Is Pregnancy a Disability?

This weekend I saw a headline that caught my attention. Right there on the internet was an article that asked, “Should pregnancy be considered a disability?”

My initial gut reaction was a very loud NO. But the more I read and the more I’ve thought about it, the more I think my initial reaction might have been wrong.

This last week in my clinical (in the NICU) I came literally within seconds of passing out. It didn’t seem to be related to stress (it was a very low stress situation with a healthy full term baby), but more likely due to my blood sugar and prolonged standing, neither of which were ever a problem pre-pregnancy. It is only because in the final moments of the blurring vision and muted hearing that I told someone that I was going to pass out that I didn’t end up on the floor of the hospital, but instead in a wheelchair with a cool washcloth and a glass of juice.

And since then, I’ve been handled with a big pair of (metaphorical) kid gloves.

I’m not allowed to stand for extended periods of time in the hospital. I’m given all kinds of rests and water breaks throughout the day, most of which I find really unnecessary. I’m only 23 weeks pregnant, I can stand for a while, I can go several hours without food. I do love the water breaks because carrying my water bottle around has the potential to bring germs into the NICU or germs out of the hospital with me each day.

I am getting these accommodations because my clinical instructors are kind and reasonable people. But what this article made me realize is that many bosses and many jobs are not this flexible. They may not allow for breaks, for opportunities to sit or eat more often, and in that way, pregnancy is a health condition that may require increased protection at work.

To be clear, I don’t think that pregnancy should entitle all women to a handicap placard and front row parking. I don’t think that pregnancy is truly a disability unto itself. A normal, uncomplicated pregnancy shouldn’t require much more than some general understanding and compassion. But I do think that if pregnancy was included in the Americans with Disabilities Act, it would make working while pregnant a lot safer for many women. And I am a firm believer in anything that can reduce the risk of complications during pregnancy, even if it means a label I’m not all that wild about.

What do you think: Should pregnancy be covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act?


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