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Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública

On-line version ISSN 1680-5348Print version ISSN 1020-4989


SCHIRMER, Janine. High-risk diabetic pregnancy and work: two hard-to-reconcile circumstances. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 1997, vol.2, n.6, pp.408-414. ISSN 1680-5348.

In 1991 the prevalence of diabetes was 7.6% in women in nine Brazilian state capitals. This disease now ranks among the leading causes of death in the country and is becoming an increasingly alarming public health problem. In spite of advances in the treatment of diabetes and improved obstetric care, gestational diabetes puts a pregnant woman at high risk of miscarriage, ketoacidosis, hypoglycemia, hypertension, and other serious disorders. This study used life histories to investigate the relationship between health, sexuality, and work in five working women who were diabetic and pregnant and who received care at the Prenatal Care Outpatient Clinic of the San Pablo Hospital. These women all had non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, were between 26 and 43 years old, and earned from US$ 150 to US$ 375 per month for working 8-hour days, with one day off each week. Two of the women’s male partners were unemployed; all of the women performed household chores during their day off. Quotations taken directly from conversations with the five participants reveal the difficulty of caring for children while holding down a job; the sexual harassment that some of the women suffered; the conflict and dissatisfaction associated with work; the myth of the natural joy of motherhood; the sexual control exercised by males; the incompatibility of working conditions and work activities with pregnancy; and the perception that they did not have legal protection owing to employers’ lack of respect for workers’ rights and for the maternity protection provisions of the Federal Constitution of Brazil. It is concluded that health policies should pay greater attention to improving the quality of life of working women, especially if they suffer from diabetes and are pregnant.

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