'I know about one treatment where they keep the egg somewhere': British South Asian community understandings of infertility and its treatment

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Involuntary childlessness can be a devastating experience for many women and men. The true prevalence of infertility is difficult to determine. However, an estimated one in seven couples in the UK will seek help in conceiving a child at some point in their lives. New reproductive technologies have dramatically changed the prospects for many subfertile couples, with the range of treatments increasing substantially in the past 20 years. Little is known, however, about ethnic differences in attitudes to fertility treatment. This paper discusses some findings from the first major study of ethnicity and infertility to be carried out in the UK, which explored the experience of infertility in British South Asian communities. The emphasis in this article is on community understandings of fertility and infertility and its causes; knowledge of and attitudes towards medical treatments for infertility; and 'alternative' sources of help for sub-fertile couples. In contrast to a 'deficit' model of the public understanding of science/technology, the data demonstrate the existence of a range of knowledges about potential causes of infertility and about treatments available to help sub-fertile couples. A case is made for raising the profile of infertility treatment within South Asian communities. At the same time, health professionals would benefit from an awareness of the broader social context of reproductive technologies. Public space needs to be created for the development of a relationship of dialogue between practitioners of the technologies and members of the lay public in a diverse range of sociocultural settings.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2007

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