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The unborn child : control devices as soon as life appears

Raymonde Gagnon

Research Framework : The article highlights the influence of technology and medicalization from the beginning of uterine life on women with “normal” pregnancies.

Objectives : The objective is to show how policies, institutions and society implement devices that ensure control of the fetus within mother’s body and how they modify the perception of pregnancy and the development of antenatal relationship.

Methodology : Qualitative research with a contextualized phenomenological approach was conducted using interviews with twenty-five first-time mothers from Quebec on their experiences both during pregnancy and after the birth of their child. The analysis was based on a socio-anthropological viewpoint.

Results : Inevitably, the testimonies gathered converged on the control devices surrounding reproduction and the unborn child. Pregnant women are thus invited to comply with new social and medical standards through government programs and standardized pregnancy care. Power is exercised in a diffuse way by calling on the woman’s sense of responsibility in making the right decisions in order to produce a healthy child. The anticipation of risk and technology occupy a significant place in the parents’ experience and it is difficult to ignore.

Conclusions : Antenatal life supervision and control devices are continually increasing and development of technology with the range of new genetic screening tool points to significant future consequences on the meaning of “normalcy” and the acceptability of non-standard births.

Contribution : This article contributes to showing the effects of new technology on the anticipation of the child and the beginning of pregnancy and understanding the progression of antenatal temporality incited by the precociousness of pregnancy tests.