pregnancy

The two massive lies we tell pregnant women, according to Dr. Sofia Jawed-Wessel.

When Dr. Sofia Jawed-Wessel asked 500 people the first word that comes to mind when they think of a pregnant woman, she was alarmed but not surprised when the overwhelming response that came back was the word “cute”.

“When we label an adult as cute, we take away a lot of their intelligence, their complexity,” she explains in her TED Talk, The lies we tell pregnant women. “We reduce them to child-like qualities,” she adds.

It’s one of the many gripes Dr. Jawed-Wessel has with the way in which society thinks, talks and acts around pregnant women. It’s a rhetoric that compels pregnant women to consider themselves public property; as soon as a baby is growing in their stomach, their body is no longer theirs, but merely a “vessel of reproduction”.

After all, how else do we explain strangers patting the pregnant belly without asking? Or offering advice on a birth plan they’re not apart of? Or assuming they know best what a pregnant woman should be putting inside her body?

The first lie that Dr. Jawed-Wessel takes issue with is the one about alcohol.

In her own opinion and from her own research, Dr. Jawed-Wessel claims “this is a huge secret”.

“It is actually safe to drink in moderation during pregnancy. Many of us don’t know this, because doctors don’t trust pregnant women with this secret.

“We don’t trust her to make her own decisions.”

Naturally, too much alcohol has been proven to be dangerous for pregnant women and unborn babies. But Dr. Jawed-Wessel makes the point that alcohol in absolute moderation is not harmful, the issue lies in spreading that information to all women at the risk that some may not be able to moderate their drinking.

This finding is supported by other healthcare professionals, such as Professor John Macleod, from the University of Bristol’s School of Social and Community Medicine. In 2013, Macleod found that drinking three to seven glasses of alcohol a week does not harm the foetus.

However, a range of individual factors come into play when discussing alcohol and pregnancy. Because of this, Mamamia advises mothers consult their healthcare professional.

Kate Sheahan on how to manage pregnancy and motherhood as an athlete. Post continues after audio.

The second lie? That pregnant women should have sex, or be sexy.

Asking the same 500 people another question, Dr. Jawed-Wessel asked those in the survey what they thought of sex and pregnancy. These were the overwhelming responses:

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Gross, awkward, not sexy, odd, uncomfortable, HOW, not worth the trouble, not worth the risk.

And it’s that last one that she has the greatest issue with.

“We might think that when we divorce pregnant mums from sexuality, we’re removing the constraints of sexual objectification. They experience less sexism, right? Not exactly.

Dr. Sofia Jawed Wessel.

"When we tell women that sex isn't worth the risk during pregnancy, what we're telling her is that her sexual pleasure doesn't matter ... that she in fact doesn't matter.

"Even though the needs of her foetus aren't at odds with her own needs."

It's the idea that as soon as a woman becomes pregnant, her purpose is solely keeping her baby alive and bringing it into the world.

"When a woman becomes pregnant, she leaves the realm of men's sexual desire and slides into her reproductive and child-rearing role," she says.

It's important: pregnant women are much more than their baby, and women much more than the objects of desire.

After all, as Dr. Jawed-Wesse argues, "pregnant women aren't faceless, identity-less vessels of reproduction who can't stand on their own two feet."