pregnancy

"When I found out I was pregnant, my GP's first question left me bewildered."

31-year-old *Mel recently discovered she was pregnant for a third time. After confirming this with her GP he asked he the following question:

“Would you like to continue with the pregnancy?”

Mel tells Mamamia she was quite taken aback when asked this by her doctor.

“I wasn’t quite sure why he had asked me this. I was obviously older this time, so I thought perhaps this might be why. I had never been asked this before so I was bewildered,” she said.

For Mel, although the pregnancy wasn’t planned, it was still quite clearly happy news.

“I was smiling when he confirmed the pregnancy, there was definitely no reason to think I was unhappy.”

As well as being obviously delighted with the news, Mel is also both physically and mentally healthy as well as having two previous pregnancies that were carried to full term without any major issues.

“There was no reason I could think of for him to be asking me this,” Mel said.

The many, many things pregnant people never say… 

Video by MMC

Although this question seemed to be quite a strange question to ask, it turns out that it isn’t a strange question for some GPs to ask because Mel’s situation wasn’t a one off.

In fact, another woman named *Kate  who was seeing an entirely different GP told Mamamia the same thing happened to her when she fell pregnant for the first time seven years ago.

“I was younger I suppose [23] but I had been married for a year, had no health issues and was financially stable,” she said. “We had been actively trying to start a family, so my reaction was definitely one of happiness and excitement.”

So, with two different GPs asking two different women this same question, is asking this common practice? And is it really OK for a doctor to ask this question?

Obstetrician, Dr. Patrick Moloney says asking woman whether she would like to continue with her pregnancy or not “is not common in private obstetric practises.”

Is it really okay for a doctor to ask this question? Image: iStock.
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"We tend to know our patients well already and it’s clear when a pregnancy is happy news.“

Dr. Maloney however says a General Practice setting can be different because “doctors deal daily with women who may not be pleased to be pregnant or who feel that that they cannot continue with the pregnancy for many reasons."

He also added that a simple “are you pleased to be pregnant?” is usually all it takes to open the discussion.

"It takes sensitivity, tact and a lack of judgement to do that job well.”

"Like Mel’s instinct picked up on, age can be one of the factors that a medical professional may have concerns about regarding a pregnancy and whether it is safe to continue and where tougher decisions may need to be made,” Dr. Moloney said.

"There are many other pregnancy risks that vary with increasing age: such as diabetes risk, pre-eclampsia risk and Caesarean section risk. These risks, however, can be modified by the woman being otherwise very well, active and having a normal body weight."

On the other side of the age spectrum are the “women who fall on the ‘younger’ side the risks. [These] are not strictly medical but social problems related to teenage pregnancy and parenthood.”

“A woman’s age is certainly important, but I see it as just one factor when looking at “fitness” for pregnancy."

Dr. Moloney did acknowledge that there often reports of “insensitive remarks from caregivers” regarding obstetric advice around a pregnant woman’s age. There can be confusion about a 'doctor’s concern' relating to advanced maternal age or a geriatric pregnancy as it is now known for a “judgemental attitude”.

He also noted that sometimes, especially with medical students, that this concern can often cause them to simply forget to say “congratulations.”

Have you ever had a GP ask you this question? Tell us about your experience in the comments section below. 

Dr. Patrick Moloney is an obstetrician and gynaecologist in Ballarat, Victoria.

Shona Hendley is a freelance writer from Victoria. An animal lover and advocate, ex secondary school teacher with a morbid fascination for true crime and horror movies, she is busy writing and raising her children: two goats, two cats and two humans. You can follow her on Instagram @shonamarion.

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