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Pregnant in Britain : a sociological approach to Asian and British women's experiences

By Hilary Homans

Abstract

Human reproduction should not be viewed independently\ud from social reproduction, for to do so limits the perspective\ud of the observer. This thesis examines the limitations of\ud previous studies of human reproduction from an anthropological,\ud psychological, medical and sociological view point. It\ud proposes an alternative feminist perspective which looks at\ud the totality of the pregnancy experience as expressed by\ud the women themselves.\ud Although all women perceive fundamental experiences in\ud common, related to their status as women in male dominated\ud societies, it is argued that there are significant socially\ud determined differences between women in the way they react\ud to these experiences. To establish the extent to which all\ud women have pregnancy experiences in common and to which they\ud have different experiences, two separate groups of women\ud (South Asian and indigenous British) were selected for study.\ud These women were interviewed twice during their pregnancy\ud (using a questionnaire and in—depth interviewing) in an\ud attempt to determine their expectations and experiences of\ud the maternal health services and the extent to which their social\ud class, ethnic background and parity, shaped these experiences.\ud Differences in utilisation of services emerge which are\ud based on the women's social class, length of education,\ud cultural background and parity. Tensions are apparent between\ud lay beliefs about health and illness in pregnancy and the\ud medical model which treats all pregnant women as potentially\ud pathological. The clinical model of pregnancy overlooks the\ud social meaning of pregnancy to the woman and her social\ud network and thus is inadequate in this respect.\ud Inevitably, the amount of support and advice pregnant women\ud receive from their social network varies considerably and is\ud closely related to social class and cultural background.\ud The thesis concludes with suggestions for structural changes\ud in society which are necessary if women are to have autonomy\ud over their actions (particularly in relation to reproduction).\ud These changes involve the erosion of sex, class, and race\ud differences in society, which at present ensure that certain\ud groups are better able to manipulate services to their needs.\ud A list of practical recommendations is detailed suggesting\ud specific points which, if implemented, would make women's future\ud pregnancy experiences richer and more rewarding

Topics: HQ, RG
OAI identifier: oai:wrap.warwick.ac.uk:4188

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