"Choosing" Parenthood through Fertility Treatments: The Importance of Biological Children and the Difficult Roads in their Pursuit
University of Kansas
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This dissertation is a qualitative study based on 28 interviews with both women and men who have used, or are currently in the process of using, any type of fertility treatment. My major research question is what is the social process of fertility treatments? In pursuing that question, I also ask why do people want their own biological children? How do people understand genetics? What is the diagnostic process of fertility treatments and what are the gendered implications? What is the treatment process? How do people view the treatment they received and what amount of agency did they take in their care? My first analytical chapter finds that majority of the men in the study felt strongly about having a genetic connection to their own child, and both men and women wanted a biological child in order to fit into a "normal" family model. Even if using donor genetic material to accomplish that goal, having a biological connection made them feel like they had some control over their child's physical, health, and personality traits. I also find that both men and women have an simplistic view of genetics. The second analytical chapter finds that women initiated contact with the medical community and their bodies were the focus of fertility testing and treatment. Receiving an infertility diagnosis mostly had negative effects on women, such as anger, guilt, and blame. Further, I posit that the specific diagnosis of polycystic ovarian syndrome is a new case of the medicalization of women's bodies. The third analytical chapter explicitly outlines the numerous physical and emotional difficulties of going through the treatment process. Finally, chapter seven explores the relationships between physicians and their patients. In it, I outline some questionable physician behaviors and attitudes and find that patients responded in various ways, from deference to physician authority, to taking agency in self-help, to switching physicians, and exploring alternative treatments.
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- Sociology Dissertations and Theses 
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