Provisionally pregnant-uncertainty and interpretive work in accounts of home pregnancy testing

Emily Ross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Upon their availability for purchase in the 1970s, home pregnancy testing devices were hailed as a ‘revolution’ for women’s reproductive rights. Some authors however, have described these technologies as further enabling the medicalisation of pregnancy, and as contributing to the devaluing of women’s embodied knowledge. The home pregnancy test is one of many technological devices encountered by women experiencing pregnancy in the UK today. Existing literature has described how engagement with medical technologies during pregnancy might address uncertainties experienced at this time, providing women with reassurance and alleviating anxieties. Drawing on interviews with women living in Scotland, this article explores accounts of testing for a first pregnancy, and women’s descriptions of the impacts of home pregnancy testing upon experiences of early gestation. Participants engaged with pregnancy tests in varying ways, with uses shaping and shaped by their experiences of early pregnancy more broadly. Particular technical characteristics of the home pregnancy test led many participants to question their interpretation of a positive result, as well as the veracity of the test itself. Rather than addressing the unknowns of early gestation by confirming a suspected pregnancy, a positive result could thus exacerbate uncertainty. Through participants’ accounts, this article shows how uncertainty is lived out by users of mundane techno-medical artefacts, and sheds new light on women’s experiences of the first trimester of pregnancy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)87-105
Issue number1
Early online date1 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018


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