Good Mothering Before Birth: Measuring Attachment and Ultrasound as an Affective Technology
The idea that fetal ultrasound is useful for promoting a pregnant woman’s emotional attachment to her fetus is commonplace in the United States. While STS scholars have examined many facets of ultrasound, scholars have not analyzed the medical construction of ultrasound as an affective technology. This article fills that gap by bringing feminist STS and affect studies together to examine medical understandings of fetal ultrasound’s emotional utility. The project interprets a unique archive of published medical research on measuring maternal-fetal bonding and using ultrasound to promote that bonding. My discourse analysis shows that this medical research defines “optimal bonding” in a way that reflects the norms of intensive mothering. I argue that this medical research contributes to the creation of a new, presumably high-risk population of “sub-optimal bonders.” The research I examine also suggests that medical professionals may be able to use the technological fix of ultrasound to manage this new population’s emotions and behaviors. In the process, medical experts individualize the risks of infant well-being and locate those risks in women’s emotional state.
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