“Being our own researchers”: knowledge claims about the risks of using the copper IUD among social media active women in Sweden

Lena Gunnarsson, Maria Wemrell

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


A large amount of information on health-related issues is today distributed via the internet, including in user-directed forums. People seeking to inform themselves can thereby access contradictory information, stemming from health care institutions as well as other actors. Such information can concern claimed adverse effects of established medical interventions. An example is alternative knowledge claims about side effects of the contraceptive copper IUD (intrauterine device), which circulate on the internet, for example on Facebook. This presentation addresses these knowledge claims, based on seven focus groups with 23 members of a Swedish Facebook group (currently with almost 8.000 members) centered on ‘copper toxicity’ as an effect of using a copper IUD. We analyze these knowledge claims in relation to a set of tensions identified in the discursive and institutional contexts in which they are embedded. On the one hand, we relate them to the present surge of and attention to fake news and conspiracy theories spreading not least via social media, and, on the other hand, to a history of women’s health concerns being deprioritized in modern medicine. Further, we discuss the claims in relation to ideals of patient-centered care and self-care or health entrepreneurship in neoliberal society, including the active use of information and communication technologies, and to limits to the desired independence of patients’ construction and communication of health-related knowledge. Finally, we address the tension between the individual, entrepreneurial responsibility nurtured among women embracing alternative knowledge about the copper IUD and the collective mode in which such individual responsibility is enabled and played out.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Apr 22
EventAnnual Conference of the Swedish Anthropological Association (SANT) - online
Duration: 2021 Apr 222021 Apr 23


ConferenceAnnual Conference of the Swedish Anthropological Association (SANT)

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Gender Studies


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