“I Asked for It”: How Women Experience Stigma in Their Transition from Being Infertile to Being Mothers of Multiples through Assisted Reproduction Technologies

Monday, 16 July 2018: 18:15
Oral Presentation
Navjotpal KAUR, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada
Rose RICCIARDELLI, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada
Although researchers agree that infertility is a stigmatizing attribute, scholars are largely divided in their criticism of assisted reproduction technology (ART). Some criticize the increased and invasive medical interventions as disempowering women, while others argue that ARTs empower women by protecting their right to reproduce as they see fit. Research on the stigmatization of infertility and ART in the context of mothers of multiples is conspicuously missing from the literature, a notable lacuna in knowledge given ARTs are more likely to result in multiple births. Drawing on in-depth semi-structured interviews with 23 mothers of multiples, we show how these women interpret the stigma of first being “infertile” to then being “artificially” fertile to becoming mothers of multiples. The stigma of using ART is arguably an extension of the stigma of experiencing infertility that exerts stressors in different realms of women’s lives—the ramifications for which be loss of self-esteem, pride, and confidence that can lead to status loss. Interviewees reveal that despite the agential freedom they have in regard to choice in fertility treatments, they feel disempowered, even judged, when undergoing ART. An interesting and novel finding of our study was that ‘fertility’ mothers of multiples thought of themselves as less deserving of support or help when compared to other (non-ART) mothers of multiples. They tend to degrade themselves because they think they had “asked for it” deliberately whereas for other mothers, it had happened naturally. This abasement of self is arguably the result of internalized stigma imposed by the society on “fertility moms” because they were unable to meet the ‘natural’ standards of idealized motherhood.