Indeed, the Guttmacher Institute estimates that the average person who wants two children will have to think about preventing pregnancy for approximately three-quarters of their reproductive life.
For me, that process lasted 30 years.
I am an obstetrician and gynecologist. I believe that people should have the freedom to decide for themselves whether they will become parents. If they elect to expand their family, they should be able to decide whether they will carry a pregnancy, adopt or use a surrogate. They should be able to decide how many children they will have and parent them based on their personal values. They should have the freedom to use their contraceptive method of choice.
The decisions my husband and I faced were similar to those many of my patients faced. I experienced many complications during my five pregnancies despite having health insurance, access to care from well-trained physicians, a good job and excellent health. My five pregnancies resulted in three children.
One of my pregnancies involved twins in which each fetus was in their own sac but they were sharing one placenta. Starting at 16 weeks, it became evident that one twin was getting the majority of the nutrients and growing as expected while the other was struggling. As the pregnancy proceeded, my husband and I had many difficult conversations with our doctor about our options. One option was to end the life of the struggling fetus so the other one had the best chance to live. The other option was to let nature take its course. In the end, both died unexpectantly at 22 weeks.
In addition to navigating these issues for the past few decades as a patient and a mother, I have also counseled many individuals as they traveled their own journey through pregnancy and parenthood.
My last pregnancy was complicated by preterm labor that began at 19 weeks. Again, we had many conversations with our doctor as my pregnancy progressed from one with a previable fetus to a viable preterm fetus to a term fetus. There were many options to consider along the way including terminating the pregnancy. My doctor answered all of our questions with no reservations as we developed my healthcare plan week by week.
These pregancies occurred in the 1990s. Looking back, I am grateful that I had access to some of the best doctors in the country. I am grateful that my doctors did not have to consult with their lawyers or adjust their recommendations to comply with non-medical deadlines or policies mandated by politicians.
Of course, many women face these same complications and decisions today.
What’s different is the increasing likelihood that these healthcare decisions will be shaped by politics, not patients and their healthcare providers. My own experience as a mother, as well as a doctor, is that doctor-patient conversations must allow both parties to express their thoughts and knowledge. Neither a patient nor a doctor should have to worry about being investigated, fined or imprisoned for seeking or providing the care the patient needs.
Unfortunately, the ability of doctors and their pregnant patients to discuss, develop and implement healthcare plans without restriction by the government is now at risk in many states. As all of us participate in this year’s elections, I hope you will keep in mind the importance of protecting the ability of doctors to provide and patients to receive the care they need – without government intrusion.
Setting arbitrary limits on certain procedures or criminalizing physicians who provide care to you, your wife, partner, daughter, sister, daughter-in-laws or other loved ones will directly impact your own health and the health of your loved ones.
Put more simply, this year, the future of your healthcare and that of the people you care most about is on the ballot. Every vote counts.