Why I’ll still be taking pills even if I get pregnant: a follow-up

A few months ago, I shared a post in which I revealed I’m planning to continue taking my ADHD medications even if and when I someday get pregnant. I explained that I literally wouldn’t be able to afford to stop taking my daily dose of CNS stimulants; sans pills, I can barely function, which means I would be unable to work (or even drive to work, for that matter). In short, I would have to risk exposing my unborn child to all manner of adverse health outcomes in utero.

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As it turns out, however, such exposure may be far less likely than originally thought. As reported in a Nov. 29 ADDitude article, “The risks associated with taking an ADHD stimulant medication during pregnancy are real, but quite small,” according to an extensive population-based study published last month in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology

In the study, the authors examined a cohort of pregnant women “and their liveborn neonates” enrolled in Medicaid from 2000 to 2010. They compared women who took Adderall or Ritalin alone in the first half of pregnancy to unexposed women, and women who continued to take the medication past 20 weeks’ gestation to women who discontinued.

The takeaway? 

Psychostimulant use during pregnancy was associated with a small increased relative risk of preeclampsia and preterm birth. The absolute increases in risks are small and, thus, women with significant ADHD should not be counseled to suspend their ADHD treatment based on these findings.

This is an indisputably significant development in the field of ADHD research. Until now, studies of methylphenidate (Ritalin) use during pregnancy were based on cases “not representative of the general adult ADHD population having methylphenidate as monotherapy during pregnancy,” according to a 2014 systematic review published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. That is because “all the articles reported combinations of methylphenidate with either known teratogenic drugs or drugs of abuse.”

But this new revelation is equally noteworthy for what it represents. In the past, discussions of whether women should discontinue their ADHD medication during pregnancy were cloaked in foreboding language, declaring it should only be done “if the potential benefits to the mother outweigh the potential risks to the fetus.” To me, it seems inevitable any woman faced with such tacit guilt-tripping would opt to go off her daily pill regimen — to, in short, prioritize the safety of her unborn child over her own well-being.

Also, this new knowledge has given me a newfound sense of legitimacy. While I’m an ardent feminist, I can’t deny that in Western society, motherhood is held up as the quintessential state of womanhood. So when years ago I found out having ADHD may mean I could not become a mother — at least, not if I wanted to continue to receive treatment for it — I felt like an essential part of myself was forcibly eroded. It was as though I was no longer a real, full-fledged woman because I probably wouldn’t be able to have a baby. And it wouldn’t be for a legitimate reason, like income or infertility; it would, like so many other things, be dictated by my need to take medication, to engage in preemptive damage control of my disability. In essence, it would have meant a disability I had from birth would prevent me from giving birth, myself. And when that dawned on me, one thought repeatedly ran through my mind: “It’s not fair.” 

I don’t know if I’ll ever end up having a baby. As I said in my earlier post, because of the strong likelihood my offspring would have ADHD as well, I would only want to bring a child of mine into this world if I knew it were a world more tolerant of ADHD than the one in which I grew up. Plus, I couldn’t handle single parenthood, and I don’t know what the future holds for me vis-à-vis finding a life partner. 

But with the publication of this study, for the first time in my life, I know if circumstances do align for me, I’ll be able to do what I’ve always wanted — become a mother — without stigma and without the overwhelming fear of putting my baby at risk in the process. 

That’s an invaluable gift. 

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5 videos that women with ADHD should watch ASAP

Happy Thanksgiving, dear readers! One thing for which I’m very UN-thankful is ADHD writer’s block. I’ll go into more detail about it in a future post, but suffice it to say that I’ve started writing about five different blog posts but haven’t been able to finish any of them. Rather than renege on my goal of posting every Monday and Thursday, however, I thought that today, I’d change things up a bit, and let others do the talking for me. So I combed YouTube and came up with five videos that are seriously worth a watch if you’re a woman who has ADHD or thinks she might. 

