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Changing the Patterns of Reproductive Behavior, Essay Example

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Essay

Given the different studies within medical anthropology, it seems likely that a medical anthropologist, assessing the great changes in how pregnancy is pursued and achieved today, would be as focused on cultural forces as biological elements. Regarding the latter, there would be significant interest in examining how modern fertility procedures are affecting basic human biology, and obviously in reference to women. Human beings evolve physically to meet changing influences, so there is the question of how increased longevity may actually translate to longer fertility periods for women. The question becomes: if women are living 10 to 20 years longer than did women of a century ago, are their child-bearing years being extended also? Then, aside from this potentially natural evolution, it is important to note how fertility drugs, etc., may be having a similar effect in isolated cases, or if women using such drugs later in life are altering their own natural cycles of child-bearing years and menopause.

On a broader, scale, many issues would confront the medical anthropologist in cultural terms. They would seek to understand what societal forces are in place that are shifting a traditional emphasis on youth as the time for having children, if only because the shift clearly has vast repercussions for human health. More exactly, there would be an investigation as to how these forces are generated, and if the older women undergoing risk in becoming pregnant are contributing to the tendency, or victims of a societal pressure. Most interesting would be just how women themselves play a role in these radical changes, in that a contradiction appears to exist. On one level, older and/or infertile women going to extreme measures to become pregnant indicates an empowering of female choice. On another, it may be said that such women are still only serving the demands of a patriarchal culture determined to elevate reproduction as the woman’s most essential contribution, which is obscured by the “empowerment.” There is as well the issue of the degree of these forces, in that fertility procedures often rely on clinical efforts removed from all traditional ideas of reproduction as a natural process reliant on a couple’s agreement and commitment. This renders the question: are babies becoming even more dominant as cultural entities, completely overshadowing whatever processes are needed to create them?

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