Qualitative Sociology

, Volume 42, Issue 3, pp 479–498 | Cite as

“Trying to Have your Own First; It’s What you Do”: The Relationship Between Adoption and Medicalized Infertility

  • Ann V. BellEmail author


Since its medicalization, resolutions around infertility have shifted. Adoption, once considered the natural solution to infertility, is now deemed secondary to medical treatments. Beyond noting this preferential order, little is known about the relationship between medicalized infertility and adoption. To explore this relationship, this study examines why adoption is seen as second best and how the medical institution contributes to that image. Through interviews with 88 infertile individuals in the U.S., the findings not only reveal the ideological foundations of adoption and medicine, but also the power of such foundations. Individuals draw on notions of biological privilege and pronatalism to inform their understandings of adoption and medicalized infertility—adoption remains a stigmatized process for failing to adhere to such prescriptions, yet medicine is revered for maintaining them. In exploring how individuals and the medical institution use these ideas to inform their decision-making and practice, the findings ultimately demonstrate the falsehood of those images.


Adoption Infertility Medicalization Reproductive health 



Thanks to the editors and anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on earlier versions of this article. The research was funded through grants from the University of Michigan Department of Sociology, University of Michigan Center for the Education of Women, the University of Michigan Rackham School of Graduate Studies, and the University of Delaware General University Research Grant.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of DelawareNewarkUSA

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