‘Am I Pregnant?’: Women’s Magazines as a Source of Information

The Perceptions of Pregnancy blog, like the Researchers’ Network, aims to reach beyond boundaries and borders, and to facilitate an international and interdisciplinary conversation on pregnancy and its associated bodily and emotional experiences from the earliest times to the present day. Today’s post from Ciara Meehan explores women’s magazines as sources of information about pregnancy in a pre-digital age.

When I was fifteen, I had intercourse. I’m nineteen now and though I get periods regularly I wonder if I could become pregnant as a result of what happened then.[1]

 When I was twelve years old my brother and I did something very wrong. Only a year later did I realise how wrong it was. That is five years ago now and I never told my mother. I have regular periods, but fear that I might become pregnant as a result of what happened. I have symptoms which worry me greatly … Do you think I might have cancer?[2]

 I am sixteen and something wrong happened me when I was about twelve. I didn’t know then that it was wrong and now I worry, as my ankles swell and I notice my eyes get black. I have regular periods, but could I have some infection? I’m afraid to tell my mother. Could I be pregnant?[3]

 These three letters, written by teenagers who feared pregnancy years after intercourse, are deeply disturbing. They reveal a complete lack of understanding about how pregnancy occurs and the length of the gestation period (while also implying, in one case at least, that sexual abuse took place). Letters about becoming pregnant after a significant length of time are not a regular occurrence in the Irish women’s magazines of the 1960s that I have been examining for my current project, but they do speak to a bigger, more frequent issue – complete bewilderment about pregnancy.

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Reframing the Narrative of Concealed Pregnancy: Contemporary Media Representations that Shame, Blame and Vilify Women

The Perceptions of Pregnancy blog, like the Researchers’ Network, aims to reach beyond boundaries and borders, and to facilitate an international and interdisciplinary conversation on pregnancy and its associated bodily and emotional experiences from the medieval to the modern. Our latest posting comes from Sylvia Murphy Tighe and Joan Lalor, both of Trinity College Dublin. The authors would like to thank the 28 women who participated in The Keeping it Secret (KISS) Study exploring the nature and impact of concealed pregnancy and the Health Research Board (Ireland) who funded this study.

We recently presented a paper at the Institutions and Ireland symposium on Medicine, Health and Welfare in Trinity College Dublin examining contemporary media representations of concealed pregnancy. Using a vignette we drew on the case of Baby Maria who was found by the roadside in Dublin last year to explore the use of language and the images presented. Of course we acknowledge the rights of infants in such situations and the importance of press freedom. However in the presentation we aimed to contrast the perspective of women who have experienced a concealed pregnancy against the prevailing narrative presented by the media. Continue reading

Institutions and Ireland: Medicine, Health and Welfare

Institutions and Ireland: Medicine, Health and Welfare

A one-day conference exploring Ireland’s continuously evolving relationships with institution.

Neill/Hoey Lecture Theatre, Trinity Long Room Hub, Dublin

Friday 5 February 2016

Papers of potential interest to members include:

  • Lloyd Houston (Brasenose College, Oxford), ‘The Wages of Sin is a Month in the Locke’: Irish Modernism and the Politics of Venereal Disease
  • Professor Linda Connolly (UCC), The Construction of Gender and Motherhood through the Lens of Church–State Power in Ireland
  • Sylvia Murphy Tighe (TCD), Contemporary Media Representations of Concealed Pregnancy: Shaming, Blaming, and Vilifying Women
  • Keynote Address: Dr Rhona Mahony (Master, National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street), The Birth of a Republic: Giving Birth in Ireland, 1916–2016

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The Pregnant Eighteenth-Century Actress

The Perceptions of Pregnancy blog, like the Researchers’ Network, aims to reach beyond boundaries and borders, and to facilitate an international and interdisciplinary conversation on pregnancy and its associated bodily and emotional experiences from the earliest times to the present day. This week’s post is contributed by Helen Brooks and examines the pregnant eighteenth-century actress.

Writing in 1802 that a woman’s duties as a mother began ‘not only from the birth of her child, but even from the moment of its origin’ Christian Struve voiced the opinion of many an eighteenth-century commentator.[i] Maternal conduct literature often placed as much emphasis on the months preceding the child’s birth as it did on those following it. Women were advised to carefully moderate their levels of physical activity, and to avoid dancing, riding, or even walking. Yet at the same point they were warned of the dangers of idleness, indolence or ‘excessive effeminacy’.[ii] The ‘fatiguing dissipations’ of the bon ton also presented risks, whilst anything which might be described as ‘tumultuous pleasures, violent passions’ or ‘an irregular life’  could all lead to serious harm or miscarriage.[iii]

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Women’s Deaths Remembered: Picking up the Threads, Remaking the Fabric of Care.

