HEALTH & MEDICINE

The Myth of the Perfect Pregnancy: A History of Miscarriage in America

Oxford Univ.. Jan. 2020. 256p. notes. index. ISBN 9780190869816. $29.95. MED
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Friedenfelds (The Modern Period: Menstruation in Twentieth-Century America) presents a history not only of miscarriage, but of pregnancy and childbirth from colonial times to the present day. Colonial women realized that miscarriages was not only commonplace, but also helped limit family size. So, in the 19th century, Friedenfelds explains, women used plant-based remedies to induce periods and miscarriages. But since the introduction of the birth control pill, the myth of the perfect pregnancy has taken hold: Women believe they should be able to control the timing of conception and parenthood. Miscarriage, which is still common, makes all of this unpredictable. This is why, Friedenfelds says, the conversation around pregnancy and childbirth needs to shift away from the hyperfocus on pregnancy to the grief felt after a miscarriage.
VERDICT This social and medical history of the role of miscarriage will be useful for people planning a family, women who have had a miscarriage, and gender studies students.

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