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The videos

1. “ADHD and Relationships: Let’s Be Honest” 

Jessica McCabe is an ADHD goddess. The vlogger’s popular YouTube channel, “How to ADHD,” has been comforting and informing ADHDers and neurotypical allies alike for a few years now. I chose this particular video because of its applicability to the lives of adult women, but seriously, check out the whole series when you get a chance.

2. “Russell Barkley: Is ADHD Different in Women?

Russell Barkley is one of the foremost experts on ADHD, and this video offers a rare opportunity to get his take on ADHD and adult women, specifically. One interesting moment in this five-minute clip is at around the 02:57 mark, when he explains the relationship between gender roles and niche picking in the lives of women with ADHD.

3. “ADD and the Female Brain — The Answers!

This is a delightful little video from ADHD expert Daniel Amen and his ADHD wife Tana, a health and fitness expert. Their back-and-forth in this video is really entertaining; plus, it includes excellent advice on how to keep those dopamine levels up all day long (I’ll explain more next week about dopamine for those who are unfortunate not to know about it yet).

4. “Ask Sari: ADHD & Estrogen

In this video, Sari Solden, who is one of a handful of experts on women with ADHD, gives us a refresher course on the impact of estrogen on symptom severity in ADHD women and offers advice on how to manage the fallout resulting from hormonal fluctuations. Short, sweet, and very relevant.

5. “Failing at Normal: An ADHD Success Story

Another gem of a video featuring Jessica McCabe front and center. Grab the Kleenex box and watch this TEDx Talk RIGHT NOW. Just…trust me.

 

If it’s not comprehensive, it’s not really sex education.

In a recent post, I reported that since the inauguration of Donald Trump (shudder), the federal budget for sex education has been heavily favoring abstinence-based programming, and I said exposure to sex education based on abstinence is the worst thing for anyone whose parents want them to practice safe sex. I realize that sounds like a pretty outrageous claim, so it seems prudent for me to show my work here. 

A brief history of sex education in the U.S.

The following is an adapted version of a timeline of the history of sex education that I composed as part of a journalistic research project I completed during my freshman year of college at the University of Oregon:

  • 1981: Republican senators Jeremiah Denton and Orrin Hatch sponsored the Adolescent Family Life Act (AFLA), which was designed to prevent premarital teen pregnancy through quote-unquote family-centered programs to promote chastity and self-discipline. The statute emphasized so-called religious, charitable organizations. In the opinion of many religious and human rights groups, this inherent fusion of church and state flouts the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
  • 1986: A group of priests and activists challenge the AFLA.
  • 1993: The AFLA is ruled unconstitutional.
  • 1994: Social conservative Representative John Doolittle unsuccessfully proposes limiting the content of HIV-prevention and sexuality education in school-based programs, indicating to conservative groups that to make headway in abstinence policy, it will be necessary “to circumvent the federal laws by restricting, and shaping, education programs through health policy and funding…without drawing Congressional or public debate.”
  • 1996: During the final version of welfare reform debates, Congressmen Ernest Istook and Tom Coburn persuade Speaker Newt Gingrich to include $50 million annual federal funding for an abstinence-only-until-marriage program (Title V).
  • 1998: The ruling deeming the AFLA unconstitutional has expired, paving the way for an eight-point, (a)-(h) definition of abstinence education, requiring states that accept federal funds to match every four federal dollars with three-state raised dollars and to teach abstinence only. 
  • January 2001–January 2009: Federal abstinence-only sex education (AOSE) funding doubles under the George W. Bush administration, peaking at $1.76 billion.
  • Spring 2009: Half the states have rejected Title V funds, and President Barack Obama calls for the elimination of AOSE programs.

Comprehensive sex ed > AOSE

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It’s more effective at delaying teen sexual debut.

Studies show that teens who receive comprehensive sexuality education are more likely to have sex for the first time later in life. According to a publication of Advocates for Youth*, “Evaluations of comprehensive sex education and HIV/ STI prevention programs show that they do not increase rates of sexual initiation, do not lower the age at which youth initiate sex, and do not increase the frequency of sex or the number of sex partners among sexually active youth.” Teens exposed to AOSE, on the other hand, tend to have sex earlier and are less likely to practice safe sex when they do (see below).

