The success of prenatal care is not merely a triumph of modern medicine, but a surprisingly rapid conceptual and practical shift in American pregnancy. This paper will explore the roll of health consumerism in setting the stage for the rapid adoption of prenatal health care. By examining pregnancy advice in popular health guides and women’s magazines in the first few decades of the twentieth century, I will discuss how women’s acceptance of prenatal health care hinged in part upon an already established rhetoric of maternal impressions, maternal influence, and the duty of parents in the development of their child long before birth. Rather than viewing the rapid success of prenatal health care as proof of the cultural authority and success of American medicine and public health, we should instead consider the establishment of prenatal health care as part of a longer story including health consumerism, parenting advice, and print media in the early twentieth century.
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