Risky Technologies: Systemic Uncertainty in Contraceptive Risk Assessment and Management

Alina Geampana

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Focusing on the controversial birth control pills Yaz and Yasmin, this article explores how debates about the safety of these drugs have materialized in risk evaluations and the management of technological risk. Drawing on in-depth interviews with stakeholders and content analysis of legal, medical, and regulatory documents, I highlight how professional contraceptive risk assessment is characterized by systemic uncertainty and doubt, resulting in increased responsibility for users themselves to manage the drugs’ potentially increased risks of venous thromboembolism. The analysis centers on three key areas in the assessment process that denote disagreement: risk measurement in postmarket surveillance data, the distinctiveness of the drugs’ benefits when compared to other contraceptive technologies, and the weighing of the risks and benefits against each other. While professionals negotiate uncertainty both in epidemiological research and in clinical practice, users are constructed as agents who should manage risk individually. Such processes are underlined by a diffusion of responsibility in the systemic management of contraceptive risk. This article suggests, more broadly, that medical technologies can be conceptualized as artifacts that are instrumental in the dispersion of risks.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1116-1138
JournalScience, Technology, & Human Values
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 13 Nov 2019


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