It’s more effective at teaching teens to practice safe sex.

Comprehensive sex ed has been proven to be more effective at teaching teens to engage in behaviors that reduce the likelihood of spreading sexually transmitted diseases: According to a fact sheet of the CDC, “Research shows that well-designed and well-implemented HIV/STD prevention programs can decrease sexual risk behaviors among students,” including delaying first sexual intercourse; reducing the number of sex partners; decreasing the number of times students have unprotected sex; and increasing condom use. 

It’s more effective at preventing teen pregnancy.

There’s an abundance of evidence that when it comes to preventing teen pregnancy, comprehensive sex ed is the way to go. This is because it includes discussions of contraceptive use (see above). Unfortunately, according to a September 2017 fact sheet by the Guttmacher Institute, “Many sexually experienced adolescents … did not receive formal instruction about contraception before they first had sex; fewer received instruction about where to get birth control.”

It isn’t heteronormative.

Modern comprehensive sex ed incorporates discussions of sex beyond just male-female intercourse. AOSE, by contrast, provides an incomplete version of a practical sexual education to the 52 percent of teens who don’t identify as “exclusively heterosexual.” 

It teaches teens that sex isn’t wrong or shameful, but a a simple ‘fact of life.’

Last but not least, as Amie Newman of Our Bodies, Ourselves puts it, “Young women who are exposed only to “just say no” programs learn little or nothing about what it means to find pleasure in sex and in their own bodies.”

What lies ahead for American sex ed

As I mentioned, sex education (or rather, a lack thereof) under the Trump administration has been seriously lacking in evidence-based, effective because comprehensive, sex education. If this isn’t rectified, the Republican Party will have more welfare mothers to deal with and a more exhausted public health budget for its citizens’ HIV/STI treatment. And since virtually every aspect of Trump’s public persona flies in the face of Christian goodness or any religious influence, it would be in his best interest to bring back the Obama-era sex ed days — and fast. 

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In this post, I cite articles from the websites of pro-comprehensive sex ed advocacy groups. While I’m aware that such groups can’t be taken as credible sources on their own, their claims are supported by scientific evidence, the citations of which are included in said articles.

7 things about ADHD I wish I had always known (ADHD Awareness Month post #6)

This is the sixth and final post in my series on ADHD Awareness Month. But rest assured, although the series is wrapping up, I’ll still be publishing writings on ADHD-related issues; just not necessarily so many per month. — DRD


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Having lived with ADHD for as long as I can remember — and even longer — I’ve learned a few valuable lessons about my disability the hard way; I’ve done my share of learning by doing. I can’t help but feel that my life would have been a lot easier if I had known said lessons from day one. I hope that someone out there reads this and they — or their child — can benefit from my experience. Read on!

1. People will tell you to go easy on yourself, but still, expect you to be ‘on.’

I’ve found that even if you tell your manager, for example, that you have ADHD, and he claims to understand that this makes you function differently, his understanding nevertheless flies out the window when you have a deadline to make but quite clearly aren’t going to be able to. 

2. ADHD has nothing to do with your personality or morality.

I spent a horrifying number of years of my life feeling guilty — often, despite not having done anything wrong. And even when I did err, I was convinced that whatever act of misbehaving I had committed was evidence that my character left something wanting. Moreover, I was sure that with the right resolve, I could ameliorate this situation and become a better (read: less ADHD) person. I don’t think I’ll ever stop regretting this now that I’ve realized how wrong I was back then. I’ll never get back the time I wasted feeling guilty for nonexistent or out-of-my-control incidences of ADHD-ness. Don’t make my mistake.

