Bernd Marquardt – Irregular Birth Passages

Irregular Birth Passages (IBP) - The Influence of Medical-Technological Progress on Parenthood


Keywords: assisted reproductive technology, birth passage, diagnosis, liminal experiences, innate malformation, parenthood, partner relationship

Today birth passages are co-constructed by medical technologies inducing special forms of parenthood; to theorise these constellations is the aim of this dissertation. The event of ‚becoming a family unfolds a new social diversity with specific spatiotemporal patterns. Consequently, persons with the desire to have children, expectant parents as well as their families, and social environment are facing special conditions that shape their actions, perceptions, beliefs, and imaginations.

If couples decide to use the assistance of reproductive medicine, it is possible that via egg freezing (social freezing) the consistent phases of childbearing - procreation, pregnancy and birth - are uncoupled and can span a period of several years. Women with the desire to have children might make use of these possibilities of assisted reproduction and are confronted with numerous ‹treatment cycles› until a viable child is born. Children born with severe malformations may survive due to medical interventions, however, they must stay for many months in the hospital making permanent copresence of all family members impossible. Prenatal diagnosis of somatic anomalies impose decision scenarios in which the parents have to choose within a short period of time whether they want to continue the pregnancy or not.

Assisted reproduction is getting more and more popular, evoking the phenomenon of transnational surrogacy. Special spatial conditions with numerous possible personnel constellations inherent in this new idea of parenthood, raise the question of how these complex settings are institutionalised. Furthermore, new scenarios of becoming an orphan are part of social reality, in case biological parents or social parents refuse to acknowledge their child due to malformation or impediments.

Moreover, the current discussion on future conditions of parenthood is increasingly focussing on genetic diagnosis or gene surgery granting parents with genetic diseases the chance to have a healthy child.

The dissertation theorises these (future) areas of parental agency by using a qualitative framework and aims at understanding the in limbo-logic of these special birth passages in order to capture the forms of parenthood and contemporary tendencies of the discourse I call ‹having children in the societies we used to call the West›.

Author: Bernd Marquardt