Bearing a barren body

- a phenomenological study to women’s bodily experiences in fertility treatment.

About the project

Over the last three decades, the use of Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) – like In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), or Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) – has increased enormously. In Norway alone, approximately one in 100 women in the reproductive age uses some form of ART[Ferraretti et al. (2012; 2013)]. This project analyzes women’s bodily experiences in fertility treatment by starting from the idea that these experiences do not take shape in a vacuum. It will explore how sociocultural discourses about woman- and motherhood, the nuclear family, infertility, un/natural fertilization, and technologically engineered bodies shape the ways women experience their bodies in the process and aftermath of fertility treatment.


  1. Explore dominant and alternative discourses that surround fertility treatment.
  2. Collect and analyze women’s lived, bodily experiences in fertility treatment.
  3. Provide an integrated understanding of the ways in which sociocultural discourses continually shape women’s experiences in fertility treatment.
  4. Develop and specify theories about contextualized embodiment, specifically in fertility care settings.


This project will provide empirical findings about how subjective fertility experiences are co-constituted within the public realm, an aspect which is largely taken for granted hitherto. Moreover, in analyzing the medicalized body as culturally embedded in fertility treatment, this project will offer an important contribution to the development of the polemic field of embodiment theory, which understands the body as either biologically determined or as culturally constructed.


As this project aims to unravel contextualized bodily experiences in IVF, we will use a dual methodological approach. First, we will systematically explore discourses surrounding fertility treatment in popular culture by making use of content analysis. Here, we will, for example, describe and analyze representations of infertile women in reality TV shows. Second, through a phenomenological-narrative approach, we will tease out women’s experiences of fertility treatment in in-depth interviews, which are subsequently interpreted on the basis of phenomenological theories of embodiment.


This project is funded through a Marie Curie (FP7) / Scientia Fellows Cofund Programme Grant.

Start - finish

2017 - 2019

Published Oct. 26, 2017 1:58 PM - Last modified Oct. 27, 2017 2:30 PM