3. You shouldn’t necessarily believe teachers who say, “Oh, I’m so ADD too!”

I was diagnosed relatively young, back in pre-k; meaning that I knew I had ADHD — and all of my teachers knew it too — for all 12 years of my lower education. And I swear, every single year a new teacher would tell me upon learning of my ADHD diagnosis, “OH, that’s totally fine, I’m really ADD too.” Unfortunately, that usually turned out to mean, “I don’t understand ADHD at all, but I think I’ll bond with you by saying I have it and referring to it in the pejorative.” Over the years, I heard many teachers say a lot of stupid, cruel things without seeming even to give it a second thought, but that is not ADHD. There’s a difference between wanting to think before you act and not being able to, and just deciding that you’re so wise, you never need to think twice. In the end, only one of my teachers ever turned out to have ADHD, my AP World History teacher during my senior year of college. How did I know he had it, and that he was the only one of my teachers who did? One day I was sitting in his classroom at the end of lunch when he walked in, looked around his desk, and announced that he just realized he had lost a pair of Bruce Springsteen tickets. I’m totally serious. But you know what? He was also one of the best teachers I ever had. 

4. Medications may “last” 12 hours, but that doesn’t mean you will.

Here’s a fun (by which I mean, not fun at all) fact: Even if the prescribing information for an ADHD medication says it lasts up to 12 hours, that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to use all 12 of those hours effectively. You see, even when medicated, people with ADHD have to expend more energy to complete tasks that seem to take our neurotypical counterparts no time at all. Do that for a full workday, and the remaining man-made focus you have left in your nervous system via medication is reduced to the equivalent of potential energy,  never getting used. (This is a lesson I’ve started learning literally in the last few weeks.)

5. Stimulant medication isn’t the be-all, end-all. 

From ages 5 through 22, I was on some form of the stimulant medication methylphenidate (aka Ritalin). For over 5 years now, I’ve been taking both an immediate-release dosage and extended-release dosage of dexmethylphenidate (aka Focalin). I first went on Focalin because when I was a senior in college, I discovered, to my horror, that my medication did not seem to be working anymore. Like, at all. That’s when I went on Focalin. But just two years later, I again ceased to feel medicated enough on a day-to-day basis. It was then that my PCP put me on bupropion (aka Forfivo), which belongs to a class of antidepressants known as Norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitors. Later, I also started taking guanfacine (aka Intuniv), a non-stimulant ADHD medication initially formulated to treat hypertension. As it turned out, for me, at least, these Forfivo and Intuniv were the magic bullets of ADHD treatment regimens. 

6. Coffee is your friend.

During my ‘bad concentration’ time of the month, and especially toward the end of it, my verbal acuity temporarily goes out the window. Somehow, this always seemed to happen *right* when I had a big paper due imminently (like, in two days, or even sooner). One day, in desperation, I did some Hail-Mary googling, seeking confirmation that yes, in fact, coffee does help ADHD people concentrate. According to a post published recently on ADDitude, it “arouses the central nervous system by stimulating the release of dopamine and other neurotransmitters, and by blocking the absorption of adenosine, which induces sleep.” I’ve found that a Starbucks frappuccino with a shot of espresso enables me to write even when my medications are at their least potent. Pardon the pun, but I really do think you should give it a ‘shot!’

7. ADHD is nothing to be ashamed of. People should be ashamed to think it is.

…Self-explanatory!

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Why I’m thankful that I have ADHD as a millennial (ADHD Awareness Month post #5)

For an ADHD blogger, you may have noticed my feelings about ADHD aren’t exactly of the warm-and-fuzzy variety. It’s true: I’m far from attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder’s biggest fan. It’s not that I believe this kink of the human nervous system is anything to be ashamed of; in fact, I’ve spent a great deal of my life attempting to convince people it’s not. It has just had too deleterious an effect on my life for me to join the ADHD-is-an-evolutionary-adaptation camp. If I had to be born with ADHD, though, I’m glad my birth year of 1989 classifies me as a member of Generation Y, aka the millennials. 

