Oh, pregnancy. I just learned a whole lot about buns in the oven today and it may have saved my life. Did you know doctors calculate one’s pregnancy due date by the first day of a female’s last period? And did you know doctors consider 14 days after that last crimson tide as the official egg-meets-sperm day, without much concern for mild inaccuracies? Yeah, it’s true. A doctor told me all about it over the internet (it’s actually a fantastic article on gyno history and math)
I also learned that birth defects can be found by ultra sound at 20 weeks gestation, while a fetus can live outside the body by 22-24 weeks. This last bit of info seems to be exceedingly important when considering laws banning abortion once a fetus is viable apart from the host body, while still leaving room for monitoring if a fetus will actually be able to survive at all after gestation. (This also has interesting relevance to placenta life, but that is for another blog.)
Now, admittedly, I’m a political ostrich. I generally find American politics so enraging that my brain goes dark in a Donna-Noble-of-Doctor-Who way to save me from death by brain aneurism. Today, though, the blood vessel almost popped. I had to do something.
I saw an article linked on facebook today sharing Arizona’s legislation earlier this year that defines pregnancy as beginning 2 weeks before conception. Wait, what? NO! I WANT TO LIVE!!! Many well meaning folks had already commented their rage and disbelief and I was game to get pissed, too.
I click on the article and yup, conception is now the first day of your last period before conception if you live southwest of four corners. “WTF,” my brain pulsates. “That’s medically inaccurate and downright asinine! Does this mean I’m pregnant every month!?” I pantomime despair. The law even has a pretend-friendly title, “Women’s Health & Safety Act.” Contextually, this title is utterly terrifying.
My heart rate accelerates, but I breathe. I slow the emotional onslaught of rage to save myself. Enter critical thinking.
“Hmm, well what do doctors think? I know a female cannot always estimate the day of conception. Could this possibly play a role?” Enter google search terms:
Turns out, doctors have been using first date of period as a conception marker since the beginning of western doctoring because it is the ONLY outward indicator of baby/no baby. And to this day, it stands. SO MUCH SO that when a doctor says pregnancy is 40 weeks, the first 2 are meant to be before conception. This is ridiculous, but I get it. Marching onward…
I was angry and raged when I read about the new law because I thought those silly people in Arizona like Rep. Kimberly Yee must be dotards and there’s NOTHING I can do about stupid. But the truth is, this 2 week discrepancy thing could possibly make sense to get everyone on the same timetable. When a doctor says the pregnancy is 20 weeks in, and a lawyer says 20 weeks in, I would hope we all agree on the same start date. (though, as a woman who ovulates way later than the average female, I find this overgeneralization of when babies are made rather marginalizing). I’m not saying this one detail of such legislature is right or wrong, but I’m saying it shouldn’t have been framed in such a way to appear so dumb.
In a nutshell, the article acted as a reality distortion field with a headline like ‘Pregnancy Begins 2 Weeks Before Conception.” That title EASILY inspires strong negative emotions in good, mentally capable people. That’s a whole lot of people going “Arghh!” and clicking away.
The scary thing is that MOST of the time I click away when I feel this angry at extremists and their entrenched political involvement. I was successfully blinded. I didn’t even read the rest of the article about other parts of this legislature until after the whole thing blew over and my heart ceased pounding. The Women’s Health & Safety Act is ACTUALLY terrifying. It takes a minority group’s obsessive anti-termination stance and gives power to shaming and bullying women and children in schools and doctors offices. It keeps needed medical attention from those who need it and according to Michelle Steinberg of Planned Parenthood, ”women are being forced to carry children that they know will end up dying within hours of birth.” Lame. Super lame.
But I wouldn’t have known or understood any of this unless I had found out why anyone would claim a woman is pregnant before she is pregnant. Turns out there IS a basis in reality for that crazy headline. It was poor journalism, poorly written legislature and a whole lot of sex nerd rage that was to blame. So, as the sun sets now on my laptop, my new knowledge tucks me in for bed. I have lived to see another day here on the internet. Humbly, I bid you good night.