40921 - Birth Abnormalities: Changing Interpretations...

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Birth Abnormalities: Changing Interpretations Across Time Arielle Juberg University of Pittsburgh 1
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What is a birth abnormality? A congenital disorder is an “abnormality of structure, and consequently, function of the human body arising during development” 1 Described as congenital disorders, birth abnormalities, or birth defects 2
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Commonly-known Birth Defects Congenital heart defects Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate Spina Bifida Club Foot Down Syndrome Spina Bifida Club Foot Cleft Lip 3
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Less well-known birth defects Anencephaly: Brain fails to develop, resulting in small or missing hemispheres 2 Hermaphrodism: External genitalia and internal reproductive organs display male and female characteristics 3 Conjoined twins There are 7 types of conjoined twins, depending on where the individual bodies are fused 4
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Studying Birth Defects Today Teratology : the study of malformations or serious deviations from the normal type in developing organisms 5 Birth abnormalities are understood, interpreted, and treated in the scientific and medical fields today 5
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Historical Views How were birth abnormalities understood in previous societies? What can this tell us about societal attitudes and medical knowledge? How were birth defects understood? Availability of treatment options Beliefs in society about disability Medical Knowledge Religious Views 6
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Disabilities in the Ancient World Features in Society: Polytheistic (worshipping many gods) Paternalistic (father is leader of household) Agriculture is dominant The rise of empires: Hittites (1600-1200 BCE), Assyrians (911-612 BCE), Babylonians (626-529 BCE) Rise of Greek city-states and the Classical Age (448-404 BCE) The Roman Empire (27 BCE- 476 AD) 7
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What was the cause of deformity? 1) Maternal imagination : Images that the mother views during conception or in the early months of her pregnancy can imprint themselves on the fetus Example: Galen of Pergamum (129-215 BCE) suggests looking at a portrait of a beautiful child to give birth to an attractive infant 6 Example: Christian Bible, Genesis 30:39 “And the flocks conceived at the sight of the rods” Jacob places speckled branches in front of mating sheep in order to produce speckled lambs 8
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2) Conditions during conception and the womb: the temperature and age of the seed, the direction of the wind, and the quality of water 7 3) The sins of the parents caused the deformity. Conceiving after bloodletting or a long journey leads to epilepsy in children Union with a woman during her menstruation produces children with abnormalities; Leviticus 18:19 in Christian Bible warns against this 8 9
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4) Children with disabilities are signs and warnings from the gods Teratoscopy or fetoscopy involve interpreting abnormal births for signs of the future 12 Abnormal child seen as sign of conflict, loss of home or land, famine, or a power struggle 13 “Monsters, signs, portents, prodigies are so called because they indicate, show, 10
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This note was uploaded on 02/26/2012 for the course PHARM 210 taught by Professor Staff during the Fall '10 term at Rutgers.

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40921 - Birth Abnormalities: Changing Interpretations...

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