Technology 

Young asian student on university campus with computer laptop

(Photo credit: Adobe Stock)

I honestly don’t know what I’d do without the internet and my various electronic devices. And I’m willing to hazard a guess that I’m far from the only ADHDer who feels this way. I first knew modern technology would be my ADHD-related salvation in middle school when my math teacher started posting homework assignments online — not just textbook page numbers but scanned copies of our worksheets we could print out if we didn’t make it home with the sheets distributed in class. There was something so liberating about being thwarted by my ADHD, as I inevitably was from time to time, but then being able to reverse the damage right from home, with no one else but my mom the wiser. Of course, not even 2002 Drew could have conceived how integrated the internet would end up being in my education, from googling for research on weekends in high school to emailing professors term papers late at night in college.

As I got older and technology more advanced, I found additional workarounds for my pesky ADHD problem in the form of various hi-tech devices. When I was 22, for example, I bought tickets to a concert in my hometown, but when the day of the show arrived, I realized I had left the printable tickets in my college apartment, a two-hour drive away. Suddenly, I remembered having received a confirmation email I could pull up on my iPhone, which I did, and was granted admission to the concert as a result.

Over the years, the combination of my iPhone and my MacBook Pro has been my saving grace; in a future post, I’ll explain exactly how. But trust me, we ADHD millennials have benefited immeasurably from the ‘i’ revolution.

Treatment

My gratitude for being born with my particular disability in my specific generation is also due in part to the fact that there are a variety of pharmacological treatment options available today. By my count, based on the most recent information on WebMD (last updated in April 2016), there are five short-acting CNS stimulant medications, 14 intermediate and long-acting stimulants, six nonstimulants, and seven antidepressants used in the treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. That’s 32 in all. Now, granted, many of these medications are chemically the same drug, just prepared in different strengths and dosages. And I’ll be the first one to tell you it is essential for Big Pharma to prioritize developing entirely new medications for those whose ADHD is unresponsive to any drugs currently available.

Pills Pills Pills

Nevertheless, this is a leaps-and-bounds improvement over the breadth of options (or rather, the lack thereof) on the market not very long ago. Between 1936, when the first ADHD medication, Benzedrine, was approved, and 1982, only six medications were developed and released on the market. And after that, there were no new ADHD drugs for another 14 years, when Adderall first hit the market in 1996. In other words, for almost half a century, a new ADHD medication only became available once every seven years or so. Subsequently, Concerta, an extended-release preparation of methylphenidate I took from ages 13 to 22, was released in 2000; Focalin, the stimulant I’m on now, hit the market in 2001; and the FDA didn’t approve the non-stimulant medication I take, Intuniv, until the year 2009. Imagine if I had been born just a decade earlier: I wouldn’t have had Concerta to get me through all of high school and college, Focalin to get me through my ’20s, or Intuniv to get me through grad school. And I definitely wouldn’t be able to write this post now!

Tolerance

But perhaps the no. 1 reason I’m glad I was born when I was is that in the 1990s, ADHD awareness spread like wildfire. It was unprecedented. There were conferences and self-help guides, not to mention the first issue of ADDitude! And things are only getting better. Gone are the days when jokes about parents putting their kids “on Ritalin when they just…won’t…behave!” were fodder for popular primetime comedies (*cough*”FRIENDS”*cough*). With every passing year, ADHD is shedding the stigma that surrounded it in the past and getting closer and closer to its rightful place in the public consciousness as just another fact of life. And if this is a trend, you know what the very best part about being a millennial with ADHD is? It means the next generation may live in a world that would never conceive of ADHD any other way.

What is it with ADHD people and time, anyway? (ADHD Awareness Month post #4)

You know that song “Time is on my side”? I’d bet you a million bucks whoever wrote it didn’t have ADHD. After all, people with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder are often — OK, fine, usually — late. Recently, however, I’ve learned that there’s a neurological explanation for why I’ve had to send so many messages to my friends over the years containing some version of this text:15 mins lateApparently, we function on a different timetable. In other words, ADHD people experience time differently

In an article in ADDitude, ADHD specialist Ari Tuckman notes, “Because everyone — not just those with ADHD — feels the present more strongly, it’s difficult to do challenging things now that won’t have an immediate positive impact,” but even so, for people with ADHD, “It’s difficult … to plan for the future because they don’t see the future as clearly as their peers.”

