My cheeks burned as I looked at the man.
“Can’t I buy aspirin?” I asked, not understanding what I had just been told. ‘Why not?’
“It’s for your baby’s safety,” she said, pointing at my baby body. What? Did they think I was overdosing on the medication to hurt myself or both of us?
I tried to explain that my maternity team had advised me to take aspirin, but again, they explained the potential harm it could cause to me and my baby.
Humiliated, I could feel my eyes stinging with tears and so instead of staying and arguing my point, I ran away to where my partner was waiting for me.
We went into the nearest Costa Coffee where I just broke down. He was very upset and embarrassed by 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 whatever I wanted, pregnant or not, but I was actually buying the aspirin on medical advice.
Our official NHS scan at 12 weeks was the first time our baby was medically examined – this is usually the first time abnormalities are detected. My health during pregnancy had generally been good, but I was nervous – you never knew what could be going on inside.
Although our exploration went well, my partner and I were told of a small potential problem.
Our baby has a unique umbilical vessel. This means that there is only one blood vessel that travels from the baby to the placenta through the umbilical cord, instead of two. Many times, this is not a major problem, but it can increase the risk of fetal growth restriction.
At the time, our hospital wasn’t too concerned because the single umbilical vessel was affecting our baby’s growth. But they were concerned it could increase the risk of developing preeclampsia, a condition that can cause severe headaches, vision problems and vomiting during the second half of pregnancy.
It was a pretty scary conversation.
Although most cases of preeclampsia are mild, it can lead to serious complications for the pregnant person and the baby if left untreated.
That’s when I was advised to start taking low dose (150mg) aspirin a day until I was 36 weeks pregnant. Taking low levels of aspirin daily apparently regulates blood pressure and can help with placental development.
There is a lot of stigma surrounding what pregnant people can and cannot do
I popped into my nearest Boots store a few days later and bought over the counter 75mg dispersible aspirin tablets. They didn’t ask me about any possibility of being pregnant, only if I was taking any other medication, which I wasn’t.
That’s why I was even more surprised when I visited the same store again when I was 19 weeks pregnant and was refused the sale. This time, when I asked for the medication, they asked if it was for me. I answered honestly. Why wouldn’t he?
The man serving me then asked me if I was pregnant. Again, I said yes. That’s when they told me 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 and legally able to make my own decisions.
When I calmed down I lodged a formal complaint against Boots. I got a call a few days later, which was only more infuriating. When I argued my points, they quickly shut me down again, stating that their policy was for the welfare of my baby. When I mentioned that I could buy alcohol without any legal restrictions, I was told that hopefully I wouldn’t.
Again, this is so demeaning and dehumanizing. As a pregnant person, I still have every ounce of control over my body, my life, and my choices. I am not public property just because I am having a child.
There is a lot of stigma surrounding what pregnant people can and cannot do. Drinking alcohol, taking prenatal vitamins, maintaining a BMI below 30, these are areas in which pregnant bodies are constantly monitored.
This is my first pregnancy and I am not an expert, so I am totally open to advice from medical professionals for the benefit of my baby’s health. I believe there is a time and place where medical advice takes precedence over my personal wishes.
For example, I am planning to have my baby at home, with the support of my partner and community midwives. However, if my labor gets to a point where it is putting my health or my baby’s health at risk, then I will gladly be taken to hospital if you suggest that.
But in a finally pro-choice country, I would expect better when it comes to aspirin. After this situation, my partner bought me the aspirin from a different store. A few weeks later, I was able to get a prescription from my doctor that allowed me to pick it up at my hospital.
Reproductive choice does not end with pregnancy or abortion: it is a long and winding road to empowering people to make their own decisions.
This includes giving pregnant people the ability to make their own educated decisions about their pregnancies.
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