To have a baby or not? The National Childbirth Trust, a hardworking parenting charity, have been criticised for offering advice (now withdrawn) that women may wish to delay pregnancy until the swine flu pandemic is over. Various other agencies, including the Royal College of General Practitioners and the Department of Health, were quick to respond by saying that this was an over-reaction. And probably, it was.
The problem is that pregnant women and babies seem to have been amongst those most affected by the H1N1 influenza strain. So how are people meant to react? You can’t say that no risk to a baby or pregnant woman exists, only that the risk is, overall, very small. From what I can gather, the NCT did not say that women should delay pregnancy, rather that it was an option.
It seems that we have an ongoing problem with the way risk is viewed and managed, and it is this, rather than the thing we are meant to be afraid of, which is causing significant problems at the moment. Listening to the radio today, I was interested to find out more about developments in the influenza infection rate. Instead, there were back-to-back interviews about who was right and who was wrong.
Can we not just agree that there are quite a lot of things we are not sure about at the moment, some of which can be tested, some which can’t be quite so easily, and we are going to have to give people enough information to allow them to make reasonable decisions for themselves at present?