Anthropology of Pregnancy Loss : Comparative Studies in Miscarriage, Stillbirth and Neo-natal Death book cover
1st Edition

Anthropology of Pregnancy Loss
Comparative Studies in Miscarriage, Stillbirth and Neo-natal Death

Edited By

Rosanne Cecil

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ISBN 9781859731253
Published August 1, 1996 by Routledge
226 Pages

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Book Description

How much influence does culture have on a mother's reactions to pregnancy loss? At what stage is a fetus attributed with human status? How does this affect the mother's reactions to the loss of a baby?Contemporary, historical and oral-history accounts from regions as diverse as rural North India, urban America, South Africa and Northern Ireland, provide a fascinating insight into the experience and management of miscarriage across a number of different cultures. The authors explore how the social, technological and medical context in which miscarriages occur can affect the ways in which women experience such an event. In the West, advances in medical technology, a low infant-mortality rate and a low birth rate have raised expectations as to the successful outcome of each pregnancy. In addition, the early confirmation of pregnancy makes consequent pregnancy loss -- which might have gone unnoticed or unconfirmed in the past -- all the more difficult for mothers in the West. Yet, mourning rituals and behaviour at a pregnancy loss, which may be elaborate in some societies, are generally considered to be inappropriate in many Western societies. Differing social beliefs regarding the causes of miscarriage, preventative measures and curative treatments are also examined. Medical anthropologists, sociologists and health professionals will all find this book fascinating reading.

Table of Contents

Contents: R. Cecil, Introduction: An Insignificant Event? Literary and Anthropological Perspectives on Pregnancy Loss -- P. Jeffery and R. Jeffery, Delayed Periods and Falling Babies: The Ethnophysiology and Politics of Pregnancy Loss in Rural North India -- E. Sobo, Cultural Explanations for Pregnancy Loss in Rural Jamaica -- A. Winkvist, Water Spirits, Medicinemen and Witches: Avenues to Successful Reproduction among the Abelam, Papua New Guinea -- J.A.R. Wembah-Rashid, Explaining Pregnancy Loss in Matrilineal Southeastern Tanzania -- O.M. Njikam Savage, 'Children of the Rope' and Other Aspects of Pregnancy Loss in Cameroon -- M. DeLuca and P.W. Leslie, Variation in Risk of Pregnancy Loss -- L.L. Layne, 'Never Such Innocence Again': Irony, Nature, and Technoscience in Narratives of Pregnancy Loss -- B. Chalmers, Cultural Variations in South African Women's Experiences of Miscarriage: Implications for Clinical Care -- R. Cecil, Memories of Pregnancy Loss: Recollections of Elderly Women in Northern Ireland -- M. Jackson, 'Something More Than Blood': Conflicting Accounts of Pregnancy Loss in 18th-Century England

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Rosanne Cecil Research Fellow,Department of Social Anthropology, The Queen's University of Belfast


It makes an important contribution towards correcting the erasure of these common experiences from the literature on reproductive health. [...] This is a stimulating book recommended especially for those interested in medical anthropology, reproductive health, or cross-cultural constructions of personhood and gender. - Canberra Anthropology