The paper is about the neglect of infertility and women's interests in the health policy of developing countries, and how this shapes married adolescent women's understandings and practices surrounding infertility. Ethnographic fieldwork among married adolescent girls, aged 15-19, was carried out in a slum in Dhaka, Bangladesh from December 2001 to January 2003, including 50 in-depth interviews and eight case studies from 153 married adolescent girls, and observations and discussions with family and community members. There are newer understandings with the re-labelling of infertility from spirit world afflictions to something that is also attributed to family planning and 'build up of fat' in the uterus and stomach. Corrective practices range from not using or discontinuing a contraceptive method, dilatation and curettage (D&C) and visiting traditional healers. The absence of state services to address infertility concerns has implications for contraceptive use, with unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortions. Local beliefs continue to largely attribute the primary cause of infertility to the spirit world, but the emergence of newer infertility understandings reveal the influence of Western cultural beliefs (family planning campaigns, health practices influenced by biomedicine) and highlight the gender politics in the harsh environment of urban slums.
Anthropology & Medicine 14 (2) 153 - 166 [doi:10.1080/13648470701381465]