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Be Good, Be careful, Behave

by Helen Tue May 29th, 2007 at 03:04:05 PM EST

Zoe Williams takes the pregnancy fear-mongers to task in the Guardian today over their hysteria about the supposed various nasties that women can inflict on their unborn child.


 It reminded me of Izzy's response to a comment in yesterday's Salon de News

Men are allowed to make their own medical decisions and women are not, even when it's a matter of life or death. It's that simple.
This alone -- that women aren't allowed to control their bodies or fates -- makes the system unequal, or "macho" if you will, regardless of who is enforcing it and for what reason (religion in this case)

Zoe herself comes to similar conclusions. the whole article is instructive in the propagation of scare stories, but with that ever-present background of attempting to control women's behaviour. As evidenced by the US warnings to pre-pregnant women to behave "properly".

Throughout your life, you are given bits of advice, by experts, by newspapers, by people who have done it themselves and know what they are talking about and by people who have no idea what they are talking about. And you filter it for whether it makes sense and whether it dovetails nicely with what you have already decided to do.
Then you get pregnant and a number of factors change: first, the advice is much more patronising, and much more militant. Take last Friday's announcement that, instead of allowing themselves the odd glass of wine, as previously recommended, from now on pregnant women should drink nothing at all. Not based on any new research, by the way, just "to be on the safe side".
Despite having got yourself into a spot of bother, pregnant women, you are still in the possession of adult judgment, and you are still allowed to use it. If the official advice sounds stringent to the point of insanity, examine it more closely - you aren't just a selfish person, looking for loopholes for your own sorry enjoyment.
Try to remember, when the advice turns out to be nonsense, that not everyone has evil motives: some people will give you bad advice because they are stupid or ill-informed. Others will give you bad advice because, without even realising it, they have a yen to bring the business of procreation under closer central control. They just don't trust you. But then, why should they? You are an absurd shape and you keep crying.

Her article details the probable reality that lies behind the various warnings. And the difference between the "official" warning and scientific understandings are quite marked.

I've always wondered about this since I read that there is simply no basis for the warnings about the number of units w're supposed todrink each week. It's just an accepted finger-in-the-air figure that "seems" reasonable.

Many of our mothers drank during pregnancy, and while this may not be very scientific, the lack of alcohol-related brain damage in our generation should militate against blank credulity when you are told not to touch a drop.......
but from the point of view of the pregnant woman, presented with no bona fide evidence for foetal harm at low drinking levels, the response is, of course, "Sod that."
Abstinence messages never work. Everybody knows they don't work, and I would go one further and say that social conservatives never intend them to work - they intend, rather, with their stringency, to effect a severance between the state and the individual. Don't come crying to us if it all goes wrong. We have already warned you to be perfect.

Listeria has been my particular bugbear ever since a midwife - that is, a trained prenatal professional who, unless I develop complications, represents the highest medical authority I can expect to deal with throughout my pregnancy - told me that I could get listeriosis, thereby brain-damaging my foetus, without knowing about it. Now, listeriosis is an incredibly serious disease, with extremely serious symptoms, taken extremely seriously by epidemiologists nationwide. Get it without noticing it? If I got listeriosis, the national papers would know about it. It would be the third outbreak that has occurred in this country in the past 20 years. My beloved, C, said: "Well, she was just erring on the side of caution." This is a common line. But the distinction between "caution" and "misinformation" could not be more important - when it is blurred, as it so often is, the upshot is that pregnant women either become neurotic, or lose faith in the medical profession altogether.


Most interesting of all is this: toxoplasmosis can be screened for during pregnancy, and can also treated in the womb, which is not the case for Down's syndrome. This is your classic authoritarian sleight of hand - with a scattergun delivery of partly accurate, partly misrepresented and partly plain wrong information, all our attention is focused on our individual responsibilities, which we will probably, through a combination of waywardness and stupidity, fail to fulfil anyway. Yet, statistically, it would be a better investment for our unborn children if we were to eat whatever we liked and spent our time and energy pressuring MPs for better prenatal screening and better standards of hygiene in medical institutions.

