God-sent ordeals and their discontents: Ultra-orthodox Jewish women negotiate prenatal testing

Tsipy Ivry, Elly Teman, Ayala Frumkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Through narrative interviews with 20 pregnant ultra-orthodox [. Haredi] Jewish women in Israel conducted between 2007 and 2009, we examine the implications for such women of prenatal testing, and of pregnancy as a gendered route of piety. We found that pregnancy signified both a divine mission and possible reproductive misfortunes. Bearing a child with a disability was taken as a test of faith and God's decree was to be accepted. Fetal anomaly created anxiety about the women's ability to fulfill their God-given task and about their position in an unwritten hierarchy of gendered righteousness. Challenging reproductive decisions were often assigned to rabbis, but this did not exempt women from viewing themselves as inadequate in their religious devotion. We conclude that prenatal testing becomes a spiritual ordeal that aggravates pregnancy tensions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1527-1533
Number of pages7
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors are grateful to the women who agreed to share their pregnancy experiences with us. We thank the anonymous reviewers of SSM for their helpful comments, suggestions and criticism. The research was supported by the Women's Health Foundation of Hadassah , the Women's Zionist Organization of America .


  • Collective reproductive histories
  • Hierarchies of piety
  • Israel
  • Maternal subjectivity
  • Prenatal diagnosis
  • Religion
  • Ultra-orthodox Jews
  • Women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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