The Possibility of Becoming Pregnant, Its Implications
for Women, and Abortion
Dr. Nelson Soucasaux, Brazilian gynecologist
As I discussed in my book "Novas Perspectivas em Ginecologia"
("New Perspectives in Gynecology"), one of the main
problems of female nature is the instinctive duality between the attitude
of not wanting to become pregnant (that is, the rejection of pregnancy)
and that of desiring to become pregnant. The way women relate themselves
to this question is extremely ambiguous, and here we arrive at the point
in which the female nature "divides" itself in two halves: one
remains more linked to Eros (the aphrodisiac side of women), and the other
to the so-called maternal instinct (the demetric side of women). In other
words, one is related to the archetypal image of the seductive woman, and
the other to the archetypal image of the mother.
Here somebody could argue that motherhood is a consequence of Eros;
however, it is well known that this condition, as a primary biological phenomenon,
can occur even without the development of the aspect related to Eros. A
woman can be a mother even without having developed adequately the aphrodisiac
side of her nature, and there is an enormous number of cases that clearly
demonstrate this fact.
I believe it is valid to consider the existence of these two principles
of a diverse nature in the female sex, in spite of the fact that they can
eventually integrate and even complete themselves. There are women who give
more value to the aphrodisiac side of their nature, while others give more
value to the maternal one. We can observe that the majority of modern women
only desires to become pregnant and have children, as they actually do,
in a few moments of their whole lives, and that most of the time pregnancy
is undesired and avoided. When gestation occurs by accident or neglect,
it is almost always voluntarily interrupted by an abortion.
This means that, in a general way, in the most sophisticated and modern
women the erotic and aphrodisiac side predominates over the maternal one
during the greater part of their fertile years. Nevertheless, there are
those women who channel almost all their libido to motherhood, and fulfill
themselves mainly in this way, giving very little value to their aphrodisiac
side. At the other extreme, there are those who do not have any maternal
instinct, and never desire to have children.
It is important to point out that eroticism in the female sex is mostly
self-eroticism related to women's own bodies and to their aesthetics, and
that the maternal instinct demands, in order to be satisfied, a considerable
sacrifice on the part of the female body. I think this is the principal
basis for women's ambiguity relative to their reproductive capability.
For centuries, our culture has fallen into the mistake of considering
reproduction as the main purpose of sexuality. This misconception has many
origins, from religious ideas to the exclusively biological "scientific"
view of the human being. However, it is obvious that, in human beings, reproduction,
psychologically and existentially, is not in any way the main purpose of
sexual desire. Human sexuality has its own reasons for being completely
independent of reproduction. Reproduction became only one more fact, one
more potentiality, in the very complex and vast field of the human sexual
activity. It is even often an accident related to sexuality.
The fact that women possess a genital apparatus and a physiology which,
besides characterizing them physically as women and allowing a typical form
of sexual activity, also have a reproductive purpose, does not allow us
to consider this reproductive finality as the principal one. Thel human
constitution by far transcends, from the existential point of view, its
apparent original biological purposes. The human being is a biological and
psychical unity and, because he/she possesses self-consciousness, his/her
psychological side has developed far beyond the biological one. Thus, the
human mind is not always in entire agreement with some biological determinism,
and also gives new and peculiar values to other features of the nature of
women and men.
The error of considering reproduction as the main purpose of sexuality
in human beings has influenced many areas. There is a tendency in our culture
to excessively glorify motherhood, considering it as "the supreme female
achievement," and deducing in a very tendencious way that women are
mainly destined to become pregnant, give birth and rear children. This distorted
idea has been transmitted to girls since childhood and exerts a considerable
influence. There is, often, a subtle social pressure over couples, demanding
sons and daughters from them. Women who have not developed the maternal
instinct and, once married, decide not to have children, can even suffer
recrimination, though made in a subliminal way.
As our society has traditionally repressed sexuality (in spite of the
remarkable changes that have occurred in the last decades), it has strongly
emphasized the reproductive aspect of sex, and, consequently, the maternal
side of women. This attitude has had a great influence even on female medicine,
creating an archaic and distorted standpoint which I call "the obstetric
view of women." This misconception implies the existence of a considerable
obstetric domination over gynecology, as a consequence of which gynecology
also became "impregnated" with an "obstetric attitude of
mind." This is also due, in part, to the fact that gynecology has been
traditionally practiced mostly by physicians who have a basically obstetric
background. In my opinion, this situation creates extremely serious problems
As I like to say, women possess an "erotic body" and therefore
their psychology has, as a prominent feature, a strong narcissist component
related to the beauty and the good shape of their own bodies. At the same
time, these bodies are capable of generating and giving birth to other human
beings, and, consequently, female psychology is also orientated in this
way. However, in order to satisfy their maternal instinct, women have to
sacrifice their bodies in variable degrees, creating a conflict with their
effort to preserve the aesthetics, the good shape, the comfort and even
the health of their bodies.
