Pregnancy is not a disease

by Claudia Ravaldi

Pregnancy is not a disease.

This phrase has been in our culture for at least 40 years. I heard her for the first time at the age of 6, from the circle of women in my condominium, talking about a neighbor, eight months pregnant, who was helping her husband to run a fruit and vegetable shop. I then heard it on many other occasions, while waiting for my 3 cousins, (90s), then during specialization (the 2000s had started, and my then primary man expected my pregnant colleagues to stay on guard in the psychiatric hospital anyway), then during my pregnancy (while with 43 degrees in the shade I made summer replacements for general practitioners, seven months pregnant, fulfilling my task as a woman ” healthy “that doesn’t have to take that long), then after my perinatal bereavement (your pregnancy it was physiological, you are NOT sick, something unpredictable will have happened …). Finally, this phrase echoed in my auricles during dozens and dozens of training courses I gave to midwives and psychologists. Every time, there is always someone very experienced, among the “insiders” who snorts, because I bring attention to all the (numerous) times in which, alas, this sentence is inapplicable. Because it does not appear to him. Indeed, in his experience the cases are “very rare”. And down to trying to convince me that he is right and that I am exaggerated. Let’s say that’s true.

Pregnancy is not a disease. (let’s pretend that this is a law set in stone, indisputable as such: now you can lower the aforementioned eyebrows)

This sentence has its own internal logic (in itself, managing a child is not a pathological process ).

This phrase is part of a certain Italian popular culture: we find it scattered urbi et orbi , in health centers and squares, on facebook under the photos of famous women in “pregnant” or during the chat that accompany the aperitif between friends (who gossip, of course, of friends who are not present, and maybe pregnant ).

I believe that most of the women who are expecting a baby every year in Italy hear this phrase from one or more people, as a nice motivational mantra.

As if we were all stupid, and we needed positive reinforcement not to ask for a nine-month-long TSO (oh the beauty of spending nine months in the clinic! You are right, I say, to remind us that pregnancy is not a disease, because the temptation to get to a hospital bed, I must admit she is hormone addicted and some weeks very strong, do you want to give the advantage of eating mashed potatoes and semolina every day?).

Pregnancy is not eeeeeeee a diseaseaaaaa (this time we pronounce this statement in the “smile of pity” version: poor thing, if you feel so bad in the first trimester how are you going to do with the nights? Or, if you prefer, there is also the “scolding look” version like: my grandmother worked in the fields until giving birth and yet she had 4, and you are in bed for ” two ” contractions?).


In many, still too many cases, pregnancy, even if it started out as “physiological”, is associated with more or less transient, more or less serious physical or psychological disorders.

So a complete sentence, to be pronounced, if we really can’t keep quiet, the first pregnant woman we meet for reasons of queue at the post office – friendship – profession could be: pregnancy is not a disease, but since it is a time of many psychic changes and physical, could be associated with complications, which can still be taken care of.

When we talk about pregnancy and maternity we should be able to think of all possible scenarios, all maternity and all pregnancies, not just those that are most convenient for us (those whose most important problem is the filling of the cake for the baby shower for meaning: chocolate or custard?)

If we want to talk about maternity and pregnancies, we must take into account a fair share of the population that is currently neglected. Neglected and uncomfortable.

Because it is true, pregnancy is NOT a disease, as it is pregnancy (as menopause is NOT a disease, as it is menopause).

The physiological conditions related to the life cycle are NOT pathologies. Not even death is a pathology, for that matter. Nevertheless.

Yet, in our adult minds, we continue to use ” scacciaguai phrases ” to keep us away from risky situations.

The reality is that with this phrase (associated with the appropriate mimicry above), the our brain establishes a clear boundary between what he can think , and sustain, without anguish, e what for him is unthinkable and as such must be exorcised, kept away, denied, with all possible strength . Even at the cost of denying the evidence.

This process has an MA though.

A very big, and bulky MA. An MA that tries to keep under the carpet of public and private attention, because it is uncomfortable, as only taboos can be.

An MA that hopefully always and only concerns others. At a safe distance from our bellies, from our professional offices, from our friends.

This Alzheimer’s affects 1 in 6 pregnant women, physically .

It also affects 1 in 6 women after childbirth, from a mental point of view.

It concerns about 1 in 6 women (it could be less, but even more, the statistics are not very precise) who, for the whole pregnancy and for the whole puerperium, deal with symptoms of the anxious sphere (the latter particularly trivialized and ridiculed by work during visits).

On 6 women who have started a path of desired pregnancy, therefore, 1 will lose her baby and enter the parallel dimension of perinatal bereavement, the other will feel that she is losing herself, entering the parallel dimension of post partum depression, 1 will be branded as “too much anxious “and will enter the coils of brooding and maddened cortisol.

About half of pregnant women are exposed to one tsunami, physical or emotional, more or less aggressive, which for a not insignificant period of time will engage them with emotions, thoughts, sensations and behaviors other than the much heralded “physiology “which tends to cloak the complex and variegated world of pregnancy and motherhood. As if not being” 100% physiological “made mothers less mothers and children fewer children.

As if by stating that “Pregnancy is not a disease” at every turn, you were stating that if there is an illness / bereavement it is not really a pregnancy, you are not really a mother: so what is that experience? what are those 3 out of 6 women? What are we talking about, in that case?

Pregnancy and motherhood are all-encompassing and overwhelming experiences: institutions, professionals, and citizenship should put in place all strategies to protect all pregnant women, to preserve where possible all aspects of physiology (if find some, intact even in women with complicated pregnancies), but also to promptly identify all risk indicators, individual physical or psychological problems: pregnancy is not a disease but in three out of six women it is associated with difficulties often very important and significant.

A state that protects motherhood is not afraid to talk about perinatal bereavement, postpartum depression and maternal health.

A state that protects motherhood helps its citizens not to feed ancient and dangerous taboos, to support expectant mothers, to protect their physical and mental health.

An operator who protects motherhood trains his brain to think the unthinkable , and recognizes the difference between “welcoming” and “exorcising”.

Mourning mothers exist and can return to full life, even if they are lame at heart .

Mothers with postpartum depression exist and can return to full life beyond the dark .

To go back to living fully they also need a culture of motherhood that is respectful of all motherhood, of people, of stories.

To go back to living fully they need to forget the grim and derisive faces of those who told them, in unsuspecting times: Pregnancy is not a disease !.

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