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By Clare Hanson

Hanson explores different ways that being pregnant has been developed and interpreted in Britain over the past 250 years. Drawing on quite a lot of assets, together with obstetric texts, being pregnant suggestion books, literary texts, well known fiction and visible photographs, she analyzes altering attitudes to key matters equivalent to the relative rights of mom and fetus and the measure to which scientific intervention is suitable in being pregnant. Hanson additionally considers the results of scientific and social alterations at the subjective adventure of pregnancy.

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Extra info for A Cultural History of Pregnancy: Pregnancy, Medicine and Culture, 1750-2000

Sample text

My head turned round, my heart grew sick, and in the horrors of approaching dissolution, mental anguish was swallowed up. (p. 84) 42 A Cultural History of Pregnancy Despite or because of her suffering, when she finds a protector, Jemima in turn causes a girl who is pregnant by him to be turned out of his house. The girl subsequently commits suicide. ’ (p. 89). By far the most influential discussion of illegitimacy among the poorer classes was William Hunter’s essay on infanticide, published four years before Maria in 1794.

However, the understanding of very early life (embryology) was changing rapidly and it was a subject which was fiercely debated. In the seventeenth century the invention of the microscope had enabled close study of the ovum and spermatozoon, and while scientists such as the Dutch naturalist Advice to the Fair Sex 47 Jan Swammerdam had claimed to see complete miniature organisms in the ovum, others claimed that such organisms could be found in the sperm. Either way, it was believed that, at conception, the new individual was completely developed or ‘preformed’, and that during gestation it simply increased in size.

It was believed that the event of conception stimulated the womb, creating an excitability which in turn affected other organs which were in ‘consent’ (sympathy) with it. Thus Thomas Denman writes that ‘the truth of no observation in medicine has been more generally acknowledged that that of the extreme irritability of the uterus, and of the propensity which the whole body has to be affected or disturbed by its influence’ (p. 238). He goes on to explain that consent between the uterus and the breasts is ‘intimate and constant’ and it is this that causes the swelling of the breasts in pregnancy.

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