Talking about sex is uncomfortable. Such a conversation about private matters can be tough whether the discussion is with preteens or doctors. It is even more difficult when conducted in two different languages. But Marjorie Sable, Professor and Director of the Department of Social Work, works to break down the communication barrier when it comes to family planning.
Will describes a recent collaboration with a neurologist, in which they studied food intake during pregnancy and analyzed its affects on the later onset of autism in baby mice. Though the project initially seemed disconnected from his other initiatives, Will notes that collaborative work “gives you more inspiration for your own project.”
When a woman asks to use contraception, either to prevent the spread of HIV or to avoid becoming pregnant, her husband assumes she has been unfaithful, in accordance with cultural standards. “What we found out from the focus groups is that a lot of these women don’t really have control over whether or not they become pregnant,” Sable says. “It is expected of them by their in-laws and by their husbands to produce children, and so they can’t really say, ‘no, I don’t want to.’”
To learn out about women’s pregnancy intentions in KwaZulu Natal province in South Africa, Sable organized focus groups. She asked these groups questions on topics that ranged from their attitudes about childrearing to their role in decision-making about having children.