, women are taught how to give themselves breast exams and to get regular mammagrams if needed. If a woman found a lump in her breast, she wouldn't think twice about calling her doctor. If she posted a question to her mom group about whether or not she should see her doctor, no one would comment, "It's probably benign. Don't worry about it." She would go get checked out because...well...what if it's cancer? 87.6% of the time, it is not.
25% of women will lose a child during pregnancy. That is twice the amount of women who will get breast cancer. Yet, women are still uneasy asking questions about their pregnancy. They don't want to "bother" their doctor. They reassure each other that everything is fine. 75% of the time it is.
Those odds just don't line up with the precautionary behaviors that go with them.
Part of it is because women are just not educated about what can go wrong during pregnancy. I know no one wants to scare the pregnant woman, but educating people will not cause things to go wrong. Learning about stillbirth will not cause my child to be still born. Learning about Trisonomy 13 will not cause my child to develop it in utero. Understanding the reasons for spotting during pregnancy will not cause me to miscarry. Education is not causation.
Part of it is because women are reluctant to go to their doctor when they notice something disturbing because they "don't want to bother them". Often, women will try to wait it out. Or, they will ask their Facebook friends what they should do, which leads to another issue - well-meaning, yet uneducated, reassurances.
People, we have to stop this. Pregnant women need to be educated about issues associated with loss. Not as a scare tactic, but to arm themselves with information. They need to feel comfortable asking their doctor questions. They need to be okay with "bothering" their doctor or going into labor and delivery when they feel concerned. Whether or not there really is an issue, their concerns are still valid. After all, they are creating a human. A human whose life depends upon them. They shouldn't be nicely bullied into thinking they have nothing to worry about. Their fears shouldn't be dismissed.
If a woman is concerned about her pregnancy in any way, she should not be discouraged in going to her doctor. She should be told to seek medical attention. What's the worse that could happen? She spends a few hours in a doctor's office for nothing. Maybe owes a few hundred dollars for a test or two. However, if she doesn't go to the doctor, the worse that could happen is the worse that could ever happen. She could lose her child.
This isn't rocket science, guys.
Something needs to change. It starts with you. Stop telling your pregnant friends not to worry. You don't have to scare them to death, but if they are concerned, or if they mention something about their pregnancy that seems off, encourage them to go get checked out. If you are pregnant, and you feel concerned, go to your doctor. Don't wait until things get better. They might. They might not.
This isn't about fear or paranoia. It isn't about negativity or bitterness. It's about women being educated and not invalidated. It's about saving babies instead of saving face.
Stop discouraging the doctor and start encouraging women to take an active role in their pregnancy.
Who knows the difference you can make?