Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Wisewomen, Witches, Midwives, and The Age of Ignorance

Yesterday, I lost my temper. I know, I know big news, alert the press, and all that . There was a legitimate reason for anger, I will tell you why if you're patient.

I saw the latest report on women's health. The latest fertility reports. The University Of Edinburgh, and The University of St. Andrews have put out a report that states women lose 90% of their eggs by age 30. Really? Only 10% strength by then? That means I shouldn't exist. Or my mom. Or her mom, and dad. Or my great-grandparents for that matter either. At least 3/4s of my family should not exist. I am so sick of these breathless headlines every few years.

These stats from Sheffield University say that between age 40-44 you have a 36% chance of getting pregnant after trying for an entire year. From 30-34 it's 63%. Some sources say a woman's peak fertility is 20, some 27, some say the decline does not start until after 35. I recall an article from about five years ago saying the peak was 29, then one last year putting it at 23.

Let me tell you a secret, kids...they don't fucking know. Notice how the findings keep changing? There are too many variables to make any sweeping statements. And there are several rather important things nobody is telling.

1. Fertility testing is done on people who are having a problem. Blood tests are taken, hormone levels gauged, and from that it is surmised how many eggs a woman has left. No one schedules an egg count like a teeth cleaning. It's not a part of a normal gynecological exam. One of the MDs in the Daily Mail article recommends going in for a blood test, and ultrasound just to know.

Does that sound like drumming up more business to you?

2. Heredity. Heredity. Heredity. All women, and men too are not born equal when it comes to fertility.

This bit of straight talk from Dr Marie Savard, GMA's medical contributor: "Women who have more pregnancies are fertile for longer, and some women are born with more eggs than others, she said. The more eggs with which a woman is born, the longer she will be fertile and more time she will have until the onset of menopause."

Know your family history, if like me, you come from several lines of fertile myrtles who have popped out healthy offspring at 46 there's a good chance you're one too.

3. It's not something that can be accurately measured. There are no ways of tracking fertility from birth to menopause. The Apgar score of a newborn does not include any reproductive tests. They would notice if you were born with something missing or extra, but as of now there is no tricorder to wave over your body and give Dr. McCoy a complete picture of how everything's working inside.

If they don't truly know how many eggs you start out with how would they know you've lost 90% by 30?

4. It's MEANT to scare you. Meant to scare you so much you run out and get pregnant while you still can. Meant to terrify just-past-college age women into getting married and knocked up at an age when they want to build careers and find themselves.

A scare from Dr. Savard, "Women lose eggs a lot faster than we thought," she said. As you get older, conceiving is "much more difficult. ...Even all those assisted reproductive techniques are challenges."

"That biological clock does tick," she said, adding that her advice to women who want kids is, "the sooner the better."

5. Women's health care has never been the same since men took it over.

The norms used in research and assessing health are all masculine in nature.

Once upon a time, pregnancy, childbirth, contraception and abortion were managed by other women. Wisewomen, witches, midwives. For most of Human history, they were considered female physicians. Many were herbalists of great skill, holding on to the traditions and knowledge of the distant matriarchal past. In Medieval Europe, the Church regulated and licensed them, making them swear an oath to the local bishop not to use magic during labor and childbirth.

Women are magical creatures. They fear our magic.

By the 18th century, the Age of Enlightenment, male surgeons had tired of the Hippie Chicks keeping all that lucrative birthing business away from them, thus began the witch hunts and the gradual outlawing of the participation of women in medicine. The birth rate shot up, and so did the mortality rates for both mothers and infants.

This, from Wikipedia: German social scientists Gunnar Heinsohn and Otto Steiger have put forward the theory that midwifery became a target of persecution and repression by public authorities because midwives not only possessed highly specialized knowledge and skills regarding assisting birth, but also regarding contraception and abortion.[11] According to Heinsohn and Steiger's theory, the modern state persecuted the midwives as witches in an effort to repopulate the European continent which had suffered severe loss of manpower as a result of the bubonic plague (also known as the black death) which had swept over the continent in waves, starting in 1348.

They thus interpret the witch hunts as attacking midwifery and knowledge about birth control with a demographic goal in mind. Indeed, after the witch hunts, the number of children per mother rose sharply, giving rise to what has been called the "European population explosion" of modern times, producing an enormous youth bulge that enabled Europe to colonize large parts of the rest of the world.

While historians specializing in the history of the witch hunts have generally
remained critical of this macroeconomic approach and continue to favor micro level perspectives and explanations, prominent historian of birth control John M. Riddle has expressed agreement.

This dark age of women's medicine was also the germination of the abortion debate. The Catholic Church didn't give two shits about abortion before the end of the 18th century, when the secret doings of women became a very big deal, and they wanted to make sure there was a population explosion.

After teens, the largest group getting accidentally knocked up is women in their 40's. They listen to their doctors, and read articles like the ABC report and think they don't have to be careful, it won't happen. I know at least 5 people this has happened to, all thinking they were challenged or infertile because of age. This conventional wisdom has huge consequences. Read this.

If you google accidental pregnancies over 40, you'll be shocked at what you find. These women also have a 65% abortion rate because they often have had a family and can't handle one more child. So that skews the live birth stats too.

The truth is no one really knows. Eat healthy, don't smoke, don't drink too much, breed with a younger man, his age and health matters too, And "illegitimi non carborundum". (Don't let the bastards grind you down.)


Tanya said...

Beautiful post. Thank you for putting so clearly why the British study is a steaming load of crap. I really enjoyed the More article you pointed me to. Will link to you!

Fifth Generation Leftist said...

Thank you so much, Tanya! I'm just so sick of these scare tactics and bullying of women. People have to realize there is no simple answers where reproductive health is concerned.