American Sociological Association

Environmental Contaminants and Reproductive Bodies: Provider Perspectives on Risk, Gender, and Responsibility

Increasingly, leading health organizations recommend that women who are pregnant or considering pregnancy avoid certain toxic chemicals found in our products, homes, and communities in order to protect fetuses from developmental and future harm. In the contemporary United States, women’s maternal bodies have been treated as sites of exceptional risk and individual responsibility. Many studies have examined this phenomenon through the lens of lifestyle behaviors like smoking, drinking, and exercise. However, we know little about how environmental hazards fit into the dominant framework of gendered, individual responsibility for risk regulation. I draw on in-depth interviews with 19 reproductive healthcare providers in the United States to explore how they think about their patients’ exposure to environmental contaminants and sometimes subvert this gendered, individualized responsibility and adopt more collective frames for understanding risk.


Stevens, L. M.





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