Lara Freidenfelds

in Childhood Studies

ISBN: 9780199791231
Published online March 2013 | | DOI:

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Miscarriage is medically defined as a pregnancy loss in approximately the first half of pregnancy (twenty weeks or so), before viability. Historically and popularly, and presently in many non-Western societies, nonviable births up to approximately seven months (thirty weeks) have often been named as miscarriages. Only since the 20th century, and particularly in highly developed countries with low birth rates, have these pregnancy losses been widely regarded as the loss of a baby, rather than as a different kind of loss. This change in meaning of the miscarried embryo or fetus is the result of a broad swath of social, medical, and technological change, including the rise of prenatal care early in pregnancy; the widespread use of new technologies such as obstetric ultrasound, home pregnancy tests, and in vitro fertilization (IVF); abortion debates, first in the late 19th century and again in the late 20th century; the 19th- and 20th-century rise of contraceptive technology and belief in family limitation and the resulting drop in the birth rate; the 19th- and 20th-century reduction of infant and child mortality; the continuous expansion of parenting expectations and responsibilities since the late 18th century; increasing marketplace consumption on behalf of children, babies, and expected babies; the increasing age of mothers at first birth; and the lowering of age of viability with technologically sophisticated neonatal medical care. Much has been written about medical, public health, and psychological aspects of miscarriage. Researchers have considered the causes of miscarriage, how to prevent miscarriage, how to medically and psychologically manage a miscarriage in progress, and the physical and psychological sequelae of miscarriage. Works focusing specifically on miscarriage in the social-science and humanities literature are strong but sparse, and much research remains to be done. Historians have examined aspects of miscarriage in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, and anthropologists have researched experiences of miscarriages across several cultures.

Article.  5402 words. 

Subjects: Development Studies

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