Poverty, Pregnancy and the longevity of religious influence in Glasgow, c. 1970s-2000s

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


By the 1980s, despite the efforts of the organized Churches in Scotland to modernize, service attendance for the two most dominant religions, Presbyterianism and Catholicism, were in significant decline. With similar timing, but not necessarily related, the attitudes of the majority of members of both faiths towards maternity was changing to now view abortion as not always being wrong and that medical birth control was an increasingly acceptable way to limit births. Yet despite an increasingly secular society, by the end of the twentieth century religion had not entirely lost its relevance to Scottish healthcare debates. This paper explores how remnants from past family faith were reflected in women’s healthcare decision-making during pregnancy between c. 1970s and early 2000s. It draws on interviews with nineteen Glasgow women who were living in some of Britain’s most socio-economically deprived areas when they had their first child towards the end of the century. While the interviewees did not identify as religious, for many women, historic familial religious ties subconsciously influenced pregnancy behaviours. While arguing that faith was embedded in patient healthcare decision-making would stretch the realities in a secular society, the influence of religion in patient decision-making has not completely faded in favour of medical advice and trust in scientific techniques. While not necessarily at conflict with medicine, religious norms and values continued to exert a hidden influence in low-income Scottish communities into the 21st century.
Period9 Sep 2021
Event titleEuropean Association for the History of Medicine and Health Biennial Conference
Event typeConference
OrganiserEuropean Association for the History of Medicine and Health
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Pregnancy
  • Poverty
  • Glasgow
  • religion