Imagining women's fertility before technology.

Research paper by Lisa W LW Smith

Indexed on: 05 Dec '09Published on: 05 Dec '09Published in: The Journal of medical humanities


In the modern world, technology has enabled us to understand the connections between the menstrual cycle and female fertility and to observe the reproductive process even from conception. Unable to see inside the living body, however, eighteenth-century people imagined reproduction and fertility holistically. Their understanding of fertility was inseparable from the way in which they imagined the inner-workings of the humoral body. Although menstruation was understood to be connected to reproduction, it was considered unreliable, a peripheral indicator of fertility. Above all, the best marker of a woman's fecundity was good overall health.