Inconceivable Conceptions: Psychological Aspects of Infertility and Reproductive Technology

By Jane Haynes; Juliet Miller | Go to book overview

Chapter 1

Introduction

Jane Haynes and Juliet Miller

Each advance in assisted reproductive technology (ART) raises the question of whether scientific knowledge alone provides an adequate basis for understanding our fertility and its vicissitudes. The issues which emerge from ourselves as fertile/infertile beings have arguably not become simpler through 'miraculous' and expensive procedures on offer from infertility clinics, but yet more complex. The contributors to this book ask whether experiences of infertility can be advanced by the scientific refinement of techniques which take place in the laboratory, and whether identifying infertility as primarily a medical problem remains the best way forward. They highlight the interface between the medical and the experiential and also the borderland where fertility and infertility cannot readily be differentiated. The diverse approach of the contributors opens up a dialectic between the scientific knowledge of clinical practitioners and the multilayered psychology of a complex human experience that we label infertility.

Unlike other books on the subject of infertility this book has been written from multiple perspectives. Its authors come from the disciplines of medicine, psychotherapy, anthropology, literature and from the public. The editors, both of whom are psychotherapists, were drawn to the psychology of ART when they found that a new category of patients was consulting them. These were men and women who, in addition to dealing with the traumas of infertility, were now faced with the confusion of all the complex issues associated with ART. The multiplicity of these procedures, and the dilemmas and choices associated with them, can exacerbate areas of anxiety about an individual's failure to reproduce. Within the last twenty years there have been such radical advances in reproductive technology that a couple who experience difficulties in conceiving are now confronted by a vast area of choices and associated dilemmas which may preoccupy them for the remainder of their reproductive lives. Before the advent of the birth pill most women were more concerned about an unwanted pregnancy and the terrors of back street abortions than they were with fears about their fertility. With the medicalisation of reproduction some people have more intense experiences of loss and ambivalence about issues concerning their fertility. It is now accepted that 15 per cent of couples who want to have a child will seek specialised advice from a fertility clinic. Statistics also indicate that one in eighty babies is born as a result of ART.

-3-

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Inconceivable Conceptions: Psychological Aspects of Infertility and Reproductive Technology
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgements x
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter 1 - Introduction 3
  • Chapter 2 - Assisted Reproductive Technology and the Fertility Clinic 11
  • Experiencing Infertility 17
  • Chapter 3 - Clinical Waste 19
  • Chapter 4 - One Man's Story 27
  • Psychological Aspects 31
  • Chapter 5 - Eros and Art 33
  • Notes 45
  • Chapter 6 - Mourning the Never Born and the Loss of the Angel 47
  • Chapter 7 - The Battle with Mortality and the Urge to Procreate 60
  • Bibliography 72
  • Chapter 8 - Myths and Reality in Male Infertility 73
  • Bibliography 84
  • Chapter 9 - Love, Hate and the Generative Couple 86
  • Changing Patterns of Kinship 103
  • Chapter 10 - The Story of Seth's Egg 105
  • Chapter 11 - Seth 109
  • Chapter 12 - Gifts of Life in Absentia 120
  • Chapter 13 - Women's Work 143
  • Bibliography 165
  • Chapter 14 - Egg Donation 166
  • The Shadow 179
  • Chapter 15 - Dark Reflections 181
  • Afterword 205
  • Chapter 16 - Afterword 207
  • Appendix 217
  • Glossary of Terms Used in Art (Assisted Reproductive Technology) 219
  • Index 227
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