Pregnancy in Israel and Japan

In her ethnography, Embodying Culture: Pregnancy in Japan and Israel, Tsipy Ivry uses her own experiences with pregnancy and her research on the topic to compare and contrast two widely different medical systems. Both Japan and Israel are non-Western, highly industrialized societies that provide medical facilities and insurance subsidized by the government (Ivry 20). Their differing religious and historical backgrounds heightened Ivry’s interest in the matter and helped her understand that “there is much more to pregnancy than merely the transitory stage to birth and motherhood” (Ivry 1). She discusses the importance of understanding pregnancy as much more than just reproduction and uses Japanese and Israeli beliefs to do so.


One of the most polarizing characteristics between Japanese and Israeli doctors is their perceptions of the health of the patient and what constitutes as “good” or “bad” during pregnancy. Israel’s pro-natalist state provides national health insurance to their citizens, which cover most costs of gestation. As a result, Israel has the highest rate in the world of IVF clinics and has more lenient abortion laws (Ivry 38). Among the many services covered by health insurance are diagnostic tests that can detect abnormalities in the fetus. Having access to such tests has lead to a heightened awareness and resulting paranoia about knowing the health status of their baby. Ivry mentions that “the word ‘hysteria’ is often used, by doctors, male partners, and relatives, and sometimes even by women themselves, to signify an anxiety about possible abnormalities in the fetus” (Ivry 47). The women become dependent on the doctors to constantly reassure them that their baby is fine and are depicted as an external bystander of their own pregnancies. The doctors’ main concern is that the women fully understand all aspects of their own health, and the health of their fetus,  and are thus recommending procedures that are in the best interest of their patients, making them less tolerant of patient’s personal decisions (Ivry 76). Contrarily, Japanese prenatal care is focused much more on the natural changes during pregnancy and how they can affect the health of the baby. The health progression of the baby is connected with the woman’s “conduct of her daily life” (Ivry 92). Japanese doctors stress the importance of keeping the “maternal environment” as safe and healthy as possible and as a result, the fetus will grow with little complications. The patients are not as enthusiastic about prenatal diagnostic testing because they are not as threatened by statistics on fetal abnormalities. Women spend much of their pregnancy monitoring all aspects of their lives including diet, work and travel in order to ensure that no harm will be inflicted upon the fetus.

Furthermore, the way that women experience their pregnancies are significantly distinct. Japanese women and society stress the importance of bonding with the fetus while it is in the womb. The mother will often take time off of work beginning at about month five of gestation so that she can spend time with the fetus. She will talk to it, sing to it and touch her belly often in order to ensure that her baby knows that he/she is safe and wanted. The doctors also participate in this bonding by personifying the fetuses during check-ups and ultrasounds. As Ivry mentions in her work, such theories of prenatal bonding “designates women as the primary creators of the children: with every breath they take, every move they make, women make their children” (Ivry 165).  Unlike Japan where the pregnant women are virtually hidden, in Israel pregnant women are “highly visible” (Ivry 187). They do not take nearly as much time off of work and are not worried about their diet or weight gain during pregnancy. Israeli state is also more inclusive of men in gestation by providing pregnancy classes for both the mother and father and allowing the father to attend routine check-ups. Israeli society often separates the woman and the fetus, which allows them to continue on in their “normal lives” without disruption from the pregnancy.

Ivry effectively describes the pregnancy in Japan and Israel and highlights gestation as a cultural category in need of more social analysis. After reading her work, I was shocked by the wide variation of views on gestation were and how such a common natural event can be treated with such unique/varied procedures. I also wonder if Western societies, who are so stringent about prevention of diseases, would relate more with Israeli medicine or Japanese? We discussed in class last week that biotechnology is not culture-neutral and ideas about risk vary from setting to setting, which can be seen Ivry’s descriptions on Japan and Israel. Pregnancy is a universal event and is much more than just the physical changes that occur. All aspects of gestation can be understood in matters of cultural values and societal perceptions of humanity.

