Whose choice is it anyway?: Decision making, control and conception

Earle, Sarah and Letherby, Gayle (2002). Whose choice is it anyway?: Decision making, control and conception. Human Fertility, 5(2) pp. 39–41.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/1464727022000198892


Contemporary Western societies are characterised by the expectation that women wish to and are able to control their experiences of fertility. Changes in medical technology and advances in reproductive medicine have played an important role in strengthening this expectation together with other changes, such as the availability of free contraception. However, this paper draws on data from two qualitative sociological research projects which demonstrate that women's expectations of reproductive choice and control are not always realised. Women's experiences of fertility are mediated by a dominant discourse which assumes that women both want and will achieve biological motherhood. The data suggest that women actively 'try' to achieve conception with the expectation that this is both controllable and easy. In some instances this seems to be the case, but many women soon realise that achieving conception is sometimes problematic or, indeed, not possible. This paper concludes by arguing that whilst women may wish to control their experiences of fertility, their expectations of choice and control are frequently an illusion.

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