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Maternal Body

  • By: Anna Gotlib
  • In: Encyclopedia of Motherhood
  • Edited by: Andrea O'Reilly
  • Subject:Sociology of Gender, Parenting, Maternal Health

When discussing the maternal body, it is important to note that the ideas of what it is, what it is supposed to do, and what it looks like are deeply rooted in various customs and traditions, making attempts at broad generalities potentially inaccurate and uninformative. Bodies exist within and are constituted by cultures, which in turn are influenced by the kinds of bodies that happen to inhabit them.

In the past, expectant women hid their pregnant bodies by staying at home, wearing loose dresses, and limiting their activities. In more recent times, society is more accepting of the pregnant maternal body, but pregnant women still fear that they look “fat.”

Different eras have marked maternal bodies in various ways: they have been viewed as a privileged, ...

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