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Sex, Science and Society

University of Newcastle via edX

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How are advances in reproductive science impacting fertility, society, and ultimately, the long-term future of our species? What are the social factors that influence the choices we make about reproduction?

Led by a world leader in reproductive biology research, Laureate Professor John Aitken, the course has been prepared by professors, research fellows, and researchers across biological science, health, sociology, anthropology, classics and history.

The course will examine how sperm and eggs (gametes) are made; how fertilisation is achieved; and successful pregnancy initiated, maintained and completed at birth. These developmental principles will be studied alongside social factors such as the construct of family, education, poverty, and sexuality. The course will also look at how Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ARTs) combine with these factors to dramatically affect the reproductive choices people make.


Week 1: Gametes, Fertilization & Conception Sex hormones & reproductive systems Eggs & sperm Fertilisation & implantation Obstacles to conception Social policy and fertility rates: global trends in fertility Projection of Australia’s population Policy options to decrease or increase fertility Historical changes in fertility rates Week 2: Pregnancy, Placenta & Birth Placentation Fetal development/maternal adaptation to pregnancy/ Labour Pregnancy and complications Developmental origins of health & disease Sociological approaches to the intergenerational cycle of disease Social aspects of pregnancy and childbirth Week 3: Contraception The history and importance of contraception Methods of Contraception Effectiveness and Health Risks New technologies in male contraception Contraceptive use in Australia Week 4: Sex & Sexuality: Social Constructionism & Biology Biological sexual differentiation The social construction of sex and sexuality Psychiatry and homosexuality Week 5: Infertility & Assisted Reproduction Infertility Assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) ARTs: now and the future Ethics of ARTs Surrogacy case study

Taught by

John Aitken , Jessie Sutherland , Alan Hayes , Kirsty Pringle , Ann Taylor , Catherine Chojenta , Jacqueline Coombe , Marguerite Johnson , James Bennett and Daniela Heil

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