My cheeks burned as I looked at the man.
“I can’t buy aspirin?” I asked, barely understanding what I had just been told. ‘Why not?’
“It’s for your baby’s safety,” he said, pointing to my baby bump. What? Did she think I would overdose on the medication to intentionally hurt myself—or both of us?
I tried to explain that my maternity team had been advised to take aspirin, but again I was told about the potential harm I could do to myself and my baby.
Humiliated, I felt my eyes sting with tears and so instead of staying and arguing my point, I fled outside to where my partner was waiting for me.
We went to the nearest Costa Coffee where I just broke down. I was so upset and embarrassed about the whole situation – but that quickly turned to anger.
You see, not only did I have the legal right to make my own decisions and buy what I wanted, pregnant or not, but I actually bought the aspirin on medical advice.
Our official NHS scan at 12 weeks was the first time our baby was looked at medically: it is usually the earliest point at which any abnormalities are noticed. In general, my health during pregnancy was good, but I was nervous: you never knew what could happen inside.
Although our scan went well, my partner and I were told there was a minor, potential problem.
Our baby has a single umbilical cord vessel. This means that only one blood vessel goes from the baby to the placenta through the umbilical cord, instead of two. Often this is not a major problem, but it can increase the risk of limited fetal growth.
At the time, our hospital wasn’t too concerned about the single umbilical cord affecting our baby’s growth. But they were concerned it would increase my risk of developing preeclampsia — a condition that can cause severe headaches, vision problems, and vomiting during the second half of a pregnancy.
That was a pretty scary conversation.
While most cases of preeclampsia are mild, if left unchecked, it can lead to serious complications for the pregnant woman and baby.
Then I was advised to start taking a low dose (150mg) aspirin a day until my 36th week of pregnancy. Apparently, taking low levels of aspirin daily regulates your blood pressure and may aid in the development of your placenta.
There is so much stigma surrounding what pregnant people can and cannot do
I went to the nearest Boots store a few days later and bought 75mg dispersible aspirin tablets without a prescription. I wasn’t asked about the possibility of being pregnant, just whether I was taking any other medications – which I wasn’t.
That’s why I was even more surprised when I revisited the same store when I was 19 weeks pregnant and the sale was declined. This time, when I asked for the medication, I was asked if it was for myself. I answered honestly. Why wouldn’t I?
The man who served me then asked if I was pregnant. Again, I said I was. Then I was told they couldn’t sell me the aspirin.
I actually couldn’t believe it – it was ridiculous and judgmental, I told my partner.
I am an adult, over 18 years of age and legally capable of making my own decisions.
When I calmed down, I filed a formal complaint against Boots. I got a call a few days later, which only got worse. When I argued my points, I was quickly shut down again, claiming that their policy was for the good of my baby. When I said I could buy alcohol without any legal restrictions, I was told I hope I wouldn’t.
Again, this is so belittling and dehumanizing. As a pregnant person I still have every ounce of control over my body, life and choices. I am not a public property just because I am growing up a child.
There is so much stigma surrounding what pregnant people can and cannot do. Drinking alcohol, taking prenatal vitamins, keeping a BMI under 30 are all areas where pregnant bodies are constantly monitored.
This is my first pregnancy and I am no expert so I am completely open to advice from medical professionals for the benefit of my baby’s health. I truly believe that there is a time and a place where medical advice takes precedence over my own personal wishes.
For example, I plan to have my baby at home, with the support of my partner and midwives. However, if my delivery reaches a point where it endangers my or my baby’s health, I will gladly be transferred to the hospital if suggested.
But in a country ultimately faced with a choice, I would expect better when it comes to aspirin. After this situation, my partner bought me the aspirin from another store. A few weeks later, I got a prescription from my doctor that allowed me to pick it up from my hospital.
Reproductive choice doesn’t end with pregnancy or abortion – it’s a long, winding road to letting individuals make their own decisions.
This means, among other things, that pregnant people are given the opportunity to make their own informed choices about their pregnancy.
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