The Fertility Crisis (Series) is an enduring event in The Handmaid's Tale (Series). Prior to the creation of Gilead, the United States--along with the rest of the world--was experiencing a severe fertility crisis.

Depiction of the Crisis[edit | edit source]

When getting pregnant, June tells Moira that five women at her workplace had miscarriages[1].


Flashback scene from Birth Day

In the hospital, Hannah's birth becomes the only successful one that night: apart from two casualties, all babies are stillborn. A desperate woman later tries to kidnap June's daughter from the hospital, claiming the baby is hers[2].

Assumed Reasons[edit | edit source]

Researches outside Gilead[edit | edit source]

According to Mark Tuello, independent American scientists see infertility "often originating with the men"[3].

Gilead Propaganda and Ideology[edit | edit source]

An early member of the Sons of Jacob explains God doesn't want children to grow up in a "screwed-up" society that "only cares for profit and pleasure"[4]. Similarly, Aunt Lydia claims in the Red Center that infertility is a plague sent by God in response to air pollution. She blames "dirty women" to have made things worse by using birth control and having the right to abortion, in order "to have orgies and Tinder"[1].

A Gilead official later blames infertility to the high education level of women which lets them "forget their real purpose", confirming Gilead "won't let that happen again"[4].

Prior to the ban on alphabetisation, Serena Waterford works on a publication about "fertility as a national resource and reproduction as a moral imperative"[4]

Social and Political Reactions[edit | edit source]

Before Gilead[edit | edit source]

Joseph Lawrence's bibliography documents "problematic populist upheavals" and a "religious revival" as social responses to the fertility crisis.

As a means of addressing the crisis, the U.S. government enacts several policies, such as making it illegal for a man to undergo a vasectomy,[5] and requiring husbands to formally consent to their wives filling birth control prescriptions[6]. The placement process for untended children is deregulated ("privatized") to meet a growing market for adoptions[7]. A member of the religious Sons of Jacob confirms his group is involved in "getting children out of their sinful homes" [8].

When June is called away from work to go pick up Hannah from the hospital because of a fever, a nurse asks her a bunch of questions about her capacity as a parent, blaming her for missing parental care due to her full-time job[6].

After the Takeover[edit | edit source]

Birth control is illegal and the penalty for using it in contraband is being torn apart by dogs[9].


Serena presenting children and fertile women
at the banquet(A Woman's Place)

Fertility as a "national resource": In A Woman's Place, the local administration organizes a gala dinner to honor Gilead and show the foreign delegates their success, including presenting the children of Gilead. Immediately preceding the banquet, Serena Joy instructs Aunt Lydia to "remove the damaged ones" from the presentation - meaning the handmaids with visible mutilations done to them by the regime (common punishments include the removal of an eye, a hand or the tongue). Alma later remarks to June that the delegates are interested in fertile women as a commodity to be traded between the two nations.

Notable Quotes[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Episode 1.1, Offred (TV Episode)
  2. Episode 1.2, Birth Day
  3. Episode 3.9, Smart Power
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Episode 1.6, A Woman's Place
  5. Episode 1.7, "The Other Side"
  6. 6.0 6.1 Episode 2.1, "June (TV Episode)"
  7. Following Aunt Lydia's explication, in Unfit
  8. Boston Globe interview, in "Baggage"
  9. Episode 3.10, "Witness"
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