Doctoral Dissertation Research: Cultural and Social Dimensions of Anti-Mullerian Hormone Screening Technologies

Project: Research project

Project Details

Description

Frequently branded the 'Egg Timer' or 'Biological Clock' test, anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH) screening
for women is becoming widely available in the United States. Blood levels of AMH are understood to
reflect a woman's remaining ovarian reserve or egg supply; low values may index reduced fertility. This
project explores the social, cultural, and individual dimensions involved in a woman's experience of
undergoing AMH testing. Using immersive and experimental ethnography, the project brings together
data from three deliberately selected contexts to document the role of early screening in women's life
narratives in the urban United States. Methodologies drawn from critical medical anthropology and
include participant observation in clinical contexts, semi-structured interviews, and a unique experimental
ethnography in which women will be given the opportunity to access direct-to-consumer AMH screening
and followed during the process. The aims of this research are: 1) to examine the current dialogue
between providers and patients around the projected 'potential' of AMH testing/results and understand
how AMH screening and interpretation of results fits into female patient's life course imaginaries 2) to
understand the factors that modify a woman's decision to seek out AMH testing, particularly individual
identities across race, class, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status, and 3) to use experimental
ethnography outside of a clinical context to assess the life narrative and social impacts of direct-toconsumer
AMH testing in real-time. The research plan includes eight months of ethnographic fieldwork
at the University of Pennsylvania Fertility Care Center, an academic research facility, and Fertility
Centers of Illinois, a private clinic that serves a socioeconomically and racially diverse patient population
and offers $90 out-of-pocket 'Fertility Awareness Check Ups' including AMH screening. In the last phase
of this project, the co-PI will direct an experimental ethnography following women who elect to take the
'Fertility Age Test' through a diagnostic testing service that uses an outpatient laboratory to measure
AMH and then connects patients to video-based follow-up consultations with a provider. Detailed semistructured
interviews during this process will be part of a larger mixed-methods component including
surveys exploring fertility knoweldge and the effect of testing fertility on women's quality of life.
StatusFinished
Effective start/end date7/1/186/30/19

Funding

  • National Science Foundation (BCS-1823543)

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