19 Replies to “Pregnancy in Israel and Japan”

  1. Maria,

    Great blog post! Thank you for the summary of comparison of perspective that Ivry conveys in her novel. An immediate question that your blog post provoked in my mind was, who is the patient? One could theoretically argue that the patient is the fetus or the mother, depending on the cultural context of pregnancy. We have scratched the surface of this question and how it defines prenatal care in societies in previous classes, but I believe that Ivry’s book encompasses how differences in understanding of pregnancy yields various implications for the experience of pregnancy itself.

    In my opinion, the Japanese would consider the mother to be the main patient during pregnancy, as they are less concerned with particular testing of the fetus. In Israel, however, I believe that the fetus would be considered the patient which the main focus is to be directed to, as most prenatal testing revolves around the health and status of the fetus. While this claim needs further discussion and is by no means unwavering in categorization, the term “patient” provokes the question of who we are talking about. Can both the mother and child be patients in either of these contexts?

    Ivry writes that: “the pregnant mother in Japan is expected to make a healthy baby by disciplining her body and cultivating positive emotions toward the baby; the Israeli pregnant woman is expected to use as much biotechnology as she can to rule out the possibility of her bearing an unhealthy baby” (Ivry, 240). Both interpretations of pregnancy are intended to give agency to the pregnant woman control over her ability to have a healthy baby; therefore, can one even claim that the patients are different in each cultural context? Is “patient” therefore capable of referring to the same entity (mother or fetus) in each context?

  2. Hi Maria!

    One thing that struck me in your post, and in the reading, was the choice of Israel and Japan as representing “non-Western, highly industrialized societies” (Ivry, 20). While their are many distinct differences between the nations purely based on culture, I think an important point to add is the An incredibly important distinction between the two nations is in their respective birthrates. Israel, as you mentioned, has a governmental and social drive for birth, which has given the nation a fertility rate (Births/Women) of 3.1, according to data gathered by the world bank in 2016 ( This is in stark contrast to Japan, who’s birthrate of 1.4 is less than half of Israel’s (

    I hope that this comment can lend itself to further discussion on the ethnographical context of Ivry’s work. While there are many different ways to explain this massive difference in birthrate, Ivry’s points on the different relationship with the fetus interested me as a potential example of cultural differences between Japan and Israel influencing their birthrate. With Japan’s focus of “the importance of bonding with the fetus while it is in the womb” (Turcan), Japanese women must make a choice between their careers, and their children. This creates less of an incentive to get pregnant, which stands in stark parallel to the encouragement of pregnancy in Israeli culture. Although Israel and Japan are non-west countries with similar medical systems, the massive cultural and statistical differences between them present complications when comparing these nations.

  3. Hi Maria,

    Thank you so much for your blog post. It really made me think about how much pregnancy is medicalized. I feel like in Israel, pregnancy is a medical condition which requires doctors and medicine to help “cure” the mother and allow the baby to come into the world healthy. I say “cure” here because with all of the medical intervention it might seem as if the woman is not in the state she should be, that it is unnatural. However, pregnancy is a very natural thing so how did it become so medicalized in Israel as well as the west? I think this might be because of the hysteria that you discussed. Society is concerned about bringing unhealthy children into the world and feels that they must do everything possible to prevent this.

    In contrast, I think the Japanese see pregnancy more as a phase of life for a mother. Even though they are hidden from the world as if they are sick, the culture supports the mother in bonding with her fetus and loving it no matter how healthy it comes out. That is why I would argue that Japanese culture does not medicalize pregnancy as much as Israeli culture.

  4. There is one main point that I want to dive into right now and it surrounds the idea of a “normal life” during pregnancy. In the text, we learn that Israel has more lax abortion laws and an increase in testing to prevent certain hysteria and anxiety surrounding possible abnormalities of the fetus. This increase in testing naturally creates an over-dependency toward doctors who perform these various tests. On the other hand, Japan has a more natural approach to the pregnancy process that emphasize a healthy day-to-day life as that is what impacts the baby the most. While the tests are productive, I believe that they do more harm than good when overused, and mothers begin to focus less on how they can affect the baby and more on what the doctor tells them. The problem that I have with this over dependency is that it makes us feel like we lose control of the situation and even underestimate the abilities of the human body. I think that it overcomplicates the situation and takes the power out of the couple’s hands. They will end up going to a doctor if anything feels “wrong” rather than thinking that they can take care of the baby on their own. While I’m not implying at all that medical testing is at all bad, I do believe that we do need to trust ourselves and focus on what we can truly control in the situation. In the case of a pregnant mother, I think it aligns more with the Japanese culture, consisting of a healthy diet, engaging the baby in conversation, and taking time off from work and travel to make sure everyone in the situation remains calm.

