Dr Christina Benninghaus, University of Oxford: 'Matters of choice? Writing a history of infertility, c. 1900'

In the decades around 1900, attitudes to reproduction changed. Throughout Western Europe, family size diminished. When it came to reducing the number of pregnancies, reproduction was increasingly seen as a matter of choice. But did changes in reproduction also affect the way in which people understood and experienced infertility? In my talk, I will argue that the decades around 1900 saw the emergence of a specific modern way of being infertile. Perceptions, expectations and bodily experiences changed with the massive popularization of medical knowledge, with new diagnostic techniques and new forms of treatment. Decades before the invention of IVF, involuntarily childless couples – just like their more fortunate peers – expected to have choices when it came to reproduction.

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