Indiana University law professor Jody Madeira gave birth to triplets in 2007 after struggling to get pregnant, then undergoing in vitro fertilization. The experience was difficult and emotional, she said. But it was also empowering, as she and her partner studied their options, made complex decisions and engaged in a complicated process.
But as she planned to incorporate the experience in her teaching, Madeira saw that many legal scholars viewed infertility treatment as different from normal medicine. The idea, she said, seemed to be that women dealing with infertility would be overwhelmed by emotion and unable to make sound decisions about treatment.
Her new book, "Taking Baby Steps: How Patients and Fertility Clinics Collaborate in Conception," takes on stereotypes about people who struggle to have children and gives voice to patients and practitioners engaged in in vitro fertilization and other forms of assisted reproductive technology.
Madeira, a professor and the Louis F. Niezer Faculty Fellow in the IU Maurer School of Law, conducted in-depth interviews with 130 patients who had undergone infertility treatment and 83 medical professionals in the field. The result is the most comprehensive study to date of the complex emotional, personal and ethical world that patients enter when they seek infertility treatment.
The vast majority of patients, she said, described an experience similar to her own. They were "desperate" in that they were desperately eager for treatment to work. But desperation didn't overwhelm or paralyze them or cause them to make irrational decisions.
"It's not pleasant," Madeira said, "but what the experience of desperation did was, it made us research, it made us choose the best doctors, it made us educate ourselves about what to expect."
Madeira said it's surprising that assisted reproduction has received so little detailed attention in legal scholarship, given that it's a common experience. One in eight couples in the U.S. has difficulty becoming pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy, according to Revolve: the National Infertility Association. Nearly half of women with infertility have sought medical treatment.