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Join historian, author, and independent scholar, Lara Freidenfelds, PhD, for an author talk and Q&A. In twenty-first century America, when a couple plans for a child, every moment seems precious and unique. Super-sensitive home pregnancy tests promise to reveal the baby inside just days after conception. On-line due date calculators trigger a direct-marketing barrage of baby-name lists and diaper coupons, and pregnancy apps deliver daily embryonic portraits. Eight-week ultrasounds offer an early opportunity to “see the baby” and take home a sweet souvenir for the baby book. All too often, though, even the best-thought-out childbearing plans go awry.

About twenty percent of confirmed pregnancies miscarry, mostly in the first months of gestation. Statistically, early pregnancy losses are a normal part of childbearing for healthy women. Historically, they were generally taken in stride so long as a woman eventually had the children she desired. Today though, for many people an early pregnancy loss is heartbreaking, akin to losing a child, and the modern rituals of childbearing can suddenly turn devastating when a pregnancy fails. 

The Myth of the Perfect Pregnancy is a far-reaching look at the rise of our current childbearing culture from its earliest glimmers in the Revolutionary era to today. It concludes with suggestions for how we might set realistic and humane expectations for childbearing, and accept the inevitable imperfections of this most human of endeavors.


A historian of health, reproduction, and parenting in America, Lara Freidenfelds is the author of The Myth of the Perfect Pregnancy: A History of Miscarriage in America and The Modern Period: Menstruation in Twentieth-Century America. She holds a PhD in the history of science from Harvard University and blogs at and She and her family live in New Jersey.

The Myth of the Perfect Pregnancy: A History of Miscarriage in America | Archives Talk


This event is brought to you by the UCSF Archives & Special Collections.

Archives Talks are free and open to the public. Light refreshments provided while supply lasts. 

Event Details

  • Roshini Epasinghe

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