Nolwenn Bühler (University of Lausanne, Switzerland and University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland)

When Reproduction Meets Ageing

ISBN: 978-1-83909-747-8, eISBN: 978-1-83909-746-1

Publication date: 27 May 2021


Bühler, N. (2021), "Prelims", When Reproduction Meets Ageing (Emerald Studies in Reproduction, Culture and Society), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. i-x.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021 Nolwenn Bühler. Published under exclusive license by Emerald Publishing Limited

Half Title Page

When Reproduction Meets Ageing

Emerald Studies in Reproduction, Culture and Society

Series Editors: Petra Nordqvist, Manchester University, UK and Nicky Hudson, De Montfort University, UK

This book series brings together scholars from across the social sciences and humanities who are working in the broad field of human reproduction. Reproduction is a growing field of interest in the United Kingdom and internationally, and this series publishes work from across the life cycle of reproduction addressing issues such as conception, contraception, abortion, pregnancy, birth, infertility, pre- and postnatal care, prenatal screen and testing, IVF, prenatal genetic diagnosis, mitochondrial donation, surrogacy, adoption, reproductive donation, family-making and more. Books in this series will focus on the social, cultural, material, legal, historical and political aspects of human reproduction, encouraging work from early career researchers as well as established scholars. The series includes monographs, edited collections and shortform books (between 20 and 50,000 words). Contributors use the latest conceptual, methodological and theoretical developments to enhance and develop current thinking about human reproduction and its significance for understanding wider social practices and processes.

Published Titles in This Series

Egg Freezing, Fertility and Reproductive Choice

By Kylie Baldwin

The Cryopolitics of Reproduction on Ice: A New Scandinavian Ice Age

By Charlotte Kroløkke, Thomas Søbirk Petersen, JanneRothmar Herrmann, Anna Sofie Bach, Stine Willum Adrian, Rune Klingenberg and Michael Nebeling Petersen

Voluntary and Involuntary Childlessness

Edited by Natalie Sappleton

Title Page

When Reproduction Meets Ageing: The Science and Medicine of the Fertility Decline


Nolwenn Bühler

University of Lausanne, Switzerland and University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland

United Kingdom – North America – Japan – India – Malaysia – China

Copyright Page

Emerald Publishing Limited

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First edition 2021

Copyright © 2021 Nolwenn Bühler

Published under exclusive license by Emerald Publishing Limited

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British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

ISBN: 978-1-83909-747-8 (Print)

ISBN: 978-1-83909-746-1 (Online)

ISBN: 978-1-83909-748-5 (Epub)

About the Author

Nolwenn Bühler is an Anthropologist specialised in the social study of science, biomedicine, and health, and in gender studies. She currently works as a Senior Researcher, at the University of Lausanne (UNIL), in the SNSF Sinergia project ‘Development of Personalized Health in Switzerland: Social Sciences Perspectives’, where she investigates the implementation of a public health and biomonitoring national cohort. She also works as a Senior Lecturer at the University of Neuchâtel (UniNE) where she teaches gender studies. She holds a PhD in Social and Cultural Anthropology from the University of Zurich. In her doctoral thesis she explored how the ontological status of reproductive ageing is produced, shifts and materialises in the scientific and clinical settings of reproductive biomedicine. She also analysed the sociopolitical implications of extending fertility medically in Switzerland and highlighted the need for rethinking the ontology of age when it gets technologised. Before joining UniNE and the Institute of Social Sciences of UNIL, she spent a year as a visiting scholar at the Gender and Women's Studies Department of the University of California Berkeley, followed by a year as a research fellow in the Reproduction Research Group of De Montfort University, Leicester, and two years as a senior research fellow at the science-society Interface of UNIL.

Her research interests focus on reproductive technologies, gender and kinship, body–environment interactions, toxicity and public health. She is dedicated to the promotion of interdisciplinarity and interprofessional dialogue and collaboration in the medical and public health domain through teaching, research and outreach activities. In addition, she has institutional duties as a member of the Ethical and Deontological Think Tank of the Swiss Anthropological Association, of the STS-CH committee and of CUSO graduate programme in gender studies.


