Bioethics Blogs

When Research Bleeds into Real Life: Studying Reproductive Ageing while Ageing Reproductively by Carrie Friese

In a book chapter addressing feminist research methods and women’s health and healing, Rayna Rapp (1999) wrote about the complicated ways in which everyday life is embroiled in feminist research methods. She was speaking about how her own experience with amniocentesis was situated in her now canonical, multi-sited ethnography of this technology, and the corresponding challenges that arise when doing research ‘at home.’ But in recently re-reading this chapter, I have been wondering what happens when feminist research bleeds into everyday life? In this entry for Somatosphere, I want to discuss the complicated ways in which personal experience, combined with time and corresponding social changes, can extend, reshape, and further nuance findings from a research project long considered complete. This extends questions about doing research regarding biomedicine at home, when ‘everything is data’ in a feminist research project that turns out to be everywhere.

While doing my PhD at UCSF, I was a research assistant from 2001-2005 on an NIH funded project that explored couple’s experiences using donor egg and donor sperm. The research was focused on heterosexual couple’s thoughts about and experiences with disclosing this information to their resulting child(ren). Using ethnographic interviews, this disclosure decision was situated in people’s experiences with infertility more generally. Most of the couples I interviewed had used donor egg to conceive their child(ren) in the context of age-related infertility. I went on to write two articles about women’s experiences with reproductive ageing (Friese, Becker, & Nachtigall, 2006, 2008).

What struck me about women’s narratives at that time was the way in which ‘lack of knowledge’ and ‘lack of culpability’ were intertwined in women’s discussions of their infertility, and their subsequent use of donor egg.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.