I've said many times that childbearing should be covered by something similar to the Americans with Disabilities Act.
But not in the sense that a normal, low-risk pregnancy should be considered a disability. Some say that our culture considers the male body to be the standard for "normal" physical functioning, and that any deviation from that is treated like a disease. Pregnancy is not a disease. Pregnancy is a normal human state. Any setting that accommodates people should be able to accommodate pregnant people and their needs.
In my work as a midwife, I've heard far too many stories of women having to deal with situations that did not enable them to take good care of themselves or their babies.
For example, in the workplace the one right that women have won is the right to go on disability and stop working. These pregnancy guidelines from the University of Michigan Health System give examples of situations where a woman might need to quit her job:
- If you have a job that requires standing for a long time, you may need to stop working as early as 24 weeks into the pregnancy. When you stop depends on how long you are required to be on your feet, if you can take rest breaks and put your feet up, and on your medical history.
- Stooping and bending below knee level can be a problem. If this is part of your job, you may have to stop working as early as 20 weeks into the pregnancy.
But how about the right to be able to continue working instead? I really think that a lot of jobs that "require" standing and bending could be adapted to accommodate the needs of pregnant women. Plenty of jobs that are done standing could be done sitting on a stool.
Other things that women need at work include:
- Adequate bathroom breaks and bathroom access. Women have told me that they were limiting their fluid intake (bad bad bad!) because the only available bathroom was so far away.
- Opportunities to eat a snack between meals.
- A place where they can take a quick nap during their break time.
- Support for breastfeeding and breast pumping for new mothers.
- Flexibility in work schedules for new mothers.
I'm sure there are more. And don't get me started about issues like the right to breastfeed in public.
Anyway, I want to hear from women about their experiences with inhospitable workplaces, schools, colleges, and other public facilities. Tell me your stories and let's talk about how the situation can be improved.
Please leave your stories in the comments here. Spread the word!