Skip to main navigation menu Skip to main content Skip to site footer


Vol. 9 No. 2: April issue

Assisted Reproductive Technologies: A Grey Zone in the Zika Epidemic in Brazil?

April 2, 2020


In this article, I address an issue that emerged during my ethnographic fieldwork in Brazil in 2018, which received little attention during the Zika virus outbreak that took place in the country during 2015–17. My fieldwork revealed that, interestingly, despite the epidemic and its associated risk of birth defects, some couples who were attending a fertility clinic (most of whom came from a middle- or upper-class background, with access to private health care) chose to take the risk of a pregnancy instead of delaying their plans. I argue that this case study of assisted reproductive technology (ART) is a ‘grey zone’ whose investigation aids understanding of how the Zika epidemic was managed in Brazil. By looking at the potentiality of pregnancies and prospective babies for (infertile) couples, we can analyse how fertility clinics influenced the ability of couples to engage in ART during the epidemic and explore which kinds of reproductive services were offered to patients during this time. More broadly, this case study permits the examination of how the specific case of ART sheds light on the issue of risk/reward in wider reproductive decision-making during the epidemic. In many ways, I conclude, one can say that the Zika virus epidemic came to challenge both the timing of reproduction and the choice to become pregnant.