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Picture perfect: ‘4D’ ultrasound and the commoditisation of the private prenatal clinic

Thomas, Gareth M. ORCID: 2017. Picture perfect: ‘4D’ ultrasound and the commoditisation of the private prenatal clinic. Journal of Consumer Culture 17 (2) , pp. 359-377. 10.1177/1469540515602300

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Non-medical ‘4D’ ultrasound is commercially advertised as promoting maternal ‘bonding’, providing reassurance, and tendering entertaining experiences for expectant parents. Despite the proliferation of this technology, it has not yet been subjected to sufficient social scientific attention. Drawing on an ethnography of a private prenatal clinic in the UK, I explore how 4D scans, providing detailed real-time images of a foetus, have transformed the prenatal clinic into a site of consumption. I argue that the discourse present in 4D scans and the materiality of the clinic achieve two things. First, it blurs the boundary between clinical and nonclinical practices. This must be carefully negotiated by professionals who perform serious emotional labour to balance the delicate tension of offering expertise and medically-based reassurance with providing a joyful experience for parents as consumers. Second, the 4D scan and clinic’s materiality promote the notion of ‘perfection’, particularly around the idealised family and future body. I conclude by reflecting on how such non-medical technologies play a central role in the commoditisation of pregnancy, bodies, the family, and prenatal care in an increasingly consumer-led market.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Cardiff Institute of Society and Health (CISHE)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
R Medicine > RG Gynecology and obstetrics
Publisher: SAGE
ISSN: 1469-5405
Funders: Economic and Social Research Council
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Date of Acceptance: 16 July 2015
Last Modified: 11 Nov 2023 11:34

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