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The reckoning table, the periodoscope and the shaping of modern pregnancy in nineteenth-century print forms
  1. Mary Elizabeth Leighton,
  2. Lisa Surridge
  1. Department of English, University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr Lisa Surridge, English, University of Victoria, Victoria, Canada; lsurridg{at}


How did Victorian print forms shape experiences of pregnancy? This article focuses on pregnancy calendars, a form that rose to prominence in nineteenth-century Britain and Europe. Such calendars appeared in tabular as well as circular formats and were printed in books, periodicals and pocketbooks designed for both medical practitioners and fertile women. These calendars shaped the nebulous period of human gestation, giving pregnancy narrative form by dividing it temporally into stages and highlighting key events and medical interventions. In the nineteenth century, these printed pregnancy calendars mediated between women’s personal experiences and gestational body time as well as medical management of that time. During this period, such calendars—which included the columnar reckoning table as well as the circular periodoscope—functioned as instruments of both medical control and female agency. Although they did not enable pregnant women to critique the medicalisation of pregnancy, they nevertheless accorded to such women some power in managing their reproductive bodies.

  • pregnancy

Data availability statement

Data sharing is not applicable as no data sets were generated and/or analysed for this study.

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Data availability statement

Data sharing is not applicable as no data sets were generated and/or analysed for this study.

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  • Contributors The coauthors contributed equally to the research and writing of this article. LS is the guarantor of the article.

  • Funding This study was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (grant number 435-2019-0449).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.