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No, pregnancy is not a disease
  1. Nicholas Colgrove1,
  2. Daniel Rodger2
  1. 1Health Management, Economics and Policy, Augusta University, Augusta, Georgia, USA
  2. 2Allied Health Sciences, London South Bank University School of Health and Social Care, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Nicholas Colgrove, Health Management, Economics and Policy, Augusta University, Augusta, Georgia, USA; NColgrove{at}


Anna Smajdor and Joona Räsänen argue that we have good reason to classify pregnancy as a disease. They discuss five accounts of disease and argue that each account either implies that pregnancy is a disease or if it does not, it faces problems. This strategy allows Smajdor and Räsänen to avoid articulating their own account of disease. Consequently, they cannot establish that pregnancy is a disease, only that plausible accounts of disease suggest this. Some readers will dismiss Smajdor and Räsänen’s claims as counterintuitive. By analogy, if a mathematical proof concludes ‘2+2=5’, readers will know—without investigation—that an error occurred. Rather than dismiss Smajdor and Räsänen’s work, however, the easiest way to undermine their argument is to describe at least one plausible account of disease that (1) excludes pregnancy and (2) avoids the problems they raise for it. This is our strategy. We focus on dysfunction accounts of disease. After outlining Smajdor and Räsänen’s main arguments against dysfunction accounts, we explain why pregnancy is not a disease on these accounts. Next, we defend dysfunction accounts against the three problems that Smajdor and Räsänen raise. If successful, then contra Smajdor and Räsänen, at least one plausible account of disease does not imply that pregnancy is a disease. We suspect that defenders of other accounts can respond similarly. Yet, we note that insofar as dysfunction accounts align with the commonsense intuition that pregnancy is not a disease, this, all else being equal, seems like a point in their favour.

  • Embryos and Fetuses
  • Ethics- Medical
  • Feminism
  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Women

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  • X @philosowhal

  • Contributors NC wrote an initial draft of this response. DR added comments to it and revised it. Both NC and DR made minor adjustments to the finalised version.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

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

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