At the beginning of this year, a Danish study published findings on this subject: 1,200 women were surveyed, which is more than double the sample of the next largest study. The adjustments for confounding factors were comprehensive, and the conclusion was that no significant differences occurred between the caffeine drinkers and the decaff drinkers, in the birthweight of their babies or the frequency of preterm delivery: even among women who drank more than seven cups of coffee a day.

<sigh> I think you mean Izzy's comment BTW.

Strangely enough, I nearly diaried William's story earlier but got distracted by an exploding server.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue May 29th, 2007 at 03:15:25 PM EST
ah yes, apologies to all concerned

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue May 29th, 2007 at 03:43:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, you can't get non-volatile staff these days.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Tue May 29th, 2007 at 03:45:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Moi?  Volatile?  

Honestly, in that instance I thought I was being fairly... reasonable and informative?  ...in response to something I diden't think was meant to give offense.  I certainly wasn't upset with the commentor I was replying to -- I hope I didn't give that impression and, if so, off my apologies.

Thanks for the diary, Helen.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes

by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 29th, 2007 at 04:16:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
LOL, and there I thought Sven refered to Colman's exploding server.
by Fran on Tue May 29th, 2007 at 05:05:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
LOL, maybe you're right!  Although, is a server considered staff?  Hey, maybe Colman is blogging from a restaurant!

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes
by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 29th, 2007 at 05:16:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
btw, I'm just back from the dentist and just noticed all my misspellings/typos in my first comment -- please forgive.  I'm woozy and slightly unhinged.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes
by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 29th, 2007 at 05:18:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Fran - you are spot on. I admit to my jokes being opaque at times - but I had a clear vision of an aging butler approaching Sam and Colman with a tray and two glasses of pink champagne, before spontaneously combusting as he bent over.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Tue May 29th, 2007 at 05:56:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
LOL -- sorry Sven.  See above re:  the dentist.  They practically have to chase me through the halls and take me down with a tranquilizer gun to drag me in there.  I'm still woozy.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes
by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 29th, 2007 at 06:06:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hmmm - can I get some of that? I would need a dart in the backside.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Tue May 29th, 2007 at 06:12:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
LOL, I had that server/servant picture too, but alas no pink champagne. :-)
by Fran on Wed May 30th, 2007 at 12:30:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Rights and responsibilities.  We all want our individual freedom, and more efficient services which can only possibly happen with reduced state intervention and greater privatisation. Damn the public for not letting the government do away with the welfare state entirely, leaving us with a watered down market mechanism and too much regulation. It just isn't competitive, what about our freedom of choice here?  

We have the consumer 'right' to value for money, quality of services and the means to complain - it's all in the Patient's Charter.  But of course we have responsibilities too to make us legitimate welfare subjects who deserve the rights they are given.

And we must be white, heterosexual males in full time employment to secure those rights.

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Tue May 29th, 2007 at 04:51:40 PM EST
I would say that most tests for new medication usually is done on male test-groups - but often the female organisme has a different reaction, which is only researched to small extend.

Also still little research is done on how symptomps for the same sickness in man and women can differ. So can a woman have different symptoms for heart problems then the commonly known in male.

by Fran on Tue May 29th, 2007 at 05:09:23 PM EST
One I do know is that paracetemol has nothing like the effect on women it does on men, wheras Ibuprofen is much better.

I can't actually gauge if it ever changed for me cos I've never liked paracetemol.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue May 29th, 2007 at 05:45:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I would say that most tests for new medication usually is done on male test-groups - but often the female organisme has a different reaction, which is only researched to small extend.

I'd be curious to learn of any pharmaceutical study where the patient's gender wasn't factored in, when it should have been ?

by balbuz on Wed May 30th, 2007 at 03:11:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry, my time and googling skills are a little limited, but this is what I came up with. :-) And I found that the situation seems to be improving somewhat.