 

A multi-media exhibition, centred on a hand-knitted quilt is being launched on 25th November, 2015, in St. Laurence’s DIT Grangegorman, 6-9pm.

The exhibition commemorates the lives of the women who have died in our maternity services. In recent years, eight women had inquests, all of which ended in verdicts of death by medical misadventure. Continue reading

Policing Pregnancy: a One-Day Conference on Maternal Autonomy, Risk and Responsibility

The Policing Pregnancy conference is a collaboration between British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), Birthrights and the Centre for Parenting Culture Studies, and will explore the provision of behavioural advice and care to pregnant women. The event is of interest to practitioners, advocates, academics, policy makers, journalists – and anyone else who is concerned about the expansion of risk thinking and its effects for the autonomy and choice-making ability of women. Continue reading

Healing the body and soul from the middle ages to the modern day, London, July 2016

RELIGION AND MEDICINE:

HEALING THE BODY AND SOUL FROM THE MIDDLE AGES TO THE MODERN DAY

Birkbeck, University of London, 15-16 July 2016

Convenors: Katherine Harvey, John Henderson and Carmen Mangion

Deadline for submitting abstracts: 30 October 2015

Download the call for papers here.

In the contemporary Western world, religion and medicine are increasingly separated, but through much of history they have been closely interrelated. This relationship has been characterised by some conflict, but also by a great deal of cooperation. Religious perspectives have informed both the understanding of and approaches to health and sickness, whilst religious personnel have frequently been at the forefront of medical provision. Religious organisations were, moreover, often at the heart of the response to medical emergencies, and provided key healing environments, such as hospitals and pilgrimage sites.      Continue reading

The Mama Sherpas (2015) reviewed

The Perceptions of Pregnancy blog, like the Researchers’ Network, aims to reach beyond boundaries and borders, and to facilitate an international and interdisciplinary conversation on pregnancy and its associated bodily and emotional experiences from the earliest times to the present day. This first post of the new academic year is contributed by Naomi Redina who has reviewed the 2015 film documentary The Mama Sherpas.

After being pressured into an unwanted c-section with her first child, director Brigid Maher sought to understand if it is “even possible for women to have a natural childbirth in a hospital.”  The Mama Sherpas (2015) — executive produced by Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein — investigates collaborative care between midwives and physicians.  Throughout the film, “natural” birth is mentioned as ideal. Aren’t all births that results in a baby exiting the womb via the vagina, “natural?” An inattention to language resulted in the film discussing “natural” birth but really meaning “birth with as minimal intervention as mom wants.” At the end, Maher mentions there are various models of midwifery, including that which supports “natural” birth or the use of an epidural. Epidurals were never discussed in the filmed office visits, and only one c-section was shown. The c-section was sanctioned by the midwives because of health risks to the mother. Continue reading

Concealed Pregnancy & Newborn Abandonment: A Contemporary Problem

The Perceptions of Pregnancy blog, like the Researchers’ Network, aims to reach beyond boundaries and borders, and to facilitate an international and interdisciplinary conversation on pregnancy and its associated bodily and emotional experiences from the earliest times to the present day. This week’s timely post is contributed by Sylvia Murphy Tighe and Prof Joan Lalor of Trinity College, Dublin.

Concealed Pregnancy & Newborn Abandonment: A Contemporary Problem

The recent case of Baby Maria who was found by a passer-by in Dublin on 8 May is a reminder of Ireland’s sad legacy of concealed pregnancies in traumatic and difficult circumstances. There are many views strongly held by those who have not been affected as to why women conceal a pregnancy. It is not uncommon for those perceptions to be negative. It is often assumed that concealed pregnancy is confined to history and is an artefact of a time when pregnancy outside of marriage was shunned. Although concealed pregnancy is not exclusive to Ireland, it has been associated with countries where Catholicism is the dominant religion. Ireland has a shameful history when it comes to women and their reproductive rights which continue to be legally controlled by the 8th Amendment which gives equal right to life to the mother and fetus. Ireland has a national biography that is characterised by the scars of mother and baby homes, Magdalene laundries and forced adoption, each seen as a State sponsored solution to pregnancy outside of marriage.

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