The Societal Womb

By Jeanne Flavin & Lynn M. Paltrow 

Where do we come from? There are many ways to answer this, but most of us come from a womb inside of a person we think of as “Mom.” As we’ve just celebrated Mother’s Day and March for Moms, we wonder: to what extent do we really celebrate the pregnant women our mothers once were? How much does our existence and our well-being trace back solely to this one person, this one nine-month period? We give moms a lot of credit. We also assign a lot of blame. So we pause here to explore here some of the things we could fix by recognizing the problems pregnant women face and by taking some collective responsibility for improving the health and well-being of women and babies in the United States.

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HAMZA BUTT / Creative Commons

Despite having the costliest maternity care in the world, pregnancy and birth remain health- and life-risking events in the U.S. Each year, an estimated 800-1,200 women die from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth in the United States. Another 55,000-60,000 women suffer near-fatal close calls. Deaths and near-misses are both on the rise. Globally, maternal deaths have dropped by nearly 50 percent since 1990; the United States is the rare wealthy country in which these deaths have increased. Since 1950, black mothers have had maternal death rates at least three times higher than those of white women. Many of these deaths are preventable, too. For example, after a woman gives birth (when most pregnancy-related deaths actually occur), the focus is often on the baby’s health. Giving more postpartum attention to the mother would reduce her risk of dying due to hemorrhage, infection, eclampsia or suicide. Continue reading “The Societal Womb”

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Re-visioning Ultrasound

By Sian Beynon-Jones

Western popular culture tells a particular story about what it means to have an ultrasound during pregnancy. This is described as a pivotal, joyful, moment during which a woman both sees the fetus as a separate ‘person’, and develops an emotional relationship with it.

However, this narrative is contested by feminist scholarship, which illustrates that, although ultrasound images are often described as having a single ‘objective’ meaning, their significance depends on the social context in which they are produced and viewed. For example, Lisa Mitchell and Eugenia Georges demonstrate that ultrasound is practiced differently during prenatal care in Canada and Greece. In Canada, health professionals describe the fetus as a separate ‘person’ during scans, and women typically view their fetuses in these terms. In Greece, ultrasound is treated mainly as a diagnostic tool to assess fetal health, and pregnant women do not tend to view their fetuses as separate individuals.

Nonetheless, as Julie Roberts (2012) highlights, the dominant ‘story’ about ultrasound persists, making it difficult to talk about reproductive experiences that do not fit this narrative. In my research I am concerned about the implications of this situation for women who decide to end their pregnancies.

Continue reading “Re-visioning Ultrasound”