On pregnancy

Robbie E. Davis-Floyd, Ph.D. and Eugenia Georges, Ph.D.

This entry appears in the Encyclopedia of Cultural Anthropology,
New Haven CT: Human Relations Area Files, 1996. pp. 1014-1016

The experience of pregnancy encompasses physiological, psychological, spiritual, and socio-cultural dimensions. Because the future of any given culture depends heavily on women’s procreative abilities, these abilities carry strong social significance. Thus, every culture takes upon itself the regulation and management of women’s
pregnancies. In other words, pregnancy is never an unmarked category; in every society, it is the occasion for special attention and specialized treatment, in forms that vary widely. In Polynesia, for example, the news of a pregnancy is greeted with great joy. Pregnant women move about freely, are nurtured and pampered throughout, their every whim is honored, and the midwife arrives regularly to administer massage. In contrast, the refined ladies of the Victorian upper classes in England and the U.S. were confined to their homes during pregnancy.

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