"People Make People"; Understanding the Cultural and Clinical Realities of Infertile Women in the People's Republic of China

Infertility clinics are expanding rapidly in China as couples, especially female patients, face familial, governmental and gendered pressures to conceive. My research aims to understand how culture impacts the health-care seeking and utilization of infertile women. 21 female patients treated at an infertility clinic in Shanghai responded to a semi-structured interview about personal experiences with infertility treatments. Month-long participant observation and interviews with hospital staff, as well as secondary data sources supplemented this analysis of the dynamic processes of the cultural construction of reproduction through the state population control, family tradition, gender roles and the medical market. Government regulation contributed to development of a social norm of one high quality child, but market power began to supersede the state as patients use economic rationale in their reproductive decisions. Patients at the infertility clinic were motivated by “natural” desires to conceive, concerns about health, womanhood, and wholeness. Patients prefer medicalization of infertility, to reduce blame and shift to an external locus of responsibility. They exercise high compliance to doctor’s orders and pragmatically practice plural medicine. Modernization has diversified the gender roles and kinship traditions in both urban and rural areas, as well as the patient healthcare seeking behavior.
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Abstract/Description: Infertility clinics are expanding rapidly in China as couples, especially female patients, face familial, governmental and gendered pressures to conceive. My research aims to understand how culture impacts the health-care seeking and utilization of infertile women. 21 female patients treated at an infertility clinic in Shanghai responded to a semi-structured interview about personal experiences with infertility treatments. Month-long participant observation and interviews with hospital staff, as well as secondary data sources supplemented this analysis of the dynamic processes of the cultural construction of reproduction through the state population control, family tradition, gender roles and the medical market. Government regulation contributed to development of a social norm of one high quality child, but market power began to supersede the state as patients use economic rationale in their reproductive decisions. Patients at the infertility clinic were motivated by “natural” desires to conceive, concerns about health, womanhood, and wholeness. Patients prefer medicalization of infertility, to reduce blame and shift to an external locus of responsibility. They exercise high compliance to doctor’s orders and pragmatically practice plural medicine. Modernization has diversified the gender roles and kinship traditions in both urban and rural areas, as well as the patient healthcare seeking behavior.
Subject(s): Medical anthropology
Public health