This book examines changing views of procreation and fetal development throughout the history of the Christian tradition. This is the first comprehensive study of cultural perceptions of pregnancy, an area of scholarship that been understudied in the past. Pregnancy holds a central place in Christian ritual, iconography, and theology, including the dogma of the incarnation and the cult of Virgin Mary. This book provides a broad introduction to the attitudes and ideas within Western Christian communities by focusing on four periods of transition: Antiquity, the Enlightenment, modernity, and the present day. It lays the groundwork for further study of the interactions between biological models, cultural preconceptions, and religious beliefs.

chapter |6 pages


part I|56 pages


chapter 1|9 pages

Conceptualizing Pregnancy

chapter 2|13 pages

Patterns of Meaning

Pregnancy in late antiquity

chapter 4|13 pages

Pregnancy and Abortion in Medieval Society

chapter 5|10 pages

Exceptional Bodies

Saints, relics, and dissection

part II|37 pages

The Enlightenment

chapter 6|11 pages

The Reformation

Protestantism, life, and marriage

chapter 7|12 pages

Theories of Procreation

chapter 8|12 pages

Varieties of Scientific Truth

Descartes, Deism, and relativism

part III|34 pages


chapter 9|11 pages

The Female Egg and Medical Inventions

chapter 10|10 pages

The Divine Conception

Religious reactions to modernity

chapter 11|11 pages

Fertility Under Debate

Race, reason, and religion at the turn of the century

part IV|52 pages

Contemporary debates

chapter 12|10 pages

Women and the Virgin in the Twentieth Century

Feminism and modern attitudes towards pregnancy

chapter 13|15 pages

Legal Abortion

The rise of liberal-democratic ideas of gender equality

chapter 14|13 pages

Foetus or Child?

Christian reactions to feminism

chapter 15|12 pages


Women in contemporary culture

chapter |4 pages