  5. Thanks for your analysis of Ivry’s book! Personally, I found the book to be an interesting comparison since I’m unfamiliar with both cultures described in the book. I especially found the Japanese outlook to pregnancy fascinating; Japan’s focus on controlling the mother’s environment, and thereby the composition of the amniotic fluid and surrounding environment of the fetus, is a similar approach to one that India seems to take. I have seen many Indian families similarly stress the importance of diet, rest, and proper health of a pregnant woman. As you noted, Japanese women emphasize the need to bond with the fetus, and go to great lengths in trying to respect, understand, and personify the fetus. Personally, I liked this approach; it treats the fetus as if it is a living organism with emotions and desires. This approach is one of the most pro-natal views I have heard of, and I appreciated Ivry’s analysis of this point of view.

    Isreali women are also pro-natal in many aspects. As we pointed out last time in class, Isreal is one of the leading nations in the world in use of IVF; however, they also protect the parents’ rights to abort a child. This approach to the fetus is not as strongly pro-natal as that of Japan. I also found Isreal’s approach to pregnancy to be more similar to our Western approach; women often work for most of their pregnancies and take very little time off pre- and post- giving birth.

  6. Thank you Maria for a great blog post! I think this book was one of the more interesting pieces we’ve read this semester. This is partly due to the fact that my father and the rest of my patrilineal line is Israeli so my initial (not evidence based) bias was the Israel’s decisions regarding fetal testing/abortion are appropriate and normal. After reading this book, I can now understand how Japanese attitudes toward fetal testing/abortion, while nearly completely opposite from Israel, are completely understandable given Japanese thought. To me, it seems Israel tries to take a very scientific and logical approach to pregnancy. As someone who studies the sciences, this seems sensible to me. Israel’s healthcare system allows for most pregnant women to have extensive fetal testing performed to provide the most information about the health of the baby. This information alone can result in anxiety for pregnant mothers, so clearly this information is collected to help mothers make decisions regarding abortion. You mention in your blog post that Israel has some of the most relaxed abortion laws, and this would be logical given that testing is popular.

    While logically, Israel’s system of fetal testing/abortion is sound, emotionally it can be questionable. The process of providing the greatest amount of information possible to a potential-mother may allow the woman to make a decision with greater informed consent, however, Japan puts forth an alternative approach to pregnancy. Rather than primarily verifying fetal health, Japan put emphasis on promoting fetal health. I understand this as: testing the fetus does little to improve health, so why emphasize testing instead of taking action to actually improve fetal health. This strategy doesn’t omit fetal testing, as we know in modern medicine that a genetic non-disjunction resulting in a trisomy or monosomy independent of any environmental factors, but decides to not emphasize testing as testing is not therapeutic. After reading this book, my opinion has shifted. I agree more with Japanese attitudes towards pregnancy than Israeli.

  7. Great post, Maria! Two things that really stuck with me through the reading – things that you pointed out in your post as well – were the perception of who the primary “patient” was during medical evaluations during pregnancy and the paranoia surrounding Israel’s use and promotion of tests for fetal abnormality. In Japan, the patient seems to be the mother – the concern is primarily on her rather than on her fetus. The mother in Japanese culture is also painted as the primary caregiver in the sense that it is not medicine or the doctor who can or should provide the best and most detailed care for the fetus; the mother’s role is one of doctor and creator as she adjusts her life to provide the safest and healthiest environment for her fetus as she creates them. She is the primary health practitioner that cares for her fetus, and she is the patient of the actual doctor.

