Study of the transmission of scientific knowledge surrounding intrauterine devices
Awarded 2021
Emerging Scholars in Family Planning
Katie Donnelly, BA
Princeton University

Katie Donnelly is a doctoral candidate in Sociology and Social Policy at Princeton University. Her project will explore how long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) use has increased dramatically in recent years, with a nearly 5-fold increase between 2002 and 2012. One particular form of LARC, levonorgestrel intrauterine devices (IUDs), is quickly becoming the favored choice among health care providers across the US and internationally. Many providers see IUDs as unequivocally beneficial devices, highlighting benefits such as a low side-effect profile due to local administration of hormones and high efficacy due to their long-acting design. Yet patients and reproductive justice activists raise counternarratives of IUDs as coercive and limiting patient autonomy, underscoring the fact that IUDs are more likely to be prescribed to low-income women and women of color. Women report feeling pressured to select this method of contraception or to keep the device in when they no longer wish to use it. Likewise, many report feeling dismissed by their doctors when they experience systemic side effects from these devices. Through a multi-pronged, mixed-methods approach, including interviews with physicians, patients, and industry representatives, ethnographic observations of digital and clinical settings, and primary document analysis, this project explores medical and lay narratives surrounding IUDs with the goal of understanding how medical facts are constructed, transmitted, and negotiated between actors. In particular, this work asks how race, gender, and class structure IUD narratives and what implications this has for women’s health, especially for the health of poor women and women of color.