August 06, 2001 Inclusion of Women in New Drug Testing

At the request of Rep. Waxman and Senators Tom Harkin, Jim Jeffords, Barbara Mikulski, and Olympia Snowe, the General Accounting Office (GAO) investigated FDA's progress in addressing the inclusion of women in clinical drug trials. While the report indicates that FDA has made some progress in ensuring the participation of women in trials, it identifies 02 Apr significant shortcomings in the inclusion of women in new drug development. GAO concluded that it was not confident that either the pharmaceutical companies or the FDA reviewers took full advantage of the available information to learn more about the effects of the drugs on women and to explore potential sex differences.

BMJ. 2001 August 18 Drug trials still fail to include sufficient numbers of women

Overall they found improvement in the representation of women, who currently constitute 52% of participants in studies of new drugs. But only 22% of the participants in the initial, small scale safety and toxicity trials used to set dosages in larger trials were women.

Despite improved numbers, however, analyses of sex differences in drug trials continue to be insufficient to make firm conclusions about differences in efficacy and side effects in men and women. The General Audit Office found that in 33% of pre-approval studies data on safety and efficacy were not segregated by sex. Furthermore, 39% of new applications did not include demographic data on age, sex, and race.

FDA: 1994: Advocating for Women: Office of Women's Health

FDA created the Office of Women's Health (OWH), beginning a new chapter in this agency's commitment to women's health. Serving as a champion for women's health both inside and outside the agency, OWH safeguards the health and well being of American women in a variety of ways by:

    * Providing scientific and policy input on many of today's leading women's health issues;
    * Funding research and education/outreach programs on pressing women's conditions and diseases;
    * Encouraging industry to include women in their clinical trials; and
    * Communicating important public health messages to and from the public.

This issue is one of the Society for Women's Health Research's advocacy priorities.

The Society's goal  for the future of clinical trials is to guarantee the inclusion of women in all phases of clinical trials with sufficient representation to allow for analysis by sex, ethnicity and other demographics. In addition, efforts will be directed to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ensure that appropriate sex-based analysis is performed in clinical trials so that prescription drug labeling will reflect important differences between women and men.

Read the SWHR policy statement on the coverage of routine costs for clinical trials

Historically, health researchers have preferred male subjects for a variety of reasons including:

    * Perceived costs and complexity of recruitment and inclusion of women in clinical trials

    * The desire both to protect a woman's potential fetus (regardless of whether she is pregnant, uses contraceptives, or intends to conceive) and to avoid legal liability from perinatal exposure

    * The potentially confounding effects of women's hormonal changes.

When considering these rationales, however, it is also important to consider that:

    * The inclusion of women in clinical trials potentially facilitates the development of less expensive prevention and treatment strategies

    * The discovery of differences between male and female response to disease and treatments has implications for both genders in clinical practice, disease prevention and manifestation, and medical education
 Barrier: Lack of Analysis of Resulting Data by Sex

    In 2000, an audit by the GAO found that women were being included in clinical trials at rates proportionate to their numbers in the general population for Phase III trials. However, the study also indicated that the NIH has not yet attained the goals set by Congress in implementing the sex analysis requirement. The proper analysis of resulting data could lead to the detection of significant sex differences. For example, a 2001 GAO report found that eight of ten prescription drugs that had been withdrawn from the United States market since January 1997 caused serious adverse reactions more often in women than in men. This example demonstrates that the inclusion of more women in clinical trials without appropriate analysis of data by sex serves political purposes but does little to improve our knowledge of women's health.

by Fran on Wed May 30th, 2007 at 05:43:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Research Neglects Women, Studies Find - The Body
Washington, April 29 -- Medical researchers who receive federal money often flout a federal law that requires them to analyze the effects of new drugs and treatments on women, three new studies have found.