    The second thing that stood out to me about this reading was the paranoia around testing the fetus in Israeli culture. This is a topic we’ve talked about broadly – since fetal testing became commonplace, there has always been a fear that it causes more panic than it’s worth. Women have been getting pregnant and having babies for centuries without prior knowledge of the health of the fetus; in a way, this kind of ignorance is bliss as a woman does not have as much opportunity to worry about the health of her fetus. Whatever will happen will happen, and health problems will be dealt with when the baby is born. Since the invention of fetal testing, however, some people would say there has been a significant rise in maternal panic when it comes to the health of the fetus. That such panic is so widely reported within a society like Israel’s where fetal testing is so common makes me wonder if it really would be better not to know.

  8. Hi Maria! Thanks for the summary and commentary on the reading. I like how you talked about Ivry’s personal experience with pregnancy in both Israel and Japan, because it makes her claims more credible despite her not being japanese. I also liked how you brought up the differences in what happens during pregnancy with both japanese and israeli women. Ivry briefly brought up a really interesting point that about one fourth of pregnancies end in spontaneous miscarriage or are deliberately aborted, meaning that while pregnancy is inescapable, birth is not always a result. She also brought up that pregnancy lasts much longer than birth and raised the possibility that pregnancy is more influential than birth. This brings me back to the differences in lifestyle choices during pregnancy between the two cultures. Both cultures take the experience very seriously, but have different approaches. Although Japan, being highly industrialized, has the access to the same technology as Israel, many women do not undergo the same testing that women in Israel do. Furthermore, as you stated, women in Japan stay “hidden” despite its similarity to israel in being a modern democracy. In Ivry’s explanation of geneticism and environmentalism, she brought up how Japanese women depended on themselves to ensure the health of the baby while Israeli women felt the need to heavily depend on doctors and testing to ensure the health of the baby.

  9. Hi Maria! Thanks for your summary of Tsipy Ivry’s book. I really enjoyed this reading and I thought your blog post summarized it well. I took a class last semester about botanical medicine and one of the topics we touched on was the overlap between cultural ideals and ideas surrounding health and the methods (or “medicines”) used as a result. To me, this book provided a good cultural additive to this discourse about how cultural values impact medical techniques and vice versa. Japanese health practices, similarly to Traditional Chinese Medicine, place a great deal of focus on holistic healing and health maintenance, such as diet. These cultural values are also reflected in the policies of the nation as exemplified by the differences in American maternity leave regulations and Japanese maternity leave. I like the way that the Japanese regard pregnancy as an important part of life for both the mother and the fetus, whereas in the West it seems to be seen more as a “means to an end.”

    To answer your question about Western views of gestation, I think Israeli cultural values are relatively in line with most other Westernized countries. I remember a quote from one of my professors: “pregnancy is natural for a species, but is damn near pathological for the individual.” To me, this really highlights the medicalization of pregnancy that is exhibited both in Israel and the US where the use of biotechnology reigns supreme over the more Japanese perspective that emphasizes holistic care and bonding for the mother and baby.

  10. Hey Karen and Maria,

    Thanks for y’all’s great blog posts! I thought they were great summaries of the book for this week’s reading.

    Despite the western/modern(?) influences I’ve had, I have to say I agree more with the Japanese approach to pregnancy/gestation. The book mentions how the Japanese believe that caring for the fetus encourages intelligence and a stable relationship between the fetus/child and mother. This is more than just a belief (and much more than my parents’ belief that going out in cold weather causes sickness), as there is research that supports the fact that a fetus in the third trimester can recognize their mother’s voice, their native language, and even begin to remember word patterns and rhymes (Voegtline et al., 2013, Kisileysky et al., 2008). They also have increased brain activity when exposed to music (Partanen, 2013). There is also research to suggest that even after birth, a child or person could defy their genetics and even display different traits. So much research, in fact, that there’s an entire field devoted to it called epigenetics. Just because a test says there is a high likelihood of a baby being disabled in this way or that doesn’t mean it’s actually going to happen and even if it does happen, it doesn’t mean the baby will suffer to the same extremity when compared to another. There’s so much about development that is still being researched that parents shouldn’t see a potential problem as the sole reason to terminate a pregnancy.

