Diverse Bodies and Disrupted Reproduction: Infertility and Minority Ethnic Communities in the UK
An extensive collection of studies of infertility present the condition as a devastating experience with significant consequences for social and psychological well-being. However, research in the UK and Europe has mostly been carried out with middle class, white treatment-seekers and consistently ignored non-treatment seekers, those accessing treatments other than IVF, those in lower socioeconomic groups and those from 'non-white' ethnic groups. Inequalities in health between and within ethnic groups have become an increasing focus of research in Britain. However, studies of ethnicity and reproduction have tended to concentrate on childbirth and contraception rather than infertility. The understanding that different ethnic and religious groups give to the experience of infertility has been largely ignored by researchers. This paper reports on the findings from the first study of the impact of social norms and cultural traditions on attitudes to infertility among British South Asian communities, funded by the UK Department of Health. The research project was designed to explore the impact of ethnic, cultural and religious issues on access to, and experiences of, infertility services. The first phase of the study demonstrated the social necessity of children in South Asian communities; the ways in which infertility can function as social control and the highly gendered nature of the repercussions and social backlash associated with infertility. This paper discusses the findings from the second phase of the study involving interviews with 50 women and men from four South Asian communities (Gujarati Hindu, Punjabi Sikh, Bangladeshi Muslim and Pakistani Muslim) in three English cities. It explores the influence of culture, language and religion on the experience of involuntary childlessness and its treatment and the extent to which information needs, communication needs and emotional support needs are met by service providers.
Keywords: Infertility, Assisted Conception, South Asian, Access to Healthcare
Prof. Lorraine Culley
Reader in Health Studies, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, De Montfort University, Leicester
Dr. Nicky Hudson
Research Fellow, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, De Montfort University