Document Type

Thesis or dissertation

Date of this Version

Spring 4-27-2022

Thesis Advisor

Morgan Hoke, Adriana Petryna


fertility, pregnancy, female body, West Philadelphia, reproductive health


The relationship between the psychosocial experience of fertility and its biological basis in women is under-researched and undertheorized. In order to create standard assessments informed by both the mental and the physical states of female fertility, qualitative work is necessary to augment our biological knowledge and provide an ethnographic lens on how women contextualize fertility outside of a biomedicine. Here, I introduce the concept of transitory fertility, a term I use to describe moments of perceived variability in fertility status among women. It is a concept currently unrecognized in biomedicine. Women who may be physically able to conceive naturally experience emotions similar to ‘infertile’ women when trying to become pregnant. Qualitative evidence of the ideas surrounding the female body and fertility is presented from the perspective of women in the low-wealth neighborhood of Cobbs Creek, West Philadelphia in partnership with Sayre Health Center (SHC). Cobbs Creek is a medically underserved area currently composed of 73% African Americans. In 2017, 35.0% of SHC service area population was below the federal poverty line compared to 13.5% of Pennsylvania. Over 6 months, semi-structured interviews were conducted virtually with women. Preliminary analyses illuminate the limits of biomedical constructs to contend with shame and anxiety surrounding fertility. Further, the stress associated with fertility struggles may contribute to reduced ability to conceive in women. The creation of a scale to measure transitory fertility will allow for the study of the relationship between women’s perceptions of fertility, their biological fertility, and their ability to become pregnant.

Included in

Anthropology Commons



Date Posted: 07 June 2022


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