Missed Conceptions

How We Make Sense of Infertility

Missed Conceptions

How We Make Sense of Infertility

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Infertility is one of the most painful and painfully common of human experiences. One in six couples will experience fertility challenges when they attempt to get pregnant, and while more and more people have spoken openly about infertility in recent years, the experience can still be incredibly isolating.

But none of us is alone in our struggles. In fact, infertility is a universal part of the human experience that is mentioned in the earliest human writings. Across cultures and throughout time, the experiences of people who have faced fertility problems are widely discussed in early manuscripts, medical treatises, diaries, novels, poetry, plays, and song.

After her own decade-long struggle to conceive, linguist and historian Karen Stollznow journeyed through history--from ancient civilizations and religions, to early-modern folklore, to current-day popular culture and modern medical practice--to try to make sense of what we mean by infertility and what infertility means for us. In Missed Conceptions, she shines a light on attitudes and beliefs about infertility, tests urban legends and old wives' tales, explores folk medicine and alternative therapies, and delves into modern science, separating fact from fiction along the way.

Blending personal narrative, historical research, and pop culture, Stollznow gives voice to a reality that has long been spoken about in hushed tones. For anyone who is trying (and failing) to conceive, who will do just about anything to achieve what has been mistakenly called "the most natural thing in the world," this book is a welcome and hopeful companion.


"Karen Stollznow cleverly integrates history, pop culture, folklore, religious and medical information, and her personal story to give us a well-researched, comprehensive, and honest view of infertility. It's a primer that anyone struggling with infertility should read and a resource for any clinician who wants to deliver more empathetic care."

Dr. Monique Rainford, author of Pregnant While Black, and assistant professor of clinical obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at Yale University School of Medicine

"Stollznow busts the myths and stigmas around the physical and emotional journey of infertility. Few who have not experienced this trauma can understand it, but this book stands to open their eyes and perhaps stay their glib comments. An important and welcome addition to society's discussion of the experience and treatment of infertility."

Dr. Elizabeth Ellis, associate professor in the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences at the University of New England


"In this eye-opening entry, linguist Stollznow (On the Offensive) considers infertility on a personal and cultural level....readers will appreciate Stollznow's from-the-trenches point of view. Those struggling to conceive will find understanding."

Publishers Weekly 

Product Info

  • Publisher Broadleaf Books
  • Format Hardcover
  • ISBN 9781506485263
  • eBook ISBN 9781506485270
  • Dimensions 5.75 x 8.75
  • Pages 243
  • Publication Date April 25, 2023