9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN16 Sociology of Health and Illness

2009-09-05 15:30:00 2009-09-05 17:00:00 Saturday, 5 September 15:30 - 17:00 Embodiment, Emotions and Health II Building I, 1E2

Infertile bodies: women´s experience and medical discourses

The sociology of the body brought in important contributions to the sociology of health and illness. The proclaimed critic to the biomedical model and to its mechanicist notion of the body redeems the sociological importance of meaning, feelings, emotion and phenomenological interpretation of illness. The relevance of the body raises, though, from issues that are brought upon people by health and illness.
We already know that the experience of sickness can impact upon the sufferer daily life, upon his or hers social relations, identity and sense of self. The body plays a significant role on the identity building process; the construction of the self is inevitably constraint by the limitations that are placed upon the body and that the body places upon us. The rupture caused by sickening, pain or medical care episodes emphasises this dynamic embodiment process and its connexions with the identity of whom experiences them, as well as the social contexts in which they are experienced. Therefore the welcome of the sociology of the body by the sociology of health and illness, understood as a way of promoting the discussion and offering alternatives to overcome dualisms between body and mind, culture and nature, self and society.
Pursuing this line of argumentation, this communications seeks to illustrate the ties between body, self and society, having as analytic focus the experience of women undergoing infertility treatment.
This is a very medicalized arena, of difficult access to lay people, with a social construction deeply rooted in valued cultural assumptions, an arena in which the contact with the medical sphere is mediated by invasive technologies that enhance the medical gaze upon women´s bodies.
The subjective perceptions of these women concerning their infertile body and their exposition to reproductive technologies are here confronted with the readings that reproductive medicine specialists make of that same experience. This communication also aims to analyse to which extend the biomedical notion of the body serves as a foundation not only to the discourses and readings of doctors, but also to the discourses and experiences of women.