Breaking the infertility stigma …delayal not denial

In spite of civilisation, infertile couples are still stigmatised in this day and age.Women are the most disparaged as they are mostly blamed to be “barren” with little or no blame at all for the men in most instances.

Infertility is the inability of a couple having regular intercourse and not using contraceptives to conceive a child within a year. Research shows that infertility can be primary or secondary, where primary infertility is when there has not been any conception and secondary infertility is when at least there has been a conception.

A recent statistic by the World Health Organisation (WHO) shows that more than180 million couples (1 in every 4 couples) in third world countries suffer from primary or secondary infertility. Similarly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that about 6.7 million women in the United States are dealing with infertility.

Science and research have found that infertility may be as a result of some effects in the male or female reproductive systems. However, it has also been found that it is sometimes not possible to explain the causes of infertility.

The absence or low levels of sperm, abnormal shape and movement of the sperm could cause infertility for men while abnormalities of the ovaries, uterus, fallopian tubes, and the endocrine system, among others can make a woman infertile.

Here in Ghana, particularly in the rural settings, women especially still face infertility stigma. It has therefore become obvious that despite the advent of technology and the rise in literacy, society has still not