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Sunday, 1 April 2012

Transforming Pregnancy since 1900, Cambridge 29-30 Mar 2012

I posted about this conference when it was still forthcoming and attended it last week. It was an excellent event, if rather intense - I think by the end everyone just wanted to go away and reflect on all the issues that had come up over the course of the two days. As with the Communicating Reproduction conference at the same venue that I attended in December, it was based on precirculated papers, but this time, each session was introduced by a discussant speaking for 5-10 minutes, with a brief response by the author of the paper in question, and then open discussion for around 45 minutes. This worked very well, though it probably only works with numbers below a certain level and attendees with the commitment to read the papers.

There are apparently plans on hand to publish the papers, possibly as a journal special edition. They were all very good and quite diverse in their approach and methodology, but a significant number of common themes appeared:
  • The medicalisation of pregnancy and its move into hospitals
  • The increasing separation of concern over the foetus from concern with the mother
  • The amount of medical technology that was originally devised for fairly extreme cases but has become much more widely used
  • The role of commercial interests 
  • The notion of the perfect baby as achievable
  • The notion that pregnancy and childbirth are now entirely safe
  • The ambiguity of the rise of all the various high-tech developments
  • The impact of the 'pro-life' movement (I should like to see, some time, a discussion of the way in which this and its rhetorics arose as a response to legalisation of abortion, rather than being timeless concerns)
  • Conceptualisation of the mother as feeling rather than thinking or doing rational decision-making
  • The idea that it is possible to make a definite binary yes/no to 'is she pregnant?' (E.g. early positive pregnancy test may in fact turn into an early miscarriage)
Lots of exciting and productive questions and matters for further thought.

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