    Coming from a Chinese family, I think my family as with many Asians don’t think most pregnancies should be terminated at all (unless in the common cases of rape, etc.). I also don’t think there’s a whole lot of genetic testing that goes around and more so on par with Ivry’s analysis that mothers should take care of their babies by eating right, providing a great environment, and that “laid back” approach described in the book because it not only is the culturally accepted norm but also supported by scientific research.

    Obviously, Israel is drastically different in their approach and it’s an approach I don’t agree with. However, I understand that every family has a right to choose what’s best for them, but just because the numbers indicate that whatever outcome is probable to happen doesn’t mean it actually does happen. I can attest to that even for myself, as my numbers in high school indicated I (almost definitely) probably wouldn’t get into Emory, and yet somehow I’m here. Thinking that something was set in stone and impossible to change is not something I ever agreed with as much of life is simply not like that, and it’s something that I believe isn’t true for gestation either, especially if it is supported by research.

    Voegtline KM et al. Near-term fetal response to maternal spoken voice Infant Behavior & Development 2013;36:526–533
    Kisilevsky BS et al. Fetal sensitivity to properties of maternal speech and language. Infant Behav Dev 2008;32:59-71.
    Partanen E et al. Learning-induced neural plasticity of speech processing before birth. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2013;110:15145-5.

  11. Hi Maria,

    Thank you for a very well written and comprehensive post! When reading this book, I also asked myself the same questions of not only which country’s perspective did I best agree with? But also which one most aligns with Western views? I personally believe that given the bio medicalized view on pregnancy that is prevalent in both Israeli and Western cultures, I feel that they align the most. The Israeli culture does not place as much of responsibility onto the mother to “create a healthy baby” like the Japanese culture. In contrast, in Japan, they highly emphasize bonding and eliminating any stressors from the mother’s life in order to promote health of the child.

    It is interesting to see how the views of the mother’s agency of gestation influence how stringent abortion policies are. From gestation all the way to birth, Western and Israeli views on the health of the child are based in the hands of biomedical testing and the results that come from them. In Japan, it is up to the mother to ensure the safety and health, and as you pointed out, they are much less enthusiastic about prenatal testing because they are not as influenced by the results. This ties into last weeks discussion of the moral choices that a woman must make when concerning aborting a child with gene abnormalities. Without having the opportunity to make that choice, Japanese women to everything in their own power to ensure the health and therefore focus more on their role rather than the role of testing.

  12. Hi Maria,
    Thank you for the very informative post. I think you did a great job summarizing the Japanese and Israeli views on pregnancy. In response to your question, I feel that western culture is a mix of both. Especially in the United States, we see that women are not afraid to get their fetus tested similar to the Israelis but at the same time, carefully monitor the environment of their fetus like the Japanese. We see families talk to their unborn children and while women in the United States may not completely change their diet or daily life, they do change some habits such as drinking, and smoking. On the flip side, women in the United States are also allowed access to fetal testing in order to monitor the health of their child.
    Josh made a great point in his response on how a difference in birth rates is also important. To expand on his comment, in Asian cultures, success and money are very important to how a person is perceived. Thus, as Josh states, a Japanese woman must choose between her career and her family. In comparison, Israelis hold their religious views very highly and these views have played a key role in shaping the Israeli ideals of a family and pregnancy care. This is another reason I would put western culture at a midpoint between these two. Women do not have as big of an issue of choosing between their career and their family but at the same time, do not have religious obligations to fulfill that promote pregnancy.

  13. Thank you for your post. I believe you bring up some interesting points as well as some analysis of the reading that I did not think about myself. The stout differences between the two cultures ways of embracing the fetus Is so interesting and prominent, but I just want to know what the foundational influences that have caused these phenomenon are? I think a lot of it is influenced just form daily life and other points of emphasis in their culture. I do find it interesting that both you and the other blogger were left thinking about where western civilization fits into this, and which approach would they more or less agree with. I personally don’t think there is a universal answer within the United States because it is so large and diverse to begin with. I think it is also possible and probable that the way prenatal care is handled will vary within a country within different parts. I believe that much of it comes from how the family views it. I think a more specific question would be how much do the views change within different parts of Israel and Japan?

