Is it worth the risk?

by Milton on Wed, Sep 16th, 2009

in Managing risk,Week 07

Okay, I admit, I’ve been hanging out on community baby boards.  There are some 2,000 people in my month alone (May 2010)!

It’s pretty addictive to be in a community of 2,000 people who are all going through the same anxiety, excitement, learning, uncertainty, etc as I am at the same time that I’m going through it.  Other than that one major thing we have in common, I would say that I’m in the huge minority as far as being a dude, and then things like age, number of previous children, ethnicity, political views, economic status, etc are all over the place.

I think it’s actually really interesting to participate in the group… unlike anything I’ve experienced before.  Such a high level of interest, opinion, emotion, and yet also so much we don’t know!

The fact that most of us are newbies as far as pregnancy is concerned, and that we’re all equally emotional about it, leads to some seriously interesting conversations.  Some of them are enlightening, and others are scary.

One trend I notice is that there’s a lot of both opinion and sensitivity around the issue of what’s safe for the pregnancy.  Topics like whether or not you should get a flu shot, for instance.  Surprising to me, 50% of the people in the group are going to avoid the flu shot even though almost all medical literature recommends it.  The US Center for Disease Control and prevention, for example, recommends that pregnant women get the vaccine as soon as it’s available.

That particular issue is evenly split.  Others, like whether or not to drink a glass of wine, are more weighted on the side of being “okay in moderation”.  And then there are things like smoking pot that got one unfortunate lady practically excommunicated from the message board for her naive question about whether or not it was okay to smoke pot.

Through them all, there’s the constantly re-iterated judgment on whether or not a particular behavior is “worth the risk”.  Because, it turns out, almost nothing is conclusive.  Everything is a risk.  And some risks are more worth it than others.

Getting in a car and going to the hospital, for example, is a risk.  But it’s deemed worth it because it’s a very difficult risk to avoid.  Our culture deems it okay.  Not getting a flu shot is sometimes deemed worth it because, perhaps, you’re a SAHM (stay at home mom) and you figure you won’t be in much risk of catching a flu from someone.  Or, you believe that the vaccine actually causes you to get sick (a popular anecdote).  Or, you think that there might be long-term unknown consequences (and assume that those long-term unknown consequences are greater than the unknown long-term consequences of getting a flu during pregnancy).  It’s a bit more even, even though the actual risk being deemed worth it or not is probably the main factor in the decision.

Some people love Diet Coke or Diet Pepsi, and for them that risk turns into something of a guilty pleasure.  Same with a glass of wine, or a piece of sushi.  And then there’s the risk of more minor bacterias from cold cuts or hot dogs that are pretty much swept under the carpet because they’re cheap eats.

I’m fascinated by the idea of risk and the way that we justify it.  Pregnancy is one of the scariest gambles we take due to beginning with such a fragile little being with such a high chance of something going wrong, on top of all of our hopes to start or continue growing a family.

I’m very interested in documenting the kinds of risks that face pregnancy, and also judge them on whether they’re acceptable or unacceptable risks, how our culture judges the risk, how emotional the decision is for different groups of people who might be more attached to the risk, etc.  For now, I simply want to bring it up as an area of discussion so that I can become more aware of my own biases, my own desire to ignore certain big risks that I’m personally attached to, and also to my own judgment of others who take risks that I’m not personally attached to.

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