Are You Ready to Meet Your Baby? Phenomenology, Pregnancy, and the Ultrasound

Journal of Applied Hermeneutics 2 (2020):1-13 (2020)
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Iris Marion Young’s classic paper on the phenomenology of pregnancy chronicles the alienating tendencies of technology-ridden maternal care, as the mother’s subjective knowledge of the pregnancy gets overridden by the objective knowledge provided by medical personnel and technological apparatuses. Following Fredrik Svenaeus, the authors argue that maternal care is not necessarily alienating by looking specifically at the proper attention paid by sonographers in maternal care when performing ultrasound examinations. Using Martin Heidegger’s philosophy as a theoretical lens, the authors argue that sonographers who cultivate technical mastery, build patient rapport, explain the process and significance of the ultrasound, and understand the patient’s world are able to provide excellent patient care. The authors utilize Hans-Georg Gadamer’s hermeneutics to show how sonographers can frame the ultrasound in a way that acknowledges both the subjective knowledge of the mother and the objective data obtained by the sonographer through the use of technology. Ultimately, the authors argue that the common practice of framing the ultrasound as the chance to “meet the baby” is inappropriate, as it exacerbates the tendency to regard objective knowledge as the only legitimate knowledge in medical contexts. They recommend a more balanced approach that elicits a fusion of horizons between the patient’s subjective knowledge and the objective data that is obtained by the sonographer via the ultrasound, thus respecting and bolstering patient autonomy.

Author's Profile

Casey Rentmeester
University of South Florida (PhD)


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