“A Wonderful Movie!”: The Appropriation of Entertainment Ultrasound Technology in The Netherlands

Roos Metselaar


It is now almost impossible to imagine a pregnancy in The Netherlands without one or two fetal ultrasounds. In contrast to the biomedical view of seeing ultrasound technology as a transparent window into the womb, much scholarly research in the social sciences highlights that the technology is not neutral, but has different meanings and applications depending on the context. Feminist anthropologists have mostly criticized ultrasound technology for invading the intimate experience of pregnancy and making women “invisible.” This article focuses on socalled “entertainment” ultrasounds to explore how pregnant women in The Netherlands use ultrasound technology for new, unintended purposes. Using semi-structured interviews and discourse analysis of websites of commercial ultrasound clinics, I demonstrate that many pregnant women in The Netherlands consider the ultrasound scan a positive and valuable experience that they can consciously use to feel less insecure and to relax during their pregnancy. It is argued that, in looking so closely at the structural power relations that limit women’s agency, feminist anthropologists often downplay the possible leeway that expectant mothers have. These women are not forced into doing “entertainment” ultrasound scans but are active agents appropriating the technology.


entertainment ultrasound; fetal ultrasound; feminist anthropology; the Netherlands

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.15273/jue.v12i2.11408


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