Frederick Hanson and John Rock, “The Effect of Adoption on Fertility and Other Reproductive Functions,” 1950

Physicians and laymen have long thought that it is quite common for couples who have previously been childless to have a child of their own following adoption. Many people can cite one or more cases they know of personally, and when asked will preface their statement with a remark that the phenomenon is well known. Yet we find no report of an accurate survey of how often this sequence occurs nor, assuming its frequence, of what is its etiology. The theory grows among physicians that psychogenic disturbances play an important part in reproductive physiology and may influence conception. Proponents of this theory assert that adoption relieves the inhibiting psychogenic factor and allows the conception. . . .

Description of Study

Methodology.—Through the aid of adoption agencies a study was made of 202 couples who adopted, approximately between 1938 and 1948. The cases of adoption in the six to twelve months immediately preceding the survey were not included as it was felt that sufficient time had not elapsed since adoption to make evident its possible effect on fertility. The couples were approached by means of a questionnaire asking whether or not they had had children following adoption, and other pertinent information. Advantage was also taken of the opportunity to discover what we could on the possible influence of adoption on some other aspects of reproductive physiology. Eighty-five of the 202 were studied by a more detailed questionnaire as to the etiology of their infertility. Of these eighty-five couples, eighteen wives were within the age group 20 to 29 years, sixty-three within the thirties, and four within the forties, with a high of 44 years.

Results.—Pregnancies were reported in fifteen cases out of 202. Eleven of these fifteen were studied as to the cause of presumed infertility and how it was relieved. . . .


Is adoption frequently followed by pregnancy? Fifteen, or 8 per cent, of the 202 adoptive parents achieved a subsequent pregnancy. This figure of 8 per cent is not remarkable compared to statistical surveys in general, since ten per cent of spontaneous cures are to be expected. Therefore, we can say adoption is not followed by normal pregnancy to any remarkable degree. . . .

Summary and Conclusions

The literature affirming the therapeutic effect of adoption on infertility is quoted and discussed. It is all speculative and without proof. . . .


Source: Frederick M. Hanson and John Rock, “The Effect of Adoption on Fertility and Other Reproductive Functions,” American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 59, no. 2 (1950):311, 314, 316, 317, 319.

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To learn more about The Adoption History Project, please contact Ellen Herman
Department of History, University of Oregon
Eugene, Oregon 97403-1288
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