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Emotions, Fertility, and the 1940s Woman


This paper looks at the ways that women's reproductive issues, particularly sterility, were explained during the post-World War II period. In the absence of a clear physiological basis, sterility was depicted as a product of psychoanalytic causes rooted in women's psychology. When women were yearning for a reason for their infertility and desperate for effective treatments, a psychoanalytic framework treated deficiencies lurking in the field of infertility. Framing infertility within a psychiatric construct influenced how women were treated by their medical specialists and how they were perceived by a public that expected married women to reproduce. An infertile woman was already considered a failure by society. By establishing her illness within the context of her own repressed desires, she was no longer an unwitting victim, but a culprit.

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Epstein, R. Emotions, Fertility, and the 1940s Woman. J Public Health Pol 24, 195–211 (2003).

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