Friday, April 24, 2009

A(nother) visit to the doctor.

I went for my thirty-two week check-up yesterday at the doctor's surgery. Since about a month ago I've been going every two weeks, and from thirty-six weeks I'll be going once a week instead. It's not a hardship now I've started working from home and most of the time I enjoy the visits. I like hearing my baby's little heartbeat and spending time in the waiting room in the company of other pregnant women. (We all check out each other's bumps to see how far along we are. It's competition time, ninja-style.)

Yesterday, however, I wasn't at all impressed with my visit. To start with, since we moved house my journey to the doctor's has been made considerably shorter, which I forgot about completely until I rolled up to the hospital almost an hour early. So I stayed in my car, rolled down the window and read The New Yorker for a bit, then waddled my huge stomach and backside up to the third floor about ten minutes before my appointment. I was then kept waiting for an astonishing FORTY minutes (unheard of in this insurance-driven country) because they've changed the layout a bit and were down to only two clinic rooms. Of course, it wasn't until I went back up to the counter and pouted with an English accent that things started moving, so naturally I was quite put out and needed to have a wee.

Ah, having a wee. Normally I'm quite skilled at this part, having peed into the little cup so many flipping times already. However, yesterday for the first time I realised that I am no longer able to SEE the cup underneath my big belly. In vain I tried scooting myself around on the toilet seat for a better angle, lifting my stomach to see if that would help and finally settled on the only option left to me: blind luck. I ended up weeing on my hand, the cup, the label on the cup and even on the seat (how the hell did it get there?!), but I'm a pro and didn't panic. I had already prepared my clean-up crew for this very event ahead of time and proceded to wipe everything down with what can only be described as one of those little handi-wipes you get from KFC when you order chicken.

Weeing test done? Check.

Blood pressure done? Check.

Listening to the baby's heartbeat? Check.

Doctor running late and nearly out the door...? Hang on a sec!

I'd been at the hospital since 3.10pm and only in to see the doctor for five measly minutes by 4.45pm, so I decided to milk my time with him for as much as possible. I decided to ask him what my options were for contraceptives after the baby is born, although I kinda wish I hadn't...

In his best high school sex-education teacher voice, my doctor lectured me on every single kind of contraceptive imaginable for the next ten minutes. He told me that abstinence was the only fool-proof method (in his words, "to my knowledge there's only been one failure, and that was 2,000 years ago."), explained the difference between progesterone-only hormones and combined hormones (progesterone and estrogen) and even told me the most cost-effective method (a ten-year IUD, provided you leave it in that long). Not once did he ask me whether I wanted any more children after this one and if so, when we planned on conceiving them. I felt like a careless teenager being given one of life's lessons too late.

It also bothered me that my options for contraception after the birth are so limited. My husband and I don't enjoy using condoms and are quite frankly NOT going to abstain from sex, so I wanted a hormonal method instead. Here's the lowdown: progesterone (p) only hormones are available as injections, implants, tablets and patches but they can mess up your periods, leading to heavier, irregular cycles and spotting or bleeding in between. Combined (c) hormones are available as pills, patches and IUDs, but while they give you shorter, lighter periods, they can also seriously limit the amount of breastmilk you produce, which is obviously less than ideal for nursing mothers. Both p- and c-pills leak hormones into breastmilk, which nursing babies then injest. It's not harmful to them, but I can't imagine it's beneficial either. Most new mothers therefore choose a p-only hormone and just put up with the crappy cycles and irregular bleeding, but I want more than that.

Why hasn't the medical industry come up with a better alternative yet? The c-pill has been around since the 1950s and yet we STILL can't offer women a third option? I want to breastfeed but I don't want to bleed. I also want to have sex on MY schedule, not on the whim of a pill that dictates if will be bleeding that night. Is that so hard to figure out? I also want to be able to pee into a little cup using a better method than blind luck. Why hasn't someone come up with a better option for this, too? Honestly, it's as though we're the last ones to take into consideration, even though pregnant women are clearly into sex and probably wee into cups more often than any other human beings in the space of nine months. Where is the medical industry now?

Failing us, that's where.


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