Still, I don’t believe we ADHDers are entirely at fault here.

To feminist philosopher Alison Kafer, the concept of ‘being on time’ isn’t innate; instead, it’s something society has created. What if we ceased to place such a high value on punctuality, she muses — what if we stopped penalizing people for being late, and viewed such punishment as ableist?

Naturally, as someone with chronic ADHD, this intrigued me a lot. But my boyfriend, who is neurotypical, just could not wrap his mind around the idea that our social mores exist outside us, meaning that they could be changed to be more inclusive of people with disabilities (PWD). Now, he is a scientist; abstract thinking has never exactly been my boyfriend’s forte. And yet, in this case, I think it’s just impossible for neurotypical people, much as they may love us, to understand how far removed their world is from ours — or, for that matter, that their world isn’t the only world.

Punctuality can be a struggle for all PWD: a need for “extra time,” according to Kafer,

might result from a slower gait, a dependency on attendants (who might themselves be running late), malfunctioning equipment (from wheelchairs to hearing aids), a bus driver who refuses to stop for a disabled passenger, or an ableist encounter with a stranger that throws one off schedule.

ADHD people practically invented the concept of needing extra time. If you have ADHD, from the day of your diagnosis, you know that you and time will always be at odds. Think about it: The longest-acting CNS stimulant medication lasts 12 hours; but many people, from attorneys to high-school students, work far more hours a day than that — often well into the night. And even so-called regular people, who only work in a professional sense eight hours a day, are born with the ability to concentrate and be at least slightly productive the moment they get out of bed in the morning and only resting their brains after they get back in at night.

That’s not how it is for us ADHD people, though. The simple fact is that it’s impossible to have an average life if you have less than the average amount of time. And not having enough time, well, that’s ADHD 101.

When I was younger, I used to apologize anytime I was even the slightest bit tardy to an appointment or late on an assignment. Now, I’m trying something new. As I near my 28th birthday, I remind myself that life is short; the time in which we actively live, even more so; and for people like me, with only 12 hours of each day at our disposal, time is the most fleeting — and the most precious — thing of all.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I would feel guilty at my lateness, but I just can’t seem to find the time. 

Pregnancy + stress = public health’s perfect storm

From January 2015 to December 2016, I was a student in the master’s degree program in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Oregon State University. My time in grad school was instrumentally influential to me. I minored in women’s studies back in college at U of O, but when I realized that my real aspiration was to become a feminist writer, I decided that I needed a much stronger foundation in feminism as an area of study. And that turned out to be true in ways I hadn’t even anticipated: I became aware that my prior feminist education, for all its merits, had failed to incorporate discussions of women of color. But that was about to change.

Lifelong stress → premature birth

One of my primary research interests while at OSU was women’s health. As it turned out, one of the professors, Mehra Shirazi, specialized in that, and I was fortunate to take not one, but two courses from her: Global Perspectives on Women’s Health, in winter of my first year, and Race, Gender, and Health Justice, a year later. Of all the lessons I learned in her classes, one, in the form of a newsreel, has always stuck with me.

Stress during pregnancy → ADHD

WOC aren’t the only ones for whom stress can result in adverse birth outcomes for their childrenIn my last post, I mentioned that women with ADHD who experience stress during pregnancy are more likely to have children with it. Well, I was wrong. The abstract of an article published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology in 2011 states that “maternal stressful events during pregnancy significantly predicted ADHD behaviors in offspring,” i.e., stressful events for any pregnant woman, not just one with ADHD

Furthermore, said Dr. Ian Colman, who led a similar study earlier this year, “Generally speaking… the higher the stress, the higher the symptoms.”

