This morning I alluded to something about yesterday’s ‘Best Start’ announcement that was bugging me. As I was writing my post yesterday, I knew something was off, but I couldn’t pinpoint what. Overnight, it became glaringly obvious.
The thing that bugs me is the goal that 80% of pregnant people are booked in for antenatal checks by 10 weeks.
On the surface, it sounds great. Of course it does – it seems apparent that earlier intervention and support can lead to better outcomes to parents and their babies.
But really, it’s a bit of an empty promise, isn’t it?
Let’s think about which pregnancies and babies might be at risk.
There are a few (non-exhaustive) categories of pregnancies in those first 10 weeks:
- Known pregnancies to families who have been actively trying to have a baby
- Known unexpected, wanted pregnancies
- Known unexpected, unwanted pregnancies
- Unknown pregnancies
People who know they’re pregnant at 10 weeks fall into the first three categories. Of those, known, wanted pregnancies the pregnancies where the pregnant person is most likely to take themselves off for an antenatal check.
Why might a person who has a wanted, known pregnancy not attend an antenatal visit as soon as possible? Well, there are some potential barriers to this – the cost of an appointment, transport, childcare, time off work, the wait time for appointments. However, so far, there has been no announcement to address these issues for pregnant people.
Besides – making an appointment is free and takes next to no time at all. All Labour wants here is booked appointments – which is a pretty easy area to show that positive ground is being made, but might not translate to better or earlier antenatal care for women. Labour also hasn’t shown any evidence that this is a problem. It smells a wee bit like making up a problem just so you can provide a solution.
Another point – not all pregnant people want antenatal checks. Most, maybe. Probably. I don’t know about you, but I think that pregnant people should be able to choose what medical intervention they have in their lives. I think as long as pregnant people have options available and accessible to them, we should be trusting people to make the right choices for them.
Now, here we’re getting into pregnancies that are potentially at risk of not attending an antenatal check in the first 10 weeks – unwanted pregnancies, and unknown pregnancies.
If you want to support people who are pregnant and don’t want to be, to attend antenatal appointments, maybe you should actively support making other options available – and legal – for pregnant people. Maybe you should take down the hoops and stigma and hell that lawmakers have put in place to prevent pregnant people from making choices that should be legitimately available to all pregnant people.
And yes, here I’m talking about two things; adoption and abortion. Let’s make both of these things accessible and available to pregnant people, and make an effort to support people who are experiencing unwanted pregnancies.
Let’s support pregnant people who want abortions by providing transport to clinics if they live far away. Let’s provide financial assistance when they need to find care for their other children and take time off work. It’s much, much cheaper than some of the alternatives.
Let’s support pregnant people considering adoption by a) publicising the option and how people might access it, and b) providing practical and emotional support to those people who are considering it.
If there’s no shame in going to your doctor and telling them that you are considering abortion, or that you’re struggling to come to terms with the news and want to consider adopting out your pregnancy, maybe pregnant people would be less reluctant to see their doctor for antenatal care. Maybe a greater level of support will help prevent pregnant people from feeling trapped in the first place, and maybe seeing legitimate options will take some of the stress out of pregnancy, and lead to healthier pregnancies and better mental health outcomes for people who have had unwanted pregnancies.
Right – the last category – unknown pregnancies. Now, these are the people who arguably would benefit most from receiving antenatal care. These people don’t know they’re pregnant, so even if they wanted to, can’t make changes to their lives and behaviours which might seriously benefit their future child.
No amount of government pressure or support will assist these people to attend antenatal appointments – if they don’t know they’re pregnant at 10 weeks, they’re probably unlikely to make random antenatal appointments just on the off chance that they could be.
So, you know what? I’m calling bullshit on this ‘best start’ aim. I don’t think it targets the people who are in most need of assistance, and I don’t think it touches on all of the actual issues that pregnant people face.
Sure, it looks great on the surface, but it lacks substance.