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Infertile parents and identity

Infertile parents and identity

Gale, Liz (2016) Infertile parents and identity. In: Parenting and Personhood: Cross-cultural perspectives on family-life, expertise and risk management, 23-24 June 2016, University of Kent. (Submitted)

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Fertility problems affect one in seven couples in the UK (HFEA 2013) and as techniques improve in the field of ART, the number of couples becoming parents through this is increasing. Those who have undergone IVF will have faced greater psychological, physical and often financial demands which may alter the culture of parenting and heighten expectation for this group. In addition it may be that previous experiences of infertility (sense of failure and frustration, cyclical nature of hopes raised and dashed) and the associated interventions (high anxiety, medical intrusion, relinquishing of control) influence the transition to parenthood.

For most couples, there is an assumption that once in a committed relationship, financially secure and living independently, having children will follow. Any difficulty with achieving this causes stress and distress. Individuals need to move from a sense of self as 'normal' to an acceptance of fertility issues. Burnett (2009) suggests the term 'struggling with infertility' as it implies an active rather than a passive state. For couples, it may be 'natural' to want a child but they face 'unnatural' ways to achieve this. IVF may provide couples with a child but it does not cure the problem - they remain a couple unable to conceive spontaneously. Jauniaux and Rizk (2011) describe IVF as a 'somatic answer to a subjective problem'.

Hjelmstedt (2004) found that negative feelings associated with previous infertility continued to have an effect on some parents - on their sense of self and their parenting. Parenting itself is morally loaded, with parents subjected to societal pressures. This moral pressure may be even greater for those parents of a child conceived by IVF, an assumption that having actively sought parenthood, one should be obliged to be 'good' at it. Miller (2007) highlights how this moral pressure leads to a disjuncture between women’s experiences and existing discourses, this may be greater for those whose 'cost' of pregnancy was greater.

The paper will expand upon these ideas of identity as individuals move from being a couple to being parents, but via IVF and the implications this may have on them and their parenting.

Item Type: Conference or Conference Paper (Paper)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Parents; Infertility
Subjects: R Medicine > RG Gynecology and obstetrics
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Education, Health & Human Sciences
Faculty of Education, Health & Human Sciences > Health & Society Research Group
Faculty of Education, Health & Human Sciences > School of Health Sciences (HEA)
Last Modified: 07 Oct 2021 21:03

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