  14. I like that you mentioned how the increased number of tests and screenings for pre-natal care in Israel causes “hysteria” among pregnant couples. I agree that the increased medicalization has caused more paranoia about the outcome of the tests, I think that the pre-natal testing has helped more than it has harmed. It offers people who are willing to do the testing a way to ensure that their baby is okay, which might definitely be at the cost of worrying and stress, but it’s better to have the option to be able to do the testing. I think that the contrast between the Japanese and Israeli testing culture is interesting, and I am curious as to how advancements in more pre-natal testing will start to affect the traditional Japanese way of handling pregnancies.

  15. Hey Hey Maria,

    Great job on summarizing the work and really putting the aspects in conflict next to each other to really bring home the differences. One third aspect that I find interesting is not the comparison to Western culture, but to nature. As you mention pregnancy is a natural event that has found itself being treated in a multitude of different ways ranging from “hysteria” to an almost detached, numerical and scientific approach and I think this really highlights the separation the contrasting cultures have from nature. Due to this Israeli cultural ideal of reproductive being a critical part of a woman’s life we see an intense focus on pregnancy related sciences; juxtaposed with Japan which takes a more naturalistic approach to pregnancy and (as of last year) is facing a fertility crisis. So, not only due we see a mentality change based on these cultural variances but there exists some degree of fitness difference (from an evolutionary biology standpoint). I think this raises the question of to what ends do these cultural differences impact the preservation of the society as a whole? This is not to imply that there is a right or wrong cultural outlook when it comes to using these technologies, but the comparative underutilization might have broader reaching impacts than a simple case by case outcome.

    Again, great job with the write up and blog post.

  16. Maria,
    Well done. I thought you picked out some of the more interesting aspects of this reading, and followed up your blog with some thought provoking questions.
    Your discussion of perceptions of personal health was excellent. You identified that more access to medical treatment in Israel allows for heightened awareness/concern for health and increased willingness to do a procedure, while in Japan, health is perceived as a result of the environment, and thus more natural controls are used to treat the mother and the baby rather than operations. I want to emphasize, though, your discussion at the end of the post. Ivry, immediately after saying that neither Israel nor Japan is a Western country, acknowledges that both are “at a high technological level and commensurate with the most developed Western countries” (Ivry 20). In a world of technological development that exists mostly in the West, Ivry recognizes that while Japan and Israel share something with the rest of the world in their modernity, they are also rich with different traditions than most Western countries. Ivry identifies government related political concerns that may impact the culture, but I do not believe this question is the her primary focus in her analysis. While it may be an identified premise, she focuses most of her work on the practical ramifications of government policy and cultural conceptions of gestation rather than traditions or national beliefs that may impact these perspectives. I would love to continue this conversation about the cultural significance of ones views of gestation.

  17. Hi Maria,

    Thanks for a great post! I appreciate how you incorporated additional thoughts on the reading’s themes. I especially appreciate your mention of the importance of certain terminologies used when speaking about pregnant women and how those terms can affect a woman’s understanding of her pregnancy and perception of her physician as having special knowledge that dictates her attitudes towards and choices in her pregnancy. You also draw parallels between both Japan and Israel in the two countries’ attempts to maximize normalcy and health outcomes for mothers and their babies in pregnancy. Your post helped me come to the realization that these two cultures have somewhat “normalized” their own versions of a healthy and normal pregnancy. I wonder what the effect would be on a woman if she deviated from such “normal” routines of pregnancy in each respective culture.