In other words, more children are susceptible to maternal-stress-induced ADHD. And their symptoms vary in severity depending on the level of maternal stress. 

In the announcement of their study on stress in pregnant women and ADHD, University of Ottawa researchers included an infographic of so-called stress management tips and tricks, including:

Portrait of sad and frustrated pregnant woman.

Women with ADHD who experience stress during pregnancy are more likely to have children born with ADHD. (Photo source: Adobe Stock)

  1. Identify what’s behind your stress and address it right away
  2. Talk to your loved ones to help them help you
  3. Simplify your life by shortening your to-do list and learning to say no
  4. Quiet your mind through yoga and mindfulness
  5. Find time to do something you enjoy, such as hobbies or physical activity.

That’s all well and good, but it predicates on the dual notions that (a) stress is situational, and relatedly, that (b) women have the power, i.e., time and agency, to quote-unquote simplify their lives, quiet their minds, and do things they enjoy. 

First of all, it would be ideal  — I’m not saying it would be great, but it would be the best-case scenario — if all stress were indeed situational. But in fact, it’s systemic; there are sociological reasons that women find themselves in stressful situations.

For example, I think we can all agree that in general, men are more amenable to “going the extra mile” for their wives when they are serving as human incubators for their progeny. But this is temporary. Gender roles are so entrenched in our consciousness, exist so much in our understanding of the fabric of society that they’re liable to supersede sudden inclinations toward chivalry. They may wash the dishes occasionally; even assume all responsibility for helping the kids they already have with their homework, etc. — at least after coming home from the office.

But will they assume sole responsibility for cleaning all toilets in the house for the next nine months — and do so without even being asked? Let me put it this way: My dad is a proud feminist, but according to my mom, not even he went that far when I was a bun in his wife’s oven.

The salient point here is that unless a husband* assumes all extant household responsibilities, a wife has no means of wholly and entirely de-stressing. Moreover, in the most extreme versions of our regular social paradigm, women don’t even have time to find out what they enjoy, let alone actually do it. 

Women of color

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Stress resulting from everyday racism in women of color over a lifetime can result in adverse health outcomes for their children at birth. (Photo source: American Psychological Association)

In addition to this paradigm shift between husbands and wives, in order to avoid the adverse birth outcomes of which their children are at risk, WOC would need to retroactively un-experience the systemic (there’s that word again) ‘everyday racism’ they have experienced all their lives. Erasing the sexism that they were forced to endure, well, that wouldn’t hurt matters, either. Unfortunately, none of this is possible. Technically, we can’t do anything for the WOC already of childbearing age, except confer upon them the utmost respect and provide them with any prenatal care that may reduce the likelihood of pre-term delivery.

I have a vision for future generations, though, of my friends’ children growing up without the media suppressing reportage of violence against WOC in favor of the police-violence-against-the-Black-man narrative. In this vision, violence against POC — regardless of gender — isn’t even a thing. 

All in all, I agree with Dr. Michael Lu:

If we’re serious about improving birth outcomes and reducing disparities, we’ve got to start taking care of woman before pregnancy and not just talking about that one visit three months pre-conceptionally; I’m talking about when she’s a baby inside her mother’s womb, an infant, and then a child, an adolescent and really taking care of women and families across their life course.

And I agree, as well, with my former classmate in WGSS and dear friend Amber Moody:

I think it’s brilliant to frame systemic racism/sexism as a public health issue. … [T]hese systems of discrimination still exist; and the effects, which really can be traced back to colonialism and white supremacy, have been genetically embedded into our lives. And until we actually address the source of the problem, these … issues are going to continue to be passed down for generations.


*I say ‘husband’ because I was raised in and hypothetically will enter into a heterosexual family dynamic consisting of a cismale husband and a cisfemale wife. There are, of course, numerous other familial configurations; albeit I doubt very much that the same degree of gender-role pigeonholing would be present in a female-female marriage.