A Few Thoughts on EVE: Danger, Desire, and Reproductive Control

Livia Arndal Woods // The possibility of divorcing reproduction from the maternal body fascinates and haunts the human imagination. The dangers of and desire for such separation – for ectogenesis – has been of particular interest in science fiction. Indeed, the oxforddictionaries.com definition of ectogenesis reads: “(chiefly in science fiction) the development of embryos in…

Hints to Mothers, 1837/2018

Livia Arndal Woods // Last month, there was some popular coverage of a recent article in the medical journal Obstetrics and Gynecology. Nathan S. Fox, MD’s “Dos and Don’ts in Pregnancy: Truths and Myths” frames its intervention as evidence-based common-sense pregnancy-best-practices in an “age of the internet” in which women are “bombarded” with more information…

Flayed Animal Bodies: Cats and Pregnancy from 16th Century—Present

Alicia Andrzejewski // “If you try and take a cat apart to see how it works, the first thing you have on your hands is a non-working cat.”—Douglas Adams In The Animal That Therefore I Am (2008), Derrida writes of “seeing oneself seen naked under a gaze”—his female cat’s gaze, in particular—“behind which there remains a bottomlessness, at…

Two Babies, Two Fathers, One Pregnancy: Superfetation in Myth and Medicine

According to early modern gynecological manuals, superfetation is “a repeated conception”—a rare but real medical phenomenon when a woman who is already pregnant becomes pregnant again. The anonymous author of The English Midwife Enlarged (1682) responds to those who dispute superfetation, explaining that when a woman is “animated with an earnest desire of Copulation,” the “overheated”…

Monstrous and Mindful Births: Policing the Pregnant Imagination

Aristotle’s Master-Piece, or The Secrets of Generation, was first published in 1684 and quickly became the most popular medical book about “sex and babies” from its publication through the 19th century (Fissell 114). The frontispiece in many editions of this text depicts a black infant and woman covered in hair, alongside a description: “The Effgies…

“Peeing on this ad may change your life”

By Livia Arndal Woods The January 13, 2018 episode of NPR’s “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me” just drew my attention to an interesting pop culture tidbit. It turns out that the Swedish women’s magazine Amelia ran an advertisement for a discount on an IKEA crib in which the price is revealed via pregnancy-test. In short, you…

The Myth of Miscarriage: An Early Modern Legacy

If a medical school student or resident looked up “miscarriage” in the index of Blueprints Obstetrics & Gynecology (2013), they would be directed to “spontaneous abortion.” Denoting a pregnancy that ends before 20 weeks, spontaneous abortion occurs in 15% to 25% of all pregnancies, and this “number may be even higher because losses that occur…

Back to Obstetrics: Beyond Normal and Problem Pregnancies

In the image that accompanies the title page of Aristotle’s Compleat and Experience’d Midwife (1700), the birthing chamber is depicted as a room full of lively, fleshed-out bodies, warm and inviting from the fireplace to the small animal sleeping in front of it. The baby is not pictured at all; the experienced midwives gather around…