Why Do We Mock—And Murder—Pregnant Women?

Our marginalization of pregnant women is overshadowing something far more dangerous than weight gain.

Last week, OK! Magazine’s front page feature on “Kate’s Post-Baby Weight Loss Regime” — one day after her delivery — epitomized the insane and unhealthy expectations put upon pregnant women before and after baby. British women went understandably ballistic in response. TV presenter Katy Hill put her foot down and her shirt up to show off her post-baby bump, urging everyone to boycott the magazine using the hashtags #DontBuyOK, #bumps, #bodylove and #babyweight-gate.

Homicide during pregnancy is more common than some conditions pregnant women are routinely screened for, such as diabetes and pre-eclampsia, according to a recent study. Especially among African Americans and women under 20, who are at higher risk.

Murder is a leading cause of traumatic deaths for pregnant women in the US, second only to those caused by motor vehicles, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control. However, if you combine suicides (10%) with homicides (31%) into a broader category of “violent deaths,” this is tied with car accidents (44.1%) as a cause of maternal deaths.

“Maternicide”: An Under-reported Problem

As shocking as these stats are, violence against pregnant women is actually under-counted and under-reported. Those absolute numbers are in reality higher because the US has no official or consistent methodology for documenting and counting maternal mortality.

Most US death certificates don’t state if a woman is pregnant at time of death.

It can only be determined by the person certifying the death if he/she analyzes the cause(s) of death given, or via autopsy. Or by linking the certificate to the delivery of a child or stillborn baby.

One study found 38% of positive pregnancy status on death certificates was not reported.

Defining the “maternal” period

In addition, researchers use different definitions of “pregnant woman.” Some studies include the postpartum period for 42 days, others a year after birth. Critics say this lengthy period of maternal-ness is overarching but a recently-pregnant status is a need-to-know part of the picture.

It’s not “just” homicide that we need to track

What are we measuring (besides Kate’s belly bump & Kim K’s butt)?

The scope of the problem far outweighs our focus on it.

“There is a phenomenon going on out there

and we don’t understand it yet.”

We as readers, the media, and the agencies responsible, need to focus on violence and domestic abuse during pregnancy, not the size of of Kim Kardashian’s butt. We are all, in essence, “the media.” When we click on those stories, buy those magazines, and do or say nothing, we are enabling the marginalization of pregnant women and the unreal standards being purported on all pregnant women during and after birth.

Facts & Figures:

The British are doing it best.

In “Why Mothers Die” and “Saving Mother’s Lives” the Confidential Enquiries into Maternal Deaths (CEMD), researchers define one category for maternal deaths as those “who died of any cause who had features of domestic abuse.” [italics mine]

Playwright, writer & namer. @kimrosewriter & NameGirl Top 10% of writers & readers on Medium in 2016.

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