Pregnancy and parturition impose great sacrifices on the female body,
causing a considerable physiological overcharge as well as intense distortion
and stretching of tissues not always entirely reversible. Regrettably, however,
our culture is inclined to see and exalt only the positive aspects of motherhood,
trying to hide or not talk about the negative ones, forgetting that everything
in life has its positive and negative sides.
All of us gynecologists are very much aware of many consequences that
frequently result from pregnancy and/or parturition : lacerations of the
uterine cervix, perineal ruptures, episiotomy scars, loss of strength of
the structures of the pelvic floor, cystoceles, breast and abdominal flabbiness
and/or skin stretch marks, appearance of varicose veins, weight increase,
etc. If a caesarean section is performed, parturition traumas are avoided,
but surgical scars remain. It is obvious that women are also very much aware
of this. Their major or minor occurrence (as well as their intensity) will
depend on the specific conditions of each woman, on the minor or major resistance
and elasticity of her tissues, on the conditions of each pregnancy and parturition,
and, to a minor degree, on the obstetric care that is provided.
In my opinion, it is this great sacrifice that pregnancy and parturition
impose on the female body that, over and above all other reasons, gives
women the perfect and entire right to abortion in cases of undesired pregnancies.
A woman needs to desire very much to be a mother, so that she can be able
to willingly tolerate the sacrifices, discomforts and risks that result
from gestation and childbirth.
As I said, women also are very much aware of both the positive and negative
aspects of becoming pregnant and having children by personal experience
and/or observation of others. In spite of this, due to the cultural pressures
that mythicize the "wonders" of motherhood, many women often have
a tendency to repress the feelings considered as "negative" in
relation to pregnancy. This fact generates guilt complexes with all of the
consequent psychological problems. In the female psyche there is always
an instinctive dualism between avoiding and desiring to become pregnant.
The predominance of one side or the other depends on the several phases
in the lives of the majority of women.
There is, however, a fact relatively easy to perceive: during the greatest
part of the fertile years of most women, pregnancy is undesired and avoided,
many times even regarded with terror. Regardless of this, they like to know
that they are potentially fertile, that is, capable of becoming pregnant
but only when and if they so desire.
Sometimes in gynecologic practice we see that some women "neglect"
the use of contraceptives and become pregnant by "accident." Once
pregnancy is confirmed and consequently their fertility is proved, they
decide to have an abortion after which they return to the correct use of
contraceptives. This somewhat irrational and complicated way of proving
fertility almost always occurs subconsciously or unconsciously.
The female state of being is not an easy one, as it is always involved
with very complex problems and situations characterized by ambiguities.
The activity of Eros almost always creates a risk of pregnancy; if this
condition is undesired, it becomes necessary to use contraceptive methods
in order to avoid pregnancy or to reduce this risk to a minimum. Consequently,
the worry to avoid pregnancy creates another worry concerning the different
contraceptive methods, such as the hormonal contraceptives, the intrauterine
When an undesired gestation occurs by accident or negligence, the solution
usually is an abortion. When pregnancy is desired, it is necessary to tolerate
the physical sacrifices inherent to gestation and childbirth in order to
satisfy the maternal instinct. All of these facts have great implications
in the female psyche and life, and it is fundamental that gynecology be
attentive to the psychological dynamics of these processes.
The text above is an excerpt from my book "Novas Perspectivas
em Ginecologia" ("New Perspectives in Gynecology"), published
by Imago Editora, Rio de Janeiro, 1990. For information on the book, see
at my website www.nelsonginecologia.med.br
Copyright Nelson Soucasaux 1990, 2003
Nelson Soucasaux is a gynecologist dedicated to clinical, preventive
and psychosomatic gynecology. Graduated in 1974 by Faculdade de Medicina
da Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, he is the author of several
articles published in medical journals and of the books "Novas Perspectivas
em Ginecologia" ("New Perspectives in Gynecology") and "Os
Órgãos Sexuais Femininos: Forma, Função, Símbolo
e Arquétipo" ("The Female Sexual Organs: Shape, Function,
Symbol and Archetype"), published by Imago Editora, Rio de Janeiro,
Web site (Portuguese-English): www.nelsonginecologia.med.br