Ana’s Pregnancy Scare in 50 Shades Darker; or How Even Adults Don’t Know How Babies are Made
I decided to read a few pages of 50 Shades Darker while I ate my morning yogurt, and I had an epiphany for why shows such as MTV’s 16 and Pregnant exist. If grown women who HAVE CHILDREN do not understand how human beings procreate, then what hope do we have of squirrel-brained teenagers (apologies to the non-squirrel-brained teenagers who just believed for a moment that I was lumping them in with the others and calling all teenagers “squirrel-brained teenagers”) understanding how babies are made and therefore avoid having them?
While this is just a tiny scene within the book, stop reading if you don’t want any spoilers at all.
So the gynecologist who makes house calls shows up to give Ana her Depo-Provera injection because she stopped taking the birth control pills she was on. She asks Ana when her period began. It is currently Sunday in the book, and Ana says that her period began two Wednesdays ago. For those keeping track at home, this means we’re on CD12. The doctor has her take a pregnancy test because Ana stopped taking her birth control pills a few days earlier. She tells Ana that she could be pregnant (“You could be pregnant,” she says matter-of-factly). On CD12.
I want to explain to EL James how babies are made and how pregnancy tests can be used. Actually, let’s just skip to how pregnancy tests are used because I’m fairly certain that she has the sex thing down. Until implantation has occurred and the body starts producing enough hCG to have the hormone spill into the urine and trigger a positive pregnancy test, there is no point in peeing on a stick because it will never tell you whether or not you are pregnant. If a doctor truly wanted to be responsible and check for pregnancy prior to giving a Depo-Provera shot, she would draw blood which can alert the doctor to hCG levels in the blood stream.
I’m not asking for people to be knowledgeable in all stages of embryonic development. I’m not asking for writers to understand the function of pinopodes. I’m just asking for some good, old-fashioned understanding of timing.
Ovulation occurs mid-cycle, perhaps even around CD12. And then implantation occurs anywhere from 6 to 10 days post-ovulation. Hence why you couldn’t use a pregnancy test immediately after having sex and know anything (and you certainly couldn’t use a pregnancy test before ovulation occurs). In fact, it will take days after implantation occurs until there are enough mlU of hCG in your urine to trigger a positive test. (Each test has an hCG sensitivity threshold with some tests turning positive at 25 mlU and others waiting until 40 mlU to turn positive. Hence why doctors would want a blood test since urine tests don’t give them a number — it just lets them know if there is enough hCG in the urine to get over the test’s threshold.)
I guess I don’t understand why Ana and Christian are trusting a gynecologist who either (1) doesn’t understand how the menstrual cycle works or (2) loves to waste pregnancy tests.
And beyond that, she gives the Depo-Provera injection on CD12. While I’ve never taken Depo-Provera, I do know that almost all hormone-based forms of birth control are timed to certain parts of your cycle. My understanding of Depo-Provera is that it is always given within days after your period begins, and doctors will wait until your next period to start that. I’m giving EL James a pass on that one for the moment because perhaps there are doctors who begin it mid-cycle who can chime in to say this is kosher…
There were so many simple ways for EL James to introduce a pregnancy scare. For instance, the doctor could say, “I’m going to start the Depo-Provera, but before I do, just to be safe, I’m going to draw some blood and test it to make sure you’re not pregnant. You can never be too careful.” There. Done. Makes sense. You get Ana to freak out over the possibility to being pregnant, and she gets to watch Christina pale when she passes on the news to him. And teenagers everywhere are not fed misinformation about women’s health in the process.
By this point, it is so clear that Ana will become pregnant by the third book that I don’t understand why Vintage didn’t just have the author leave handwritten notes in the margins of the books saying things like, “do you notice how often I’m bringing up birth control?” or “did you just see how Christian reacted to the idea of a pregnancy?” or “I want to leave nothing subtle: please notice how often I am bringing up these plot points so you can predict that Ana will become pregnant in book three!”
Of course she will become pregnant despite being on numerous forms of birth control because Ana is soooooooooooooooooo fertile that Christian simply has to look at her and she falls pregnant.
I imagine that somewhere in an alternate universe there exists Characterland, and Ana from 50 Shades of Grey and Bella from Twilight are having lunch (by which I mean picking at their salads because neither slender girl likes to eat — and if you ever forget that, the author reminds you in the next paragraph. Somehow they both get by on 30 calories per day) and clucking about how fertile they are. Ana is moaning about how easy it is for her to get knocked up, and Bella is mentioning how she knows she wants to have a summer baby next time so they’ll just have sex in September.
And somewhere, at a nearby table, Clare from the Time Traveler’s Wife is trying not to cry into her napkin as she listens to their conversation. Because while she’s happy that those characters all get pregnant and deliver a live child, all she has to show for her struggle to procreate with the love of her life, Henry, are numerous miscarriages.
I’m going back to my yogurt now. All I want to say is that when I rule the world, pregnancies in books and movies are going to get a whole lot more realistic. None of this fudging of science facts in order to create a plot point.