    In response to your comment, “[…] biotechnology is not culture-neutral and ideas about risk vary from setting to setting […],” I found there to be a noticeable relationship between biotechnology and cultures of kinship in Ivry’s work. I’d not before thought of the idea of kinship and biotechnology, as I’d previously viewed it in a purely scientific and preventative sense. Ivry’s description of ultrasonography as a way for a Japanese mother to form an additional bond with her fetus (Ivry 182) while an ultrasound can make Israeli more invisible with intense focus on the well-being of the fetus and external understanding (Ivry 194). In Western society, I do not know which ideology would align or how biotechnology might add to notions of kinship. Have Western cultures reached the point where a focus of prenatal care might be on the mental well-being and quality of bond available between mothers, fathers, and babies rather than preoccupied with fetal abnormalities? If not, is this a foreseeable possibility? Thanks again!

  18. I would like to expand on your point where you describe the separation of the mother and fetus in Israeli society. For Yael, “buying a bottle seems an excessively optimistic act, admitting in a way, the a real baby is going to suck it. The fetus’s ambiguity positions its mother-to-be in an equally ambiguous position. She might become a mother, she might have to use bottles, but this is not a sure thing,”(Ivry, 219). Here Yael is eight months pregnant and still the ambiguity surrounding the pregnancy persists to the point where she considers buying a baby bottle in preparation too optimistic. This reminded me of the concept mentioned in last week’s film discussing tentative pregnancy, where there is a detachment between being pregnant and having a baby. This was a position held by many American mothers interviewed throughout the film, and would indicate that this sentiment also is common for American pregnant women.
    Ivry then contrasts this sentiment with American and Japanese mothers. Ivry continues, “while many Japanese ‘mothers’ already prepare baby clothes from their unborn babies from the fifth month, and American expectant mothers celebrate with baby showers…during the seventh month of pregnancy, Israeli pregnant women are too frightened to buy a pair of bottles even when the birth is rapidly approaching,”(Ivry, 219). Here we notice the cultural differences in the timing that expectant mothers are comfortable with eliminating the ambiguity between pregnancy and actually having a child. Preparing baby clothes in the fifth month indicates that during the fifth month of pregnancy, Japanese women have accepted that there will be a child and it is no longer tentative. Upon checking a few forums online, it appears that many American expectant mothers have baby showers in their seventh or eight month of pregnancy. This indicates that the pregnancy is no longer tentative towards a later stage of pregnancy for many American mothers.
    Ivry continues with an interview with Carmella who immigrated to Israel and offers her understanding of Israeli pregnancy with context from her Argentinian friends. She speculates why Israeli women tend to wait longer to purchase a bed, stating, “Maybe it brings bad luck?…Maybe this way you’ll be less disappointed…This is fear. The fewer the expectations, the fewer the disappointments,”(Ivry, 220). She recognizes that one possible reason is a fear of the baby will not be born. If this were the case, then American and Japanese women would have to be less fearful of this event at a societal level.

  19. Hello!

    Upon reading your post, I wanted to clarify a point you made – one I think is nuanced and brings to fruition your larger point surrounding Israeli pregnancy experiences more succinctly. Your paraphrase of Ivry, “The women become dependent on the doctors to constantly reassure them that their baby is fine”… “[doctors] are thus recommending procedures that are in the best interest of their patients, making them less tolerant of patient’s personal decisions (Ivry 76),” misses a critical insight that Ivry made throughout the text: the Israeli medical system intentionally induces fear/anxiety in pregnant women so that they are emotionally dependent, establishing the hegemony of the medical system. In most Western countries, I would argue that medical professionals are paternal figures and assume their expertise and science are indubitable. This is true of Israel as well, seen through the many examples Ivry provides of frustrated doctors that see “Women who ‘take chances,’ he told me, create an immense fury in him. Even when the patient tries to speak ‘his language, he cannot tolerate her alternative interpretations of the statistics he confronts her with (Ivry 66).” Furthermore, I disagree that “The doctors’ main concern is that the women fully understand all aspects of their own health…” since Ivry demonstrates time and time again that doctors prioritize the health of the fetus, continually provoke lower states of mental health through “hysteria”, and completely forgo measuring/monitoring aspects of pregnancy that directly affect the health of the women such as weight gain/nutrition. This is one of Ivry’s main contrasts between Japanese and Israeli culture: the prioritization of the mother or fetus in the medical community.

    Other than that, I really enjoyed your blog post.


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