Wednesday, September 16, 2009

An oxymoron

Safe sex.

Today many people feel this should be our focus of attention when it comes to talking about sex with those who have it, might have it, or have had it. I disagree. There is nothing 'safe' about sex. Here is a capsule of my morning and the case in point.

In one room is a nineteen year old pushing out her third child. She does not even look at the baby. Her three year old sleeps on the pull out couch. The one year old is home with the grandmother. The new baby is screaming, a sign of good health in a newborn, but I can't help thinking this child has more to scream about than most. How will she ever get the emotional support she needs to grow and develop, get an education, develop skills which will keep her from ending up right back here as the mother in a few years?

Next door is a thirty five year old 23 weeks and 6 days into her first pregnancy. Her cervix is too short to hold the baby in and her bag of water broke spontaneously last night making delivery likely in the next twenty four hours. The cause of this situation is likely the human papilloma virus (HPV) which infected her cervix years earlier growing abnormal precancerous cells. These cells had to be remove not once but twice in the last ten years. Now with a shortened cervix her first pregnancy will produce a premature infant who will weigh just about a pound at birth. The card I am required to wear with my name badge says that in our nursery her baby has a 76% chance of survival. Of those babies which survive, 67% of will be neurologically normal. In other words, her chance of a normal baby are just over 50%.

The rest of the patients? One is having a baby with a severe heart defect which will require surgery shortly after birth , one has a baby with trisomy 21, and a third, already delivered, has dangerously high blood pressure caused by her pregnancy.

So, I propose we stop using the term "safe sex." There is no such thing. We should instead speak of responsible sex while helping those who will, are, and have had sex learn to deal financially and physically as well as mentally and emotionally with the consequences.
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