There are so many people without whom this book could never have seen the light of day and to whom I would like to express my gratitude that I do not know where to start. The book is in English and will probably not be read by the women and couples who participated in the PhD research it is based on, but I would nevertheless like to thank them first. They agreed to share their stories, hopes, sufferings and disappointments; to open their houses, their family albums, their intimacies and secrets. I feel frustrated at not being able to give them full recognition in this book, not only because of the language but also because of the focus on the science of reproductive ageing. I already know that another book would be needed to give them justice. However, if I spent so much time on exploring the multiple realities of age-related fertility decline, it was because it mattered so much and in so many different ways for them. I thus hope that the book will serve them by putting into perspective and highlighting the complexity of the science and medicine of fertility decline. I also would like to thank the gynaecologists, biologists and other experts involved in reproductive biomedicine in Switzerland for engaging with me in discussion about the clinical implications of age-related fertility decline and sharing their knowledge and vision of it.

This book started in the form of a PhD project on kinship, fertility and ARTs in Switzerland, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) at the anthropology department of the University of Zurich. Without the confidence that Willemijn de Jong, my supervisor and director of this project, showed me when she invited me for a job interview with my one-week-old baby, I would not be here sitting at my desk in the summer heat writing these acknowledgements. She has been such an inspiring model. She guided my first steps in academia, offered me freedom and pushed me to trust myself and my intuitions, to be curious and to be courageous. Another person I would like to thank for being such an inspiration to me in academia is Francesco Panese, for his long-standing support, for introducing me to the world of biomedical STS, which I have never left since my first classes with him, for sharing his passion and ideas, for his generosity, for his trust and care. My warmest thanks also to Charis Thompson for being such an inspiring supervisor and for making my stay in Berkeley an enriching intellectual journey, paving the way for this book.

Along the way of writing the PhD, starting postdoc research and finishing this book, I have navigated between institutions, moving from the University of Zurich to the Gender and Women's Studies Center of the University of California, Berkeley, to the Centre for Reproduction Research at De Montfort University (Leicester, UK), to the Interface sciences-société at the University of Lausanne, to finally share a full-time position between the MAPS of the University of Neuchâtel and the STS Lab at the University of Lausanne. I have met so many wonderful and inspiring colleagues and friends on this sometime turbulent voyage that I feel unable to name and do justice to all of them. However, some of them really helped me finish the book, and this is the occasion to express to them my gratitude, even though the words are not enough. Firstly, I would like to thank Stine, who has been there since Berkeley and has been such a precious support, personally and intellectually, during the writing phase of the book. I would like to thank Anna who took time to read carefully the manuscript, to give me incisive comments, to help me improve it and make my ideas clearer, for listening to my despair, discouragement and helping me to see the positive side of what I am doing. Thanks to Cathy, for being such a reliable, supportive and understanding friend and colleague, for trusting me in my ability to finish, even when I doubted so much. Thanks to Nicky for being a great role model when I was working at DMU and who helped to make the decisive step of turning the PhD dissertation into a book. To Giada, Luca, Nils, Mélody, Noélie, Séverine, Delphine, Mathilde, Nadja, Véronique, Pablo, Ellen, Marion, Janine, Anne-Sylvie, Aylin, Philip, Morgane for being great colleagues at the Universities of Lausanne and Neuchâtel, for being open, caring, fun and motivating. At a more institutional and editorial level, I would also like to warmly thank the Bureau égalité des chances and the Commission Egalité of the University of Neuchâtel which granted me time off to write this book, as well as the Emerald editorial team for their assistance and support, and Mark Palmer, the language editor, who has been so efficient and helpful in improving the text.

And last but not least, I would like to thank my friends and those who are dear to my heart for being who they are and always being there for me. To my daughters Zoé and Pénélope who give me strength and prompt me to be proud of myself and my work. I feel guilty for having stolen from you so many hours to write this book; the least I can do is to be proud of it and think it has some value, even with all its limits, weaknesses and fragilities. I would like to thank Anais, my dear sister, Laurent, Charline, Adrienne, for all the good and precious moments we share. If family has any meaning, it is because of Z, P and you all. Anne-Laure, Viviane, Myriam, Céline, Valérie, Nicolas, Anne, Joëlle, Christina, Semira, Heidi, Raffaella, Julie, Estelle, Célia, Sabine, my dear friends too, for the holidays and life out of academia. A special thanks to my friend Emanuelle who agreed to illustrate the cover, which transforms this book into an object I can find beautiful and a precious symbol of friendship. I would also like to express my recognition to David for his understanding and support, and for reminding me, even if sometimes painfully, that there is life outside of academia, and for helping me to breathe.