As a woman realizing that you are expecting, a myriad of thoughts run through your head and a never-ending to-do list of things grows bigger every day. And, that’s before you add on prenatal care visits which come with a barrage of directives:
- Take folic acid
- Do not use alcohol, tobacco, or drugs
- Talk to your doctor about medications you’re taking
- Follow a healthy diet
- Eat a safe diet
- Limit caffeine intake
- Talk to your doctor about physical activity
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Get regular dental checkups
- Prevent infections that can affect your pregnancy
- Avoid exposure to toxic substances
Getting regular prenatal care can decrease common complications of pregnancy, like high blood pressure and gestational diabetes among others. However, the changes occurring during pregnancy can be overwhelming, to say the least. Now, add to that being a female farmworker in the U.S., where many face challenges to accessing routine healthcare. Past studies have shown that among pregnant farmworkers about 30% do not attend their first prenatal care visit until the second trimester, and about 14% do not have their first visit until their third trimester.
If you follow our Health & Safety blog you know that we recently wrote about farmworker data and its inadequacies, and when searching for data about farmworker women – specifically their reproductive health – pickings are even more slim.
A 1987 study states, Access to health care: A survey of Colorado’s migrant farmworkers, “that among sexually active women, 24% had been sterilized; one-third had had one or more miscarriages or abortions; and one in eight had an infant die within the first year of life.” Another study on Latina farmworkers in Michigan exposed the “relatively low use of reproductive health services, including contraception and protection from sexually transmitted infections”.1
May is the month that AFOP’s Health & Safety Programs places special focus on women’s health during pregnancy. This month – especially next week as our trainers buckle down for the Health Pregnancy Month Training Marathon – we bring greater awareness to the reproductive rights of women farmworkers in the U.S. and empower those women to take control of their care.
Agriculture is consistently listed as one of the three most dangerous occupations in the US, and those dangers don’t discriminate between male and female. Yet, female farmworkers and their unborn children have been linked to adverse health effects as a result of handling or being exposed to pesticides, such as:
- decreased fertility,
- higher risks for low birth weight,
- birth defects, and
- spontaneous abortion.
All this without mentioning the musculoskeletal strains placed on the body from pregnancy alone. So, when coupled with the physical demands of heavy workloads, repeated bending and/or squatting, lifting and twisting for long periods of time, the stress on a woman’s body is tremendous. Finally completing the trifecta is heat exposure, particularly dangerous since pregnant women are already having to contend with hormonal changes in the body which can make temperature regulation tricky.
Pregnancy should be a joyous time in a woman’s life; why add further stress and strife to an incredible journey? Our hope for all farmworker women who are having babies or considering conception is that you take the necessary precautions to protect your life and that of your unborn child. AFOP Health & Safety offers a Pesticide Exposure and Pregnancy (PEP) training coupled with our Limiting Exposures Around Families (LEAF) take-home exposure prevention training to all farmworkers not just females because the effects reverberate for everyone in the family. Know what you want, and protect yourself.