‘Women of Reproductive Age’: Governing Potential Pregnancy

Online event

Monday 18 October 2021 

This was a joint event with the Centre for Reproductive Research and Communication (CRRC) [BPAS Centre for Reproductive Research | BPAS] Alcohol and Pregnancy Collaborative Network.

The discussion was introduced by Alana Cattapan, Research Chair in the Politics of Reproduction, and Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Waterloo, Canada, who will discuss her ongoing research.


Since the 1970s, research investigating women’s ‘preconception health’ and the rise of fetal rights discourse has resulted in the uncritical acceptance of ‘women of childbearing age’ as a legitimate group to on which public health policy is implemented. The emphasis on ‘women of childbearing age’ as a concept is also evident in biomedical research in which potential participants that could, hypothetically, be pregnant have been historically excluded.

This presentation examines the emergence of the idea of ‘women of reproductive age’ in the governance of preconception campaigns and more broadly, in the governance of biomedical research, focusing on the Canadian case. Drawing together notions of maternal responsibilization, expanding notions of ‘reproductive time,’ and the framing of women’s health as inherently reproductive, the presentation demonstrates how the idea of ‘reproductive age’ has worked to inform and constrain the lives of those who are not pregnant (and may never be).

Find out more about Alana’s research through her project ‘Perpetually, Potentially, Pregnant’.