Thursday, March 23, 2006

A Grassy Knoll

A commerical aired tonight, that I've seen before. I can't remember the name of the product because I am the an advertiser's worst nightmare - I ignore tv ads wildly, remember visuals but can't name the company, sometimes it takes dozens of viewing before I remember the general product. Yep, it's not a coincidence that my nickname is Dharma (yes, as in that show).

I can tell you what the products purports to do - predict pregnancy even earlier. Part of the ad copy says "Imagine knowing within days if you're pregnant". Now tell me what that will do for women. Really. What? Aside from further removing them from listening to their bodies. Yeah, I have a problem with ovulation kits too, at least when used without learning anything about one's body. Yes, it's true I think all women, actually adolescent girls should read Take Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler. I took a course in "natural family planning in my early 20's - it was revolutionary for me. Regardless of whether a woman is trying to avoid pregnancy or trying to get pregnant this is important information to know about oneself.

Tonight, I registered that fateful line in my brain and decided precisely why I hate this concept. It's a conspiracy. The Girl Friend in response said, "Everyone has their grassy knoll." Embarrassing as this is to admit I had no idea what she was talking about. She told me, I looked it up. Coloured me red-faced. My mother worked on Kennedy's campaign even though she wasn't old enough to vote in his election. She sent my birth annoucement to Kennedy and saved in my baby book is a form letter postmarked November 11th 1963 congratulating my parents on my arrival. Somehow with all that, the phrase never sunk into my consciousness.

Spontaneous miscarriages, early ones, before standard detection occurs is estimated at about 20%. That's 1 in 5, with many occuring before detection. Now of course if women actually know their bodies via temperature, cervical fluid, other body changes, twinges, etc, many would know without any tests that requires a purchase, which puts money in who's pockets? Not women. The earlier women know they're pregnant the sooner marketers can target the tender dears to part with their money even earlier.

If 1 out of 5 pregnancies spontaneously end, what does that do for women to know how many times an egg and sperm have met but decided it was an ill-fated romance? Not so many moons ago couples (I am talking about heterosexual couples, lesbians and others without access to fresh sperm on a regular basis are a whole 'nother category though I still strongly recommend Toni's book) were told to give themselves up to 2 years of trying. Of course this recommendation was given without informing women of how to realistically actually get pregnant (yes I'm still harping on TCOYF). Around the time I became a doula in 1996 it was changed to 12-18 months, after which the couple were advised to seek out fertility counseling, which leads to testing, which often leads to assisted conception, which takes what people? Money. Yep. Now it's been skilled back to 12 months - half the time it used to be.

I do see this as a way to encourage women to spend money earlier and earlier in their journey to become mothers. A way to discourage women from knowing their bodies. A way to further distance women (and men) from exploring what it means to chose to become parents by investing them in the goal and not the reality. The companies that market these kits, the drug companies who produce fertility medications, the doctors and staff at "fertility" clinics, the insurance companies (those who cover infertility - I still haven't made up my mind on that issue) - all make money.

Conspiracy theorists were never the people I sought out at parties, but somehow I have become one.


ae said...

Great post, Dharma. I think all of us who watch the manipulation of women's reproduction at every phase and the medicalization of "normal" procedures feel like conspiracy theorists now!

Breena Ronan said...

I agree. I have been thinking about reproduction because I'm in my early thirties but not financially or emotionally ready to have kids. So they say that every year past thirty-five your chances of conceiving is reduced by 10%. So I have had to think about what I would do to have a kid when the time comes. Its crazy what kinds of interventions people will go through rather than having kids in a timely fashion or just decide that its not for them. Interventions to prevent natural aging are similar. While I'm not happy about the lines and wrinkles that I'm noticing I'm not about to inject poisons into my face!