Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Why does pregnancy start at 12 weeks in the UK?

Why does pregnancy start at 12 weeks in UK?
I recently saw an episode of Homeland where Carrie (the main character) goes for her first antenatal appointment. The doctor asks her: “Why did you wait until 13 weeks with your first visit?” To the American doctor that is negligent behaviour.

This seemed funny to me, as in the UK no woman sees a doctor about her pregnancy before 12 weeks. I wonder what that American doctor would make of that.

When I first became pregnant, I was so anxious I immediately wanted to see someone who could check everything,
assure me it was fine and give me as much guidance and advice as possible. I booked an appointment with my GP, assuming she would confirm my pregnancy – doesn’t it say somewhere on the pregnancy home test to verify the results with a doctor?
The GP verified the pregnancy by asking me what the home test said...

When we confirmed that indeed, there were two blue lines on my test, she referred me to my hospital’s antenatal unit at 12 weeks. WHAT? Was I supposed to wait patiently, hoping for the best, for 2 more months?

Me, 7 months pregnant
This was my baby, everything I ever hoped and dreamed about and she was telling me to wait and see what happens?

So I did what every Polish person does in that situation and booked a private appointment. There are several private clinics in London which offer gynaecologist consultations specifically for Polish women who are used to such care back home. As expected, the doctor gave me a scan and a check and explained all my doubts and questions. Now, I could rest easy. Or easier, anyway, as I continued to see this doctor once a month – as I would have done if pregnant in Poland - and calling and texting him with every stupid question that ever came to mind. And there were loads of them – thank you, Dr Pospiech!

In the UK pregnancy is not a pregnancy until 12 weeks. When I asked my midwife why that is, she explained that a large number of pregnancies end in miscarriage and the chances of that happening are much lower after the 12 weeks point. So what the NHS are saying is that instead of protecting human life from the start, they’d rather wait and see if it can survive on its own. I’m glad they don’t use the same rule for the elderly so my baby can have a grandmother.

The reason why they don’t is because it is cheaper. Why invest in caring for babies who might not survive? Better to focus our money on ones who have a better chance. Darwin would have been proud.

Another reason why pregnancy is not really considered pregnancy until 12 weeks is because of our abortion law. If the law says the foetus only becomes human at 12 weeks then doctors have no obligation to protect it until that point. And nobody needs to feel guilty if pregnancy is terminated before 12 weeks.

My pregnancy became MY DAUGHTER the moment I saw those blue lines, unconfirmed as they were. I would have given my life, let alone all my money to protect her. So I’m glad I did have the money to spend on private healthcare, which may have in fact, saved her life.

But what about all the women who feel this way about their pregnancy but don’t have the money or access or even the knowledge that could help protect their babies before the 12 weeks’ mark?  Should they also wait until their first antenatal check and hope for the best? 

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