Third example: “I am diabetic!”
Many practitioners do not realize how powerful the nocebo effect of the term “gestational diabetes” can be! When a woman is given this diagnosis she tends to confuse what is a transitory response to fetal needs with a serious chronic disease. Such a term can transform overnight a happy pregnant woman into a sick person. The point is that this diagnosis is useless. Professor John Jarrett, from London, claims that gestational diabetes is a “non-entity” (13). In a letter to the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology it has been called “a diagnosis still looking for a disease”. Today there is a debate on whether pregnant women should be screened for glucose tolerance (14). This diagnosis is useless because, when it has been established, it leads to simple recommendations that should be given to all pregnant women, such as: avoid pure sugar (soft drinks, etc.); prefer complex carbohydrates (pasta, bread, rice, etc.); have a sufficient amount of physical exercises.
We could write volumes about the nocebo effects of antenatal care. Three examples were enough to measure the amplitude of an intriguing phenomenon that is basically the same all over the world. An overview of the Primal Health Data Bank gives an opportunity to realize how serious this topic is.
Goer, H. OBSTETRIC MYTHS VERSUS RESEARCH REALITIES: A GUIDE TO THE MEDICAL LITERATURE. Westport: Bergin and Garvey, 1995.