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Lawmaker, doctors, NGOs urge Taiwan's health ministry to improve pregnancy guides

Current versions contain erroneous information, myths: Legislator Fan Yun

(Pexels, Olia Danilevich photo)

(Pexels, Olia Danilevich photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Legislator Fan Yun (范雲) held a press conference on Thursday (May 5) calling for the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) to update its pregnancy guides for expecting mothers, as the current versions are not comprehensive and contain inaccuracies.

OBGYNs WuWu (烏烏) and Chen Yu-ping (陳鈺萍), representatives from the Birth Empowerment Alliance of Taiwan (BEAT) and The Garden of Hope Foundation (GOH), and Eye Central Television producer Oculomotor Nerve (動眼神經) joined Fan at the event, according to a joint press release published by BEAT. They detailed major issues in the “Health Education Booklet for Pregnant Women” and the “Health Booklet for Pregnant Women” provided by the MOHW to women eight-weeks pregnant.

According to Fan, while the purpose of the guides is to educate mothers-to-be, they have become “a modern version of social taboos during pregnancy.” The speakers at the press conference made three demands: remove erroneous information and myths that may cause women stress; provide comprehensive information on pregnancy and parenting rather than focusing only on prenatal check-ups; and include information on situations such as miscarriages, premature births, and young and advanced maternal age pregnancies.

Fan said that unfounded advice, such as avoiding dyeing one's hair, not soaking in hot springs, and not lifting heavy objects, restricts pregnant women’s freedom and causes anxiety. She added that the government must take the lead in eliminating stigmas against pregnancy and women by completely revising the guides.

WuWu was cited in the press release as saying many of her patients tell her the MOHW’s guides are “panic booklets,” as not only do they contain misinformation but their suggestions are also often unclear or even contradictory. She used the subject of miscarriages as an example, arguing that though research has shown the cause remains unknown, the booklets provide a list of reasons such as anxiety, cold, overwork, and even pregnancy out of wedlock.

BEAT Chair Chen Shu-ting (諶淑婷) cited a survey the organization conducted in 2021 as saying most women who had received the booklets thought they provided little information of value. She added that the guides lack information about childbirth, delivery options, relevant resources, advice for partners, or tips for caring for newborns.

Meanwhile, GOH supervisor Chen Yun-chi (陳韻淇) highlighted the issue of underage pregnancy and young mothers’ needs. She said the lack of proper sex education contributes to underage pregnancy, and that in a free and equal society, the diversity of issues related to pregnancy must be respected and addressed by the government.