Sorry Mom, Pregnancy Is a Disease

pregnancy testIt's not hard to make a pregnant woman mad. Just imply that she's carrying a parasite in her belly, and she's got to be cured. That's essentially what a portion of a reproductive health bill in the Philippines is saying. The country's Senate president, Juan Ponce-Enrile, revealed language in the bill claims "pregnancy is a disease to be cured."

Filipino women are naturally expected to be cranky about this, and with this terminology, I can't blame them. But is it really that wrong? Isn't pregnancy a medical condition . . . a nicer way of saying "disease"? We bristle at the wording, but let's take a closer look.


The Filipino government is approaching a high rate of high risk pregnancies as what they are -- a burden on the women of their country. I've been pregnant. My daughter wasn't a parasite. She was (is!) the love of my life, the cream in my coffee, the cats pajamas, you dig? I'd be a hypocrite to cast pregnancy as an evil we need to cure.

But I spent nine months constantly on the run to the doctor's office. I had heartburn, carpal tunnel syndrome and hyperemisis gravidarum (aka., throwing up 24/7). Each was caused by my pregnancy and each was treated with some sort of medical intervention -- pills, a splint. Now take this definition of disease from the good old dictionary:

a disordered or incorrectly functioning organ, part, structure, or system of the body resulting from the effect of genetic or developmental errors, infection, poisons, nutritional deficiency or imbalance, toxicity, or unfavorable environmental factors; illness; sickness; ailment.

That sounds about right. I had a sickness from unfavorable environmental factors in my life -- unfavorable for my wrists and my esophagus anyway. My pregnancy was the disease that was taking a toll on my body. And that's minor.

Compare it to the affects of the high risk pregnancies on a mom, from hemorrhaging to death.There's a reason America has been under attack by the World Health Organization to address the soaring rates of maternal mortality here in the states. For a highly developed country, we rank woefully high. Amnesty International estimates that 1.7 million women a year suffer from pregnancy-related complications. That's one third of American pregnancies.

So try telling one of those women they aren't sick, they're just pregnant. You'll probably get a different answer. Would you say pregnancy is a disease?


Image via PinkMoose/Flickr

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