Presentation on theme: "An introduction to the workshop ‘3D Foetal Ultrasound: Social and Clinical Meanings’ Julie Palmer."— Presentation transcript:
An introduction to the workshop ‘3D Foetal Ultrasound: Social and Clinical Meanings’ Julie Palmer
Aims To present some key ideas and concepts To introduce 3-/4D ultrasound technology, including its clinical use and social significance To introduce ‘non-diagnostic’ scanning To prompt ideas/questions/discussion!
Theorising Foetal Ultrasound Foetus as ‘cyborg’ (Haraway) Ultrasound as a ‘hybrid practice’ (Taylor) Ultrasound imagery as ‘semiotic object’ (Mitchell) Meaning is multiple, fluid, context dependent, viewer dependent Making meaning is an active process (Mitchell, Palmer) Meaning is historically and culturally specific (Mitchell & Georges) Attitudes to technology The iconic, public foetus Privileging the visual
Social and Clinical Roles Dating pregnancy (in place of LMP) Assessing foetal growth Identifying multiple pregnancies Prenatal screening Prenatal diagnosis Making the pregnancy ‘real’ Technological quickening (Duden 1993) Encouraging compliance with health advice Reassurance Iatrogenesis? Maternal-foetal ‘bonding’ A chance to ‘meet’ the baby ‘baby’s first picture’ (Mitchell 2001)
Tensions and Contradictions Social and clinical meanings can ‘clash’ e.g. issues around informed consent. Are women consenting to prenatal testing or attending appointments to see the baby or get the pictures? Social and Clinical uses of ultrasound can be contradictory Prenatal testing constructs a ‘tentative’ pregnancy (Rothman), potentially delays ‘bonding’ Viewing ultrasound imagery constructs the foetus as ‘baby’/ foetal personhood
Tensions and Contradictions How do we distinguish social from clinical meanings? (and do we need to?) e.g. Ambiguity of reassurance and bonding Can we ‘purge’ ultrasound of its ‘cumbersome non-medical (emotional, cultural) connotations’ ?(van Dijck, 101) Pleasures and Dangers Ultrasound as a technology of medicalisation, surveillance. Visualisation is objectifying, visual data replaces embodied knowledge; technology constructs foetus as patient and neglects the pregnant subject. Women generally report that they enjoy ultrasound examinations (Bricker) ‘the pleasure and danger of dropping out of one’s own picture should not be underestimated (Lehner)
Commercial, non-diagnostic, 4D scans Emerged in UK 1998 (earlier in US) Market expanded when 4D became widely available (2003 onwards) Commercial Scanning Separate from NHS Range of Services or solely non-diagnostic scans Different terms: ‘bonding scan’, ‘entertainment scan’, ‘boutique scan’, ‘keepsake scan’ weeks gestation Services offer a chance to see your baby in a relaxed environment, promise a more enjoyable experience than NHS, 4D technology, and a range of take-home products
UK scanning companies include: Babybond Babyview See your Baby Meet your Baby Take a Peek Window to the Womb BabyPremier
A typical scan ‘package’ mins appointment A 4D scan viewed in real-time on a big screen Partner, family members and other guests Growth report/health check Take-home still images Take-home DVD, 4D moving images, with ‘soundtrack’ Optional extras include: Keyrings File for iPod or similar Picture frames
Social and Clinical Meanings Balance is shifted Social meanings take priority (screening complete) Must distinguish service from NHS scans Professional skill and knowledge important Sonographers are key to helping clients get their bearings, and interpreting the images on the screen and making them socially meaningful Interpretation is necessary even with 4D imagery Expectant-parents also take an active role in making the imagery personally meaningful ‘collaborative coding’ (Palmer) Family resemblance Not a baby but my baby
Controversies around non-diagnostic scans Is it safe? ‘The HPA advises that although there is no clear evidence that souvenir scans are harmful to the foetus, “parents-to-be must decide for themselves if they wish to have souvenir scans and balance the benefits against the possibility of unconfirmed risks to the unborn child” Accused of not taking ultrasound seriously enough ‘entertainment’ ‘shopping mall scans’ Accused of claiming a benefit to bonding for which there is only inconclusive evidence. Does ultrasound have any effect on bonding? Is improving bonding a ‘medical’ goal? Diverging from the ‘proper’ purpose of ultrasound ‘this service is being offered for non-clinical reasons, and it is not providing what scans were intended to provide in a medical sense – clinical information about the baby (Beech 2005).
Problems with critiques of non-diagnostic scans so far Rely on a clear separation of social and clinical functions for ultrasound that is difficult to maintain Clinically-driven ultrasound is a ‘hybrid practice’ (Taylor) ‘Bonding’ becomes the acceptable justification for scanning Does not take account of wider social context the social significance of ultrasound and popular familiarity with sonograms; consumerism during pregnancy and patients as consumers Do not take into account women’s experiences of non- diagnostic ultrasound Why do women access non-diagnostic ultrasound services? How do women make sense of non-diagnostic scans? Do women experience ‘ultrasound bonding’?
References Palmer, J. (2009) The placental body in 4D: everyday practices of non-diagnostic sonography. Feminist Review 93(1): Rothman, B. K. (1988). The Tentative Pregnancy: Prenatal Diagnosis and the Future of Motherhood. London, Pandora Press. Taylor, J. S. (1998). Image of Contradiction: Obstetrical Ultrasound in American Culture. In Reproducing Reproduction: Kinship, Power and Technological Innovation. S. Franklin and H. Ragoné. Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press: van Dijck, J. (2005). The Transparent Body: A Cultural Analysis of Medical Imaging. Seattle, WA, University of Washington Press.