Experts say that health care for women may suffer as a result because researchers overlook important differences between the sexes in clinical trials evaluating new methods of treating or preventing disease.

The conclusions of the three reports are somewhat surprising because the Clinton administration has repeatedly emphasized the importance of women's health, and Congress has been prodding the National Institutes of Health to pay more attention to the issue.


The third study, by Dr. Katherine D. Sherif of the MCP Hahnemann School of Medicine in Philadelphia, found that a small protion of published research -- less than 15 percent -- did any analysis of the differences in results for men and women.

Mainly Women

"As a result," Dr. Sherif said, "doctors are sometimes slow to recognize dangerous drug combinations." "For example," she said, "it was mainly women who suffered life-threatening abnormalities in heart rhythm when they took the antihistamine Seldane in combination with erythromycin, a common antibiotic, or ketoconazole, an antifungal agent."

The Accounting Office said the National Institutes of Health had decided that people conducting certain types of research did not need to report on the inclusion of women. "For example," it said, "studies that involve only specimens of tissue or body fluids are exempt."

But some scientists said the broad exemption might be inappropriate because it sometimes makes a difference whether scientists are examining cells from a woman or a man.

These informations are not very recent, but I have not been able to find some newer information.

by Fran on Wed May 30th, 2007 at 05:57:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to cause you extra work. Thanks for this info.

I think I remember, but couldn't find any source, that recently Greenpeace requested the data from a study on genetically modidfied foods, and that by factoring in the gender (which had not been done by the initial analysis), they were able to show there was an effect on women. This effect did not appear if men and women were aggregated.

But, sorry, no link.

by balbuz on Wed May 30th, 2007 at 06:59:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thats interesting, I will see if I can find something on that. Thanks.
by Fran on Wed May 30th, 2007 at 09:10:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ok, I have it here, in French.

There was an effect differential on male and female mice, which had not been shown in the initial statistical analysis because the gender factor had been neglected.

by balbuz on Wed May 30th, 2007 at 11:15:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you balbuz, this is very interesting. I become ever more weary of GM food.
by Fran on Wed May 30th, 2007 at 11:30:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
One reason for this is that tests are usually performed (unless otherwise required) on young, adult, otherwise healthy persons. Young, adult, otherwise healthy women may be pregnant and are therefore excluded.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Fri Jun 1st, 2007 at 09:55:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, the consumption figures per week that could drive alcoholism are kinda arbitary - because the effect is cumulative from the very first drink you ever take.

It varies between 25 - 35 units a week according to different studies, and according to gender. One unit is a 1/3rd litre of beer or 12 cl of wine or 2cl of hard liquor.

But if you have reached this level of consumption, you are verging on the alcoholic. Of course the true alcoholic can do 200 units a week and still function, but they are doomed to denial and early death.

Alcoholism is cumulative. Every drink you take makes you more lkely to take another later.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Tue May 29th, 2007 at 06:10:27 PM EST
Ladies! Be afraid! When you exit your home and head out on town, there is a rapist or an assaultist behind every bush!

These are numbers for Sweden... Actual experience of violence is rather gender balanced. But look at those fear numbers! And the common viewpoint is that women are right to be afraid, that the world is full of men out there, waiting in the bushes to harm us. This is unfortunately promoted by so-called feminists as well... We must make our streets safer because women are afraid to go out at night... (Will it ever be safe enough??) They fail to draw the conclusion that what is more overblown is the fear, not the violence. That perhaps women are afraid because they are taught to be. That daughters are told different things than sons... That the media put different attention on violence against women in the street than men. And in the background, always, when a woman gets attacked, she should have been more careful...

Note that these numbers are overall violence. It says nothing about whom it was committed by. And we all know that one is more likely statistically to experience violence by someone known than by a stranger. That, in particular for women, it often happens at home, by a partner. Still, women are encouraged each day to watch their backs when out and about. A rapist behind every bush...

I thought at least feminists would care about the empowerment of women... How is fear, statistically unwarranted fear, empowering? What happened to keep your head up, your back straight, and if some man approaches you in a threatening manner, a nice, swift kick to the balls? We are not weak little things in need of protection by a man, or by the state!

by someone (s0me1smail(a)gmail(d)com) on Wed May 30th, 2007 at 02:27:25 AM EST
Hmm, I'm not very good t going into these things, I've read very learned takedowns of such figures.

However the thing that occurs to me is that males are more likely to become involved in some form of cockfight strutting that leads to a greater tendency to experience threats and violence. However, as the strength of the males and ability to endure violence is (roughly) equal, there is a tnedency for a ritualistic roughing up, pushing and then mutual retreat.

Violence against women is rarely "concensual" in terms of behaviour, nor is it equal in terms of strength, almost all men are much much stronger than most women.

Therefore women's perception of threat is much greater because the genuine threat of real hurt and humiliation through being unable to fight back is so much greater. Women have more to lose.

Equally, you really ought to read this essay on kos, which is far more eloquent than I can dream about the reality of what threats women face, simply for being women.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed May 30th, 2007 at 06:17:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sure, women are physically weaker... However, they are also often discouraged from fighting back. And encouraged to think of themselves as weaker and more delicate. Encouraged to view the world as threatening.
the genuine threat of real hurt and humiliation through being unable to fight back
Women are not unable to fight back! Of course not. Even at a strength differential, in a physical confrontation, one can cause a lot of damage to the other person, even if one is perhaps not strong enough to overpower them... So why not fight back? Kick, punch, bite, claw, whatever it takes. Put a stop to the view that women are easy victims! And most importantly, let's stop feeling sorry for ourselves. That rarely does much good.
by someone (s0me1smail(a)gmail(d)com) on Wed May 30th, 2007 at 07:26:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Women are not weaker... and the Earth explodes now...

I know I know every single entity in the world knows this self-evident true.. women are weaker..

Well... actually let me say the same thing  I say always..a gaan :). The differences between man and women regarding strength when both are forced to limit are.. to say the least minimal..or roughly nil. Both more or less both run at the same speed.. can rise the same number of kilos... the differences are very small but they exist nonetheless. Man body taken to the limit can run 100 m in 10 s.. while women .. can not get more than 12s (pussies!!!)

Now seriously, in our everyday life we are so far away from our limits than the strength and violent development is purely based on cultural gender.

In bolivian matriarchal societies... guess who will punch in the nose? For that matter.. who do you think could carry 30 kilos without sweating for more than a mile without any fatigue.. me or my grandma when she was 70 years old?  Amazing what rising in a agricultural society (roughly patriarchal) regarding strength roles can do when it is compared with an  industrial city full of "women pussies" (I think the narrative of "women pussies" is rather .. urban .. je jeje..)

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Wed May 30th, 2007 at 07:49:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not encouraging violence but I don't think twice about punching or shoving any man who drunkenly lurches at me in a pub or on the street. If I didn't do that then there would be more opportunities for being groped or even attacked.

I tend to walk fast and tall and glare at people who seem to eye me up, I don't put good manners before my personal safety!

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Wed May 30th, 2007 at 08:59:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What happened to keep your head up, your back straight, and if some man approaches you in a threatening manner, a nice, swift kick to the balls?

Kicks - and using anger, voice and body laguage - is basically what feministiskt självförsvar (feminist selfdefense) is all about. Usually belittled in the press.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Fri Jun 1st, 2007 at 10:02:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
When she was pregnant (in France, in 1979), as a smoker she got a fair amount of "No Smoking While Pregnant !" literature. Which included the warning that smoking wild pregnant would increase the odds of having a baby girl.

Both paternalist, and, as she was scientifically literate, pretty obviously false. The literature failed to convince her.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Thu May 31st, 2007 at 11:20:38 AM EST

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