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Communicating Pregnancy Loss

Narrative as a Method for Change


Rachel Silverman and Jay Baglia

This book is the Winner of the OSCLG Outstanding Book Award

The loss of a desired pregnancy or the inability to experience pregnancy are intensely personal phenomena; these losses are also, in our culture at least, extremely private. Communicating Pregnancy Loss is a collection of first-person narratives about the experience of pregnancy loss. Although there is no shortage of books that help prospective parents cope with an unintended pregnancy loss or ‘survive’ infertility, most of these books are authored by physicians or therapists and address pregnancy loss through the language of guidance. This book is different. It is the first of its kind because the contributors (primarily communication scholars but also healthcare personnel and other scholars from the social sciences) tell their story of loss in their own words, offering a diverse collection of narratives that span experience and identity. The authors employ various feminist theories, narrative theories, and performance theories as well as other well-known communication theories and concepts. The book’s narrative approach to writing about and thereby understanding pregnancy loss offers readers a method for changing the way pregnancy loss is understood personally, culturally, and politically.
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5. A Story We Can Live With: The Role of the Medical Sonographerin the Diagnosis of Fetal Demise


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Impending loss of a pregnancy may be signaled by a variety of noticeable symptoms including bleeding, loss of fetal movement, or cramping; in many cases, however, “embryonic demise” is diagnosed through an ultrasound procedure, which may be part of a routine prenatal screening in the absence of other signs of miscarriage. Typically, in the United States the ultrasound procedure is performed by a female medical sonographer whose position, like so many of the predominantly female ancillary health professions, is relatively low on the medical hierarchy and is not authorized to deliver or discuss the diagnosis of pregnancy loss with the patient. Although scenes of such ultrasound-assisted diagnoses are available in narratives written from the perspective of the mother (Foster, 2010; Freedman, 2009; Paulsell, 2007), and are described in the medical literature (Jurkovic, Overton, & Bender-Atik, 2013), in most accounts the person operating the technology is a “flat character” and is peripheral to the point of near invisibility. Popular films on the theme of pregnancy (e.g., Juno, Knocked Up, Nine Months, Baby Mama) almost exclusively depict an obstetrician or family physician as operating the ultrasound equipment without the presence of a sonographer, further adding to the marginalization of the role of the sonographer in the narrative of diagnosing pregnancy loss.

Originating with the first author’s reflections on her pregnancy loss story, this chapter brings together a narrative of the moment of diagnosing “fetal demise” with the second author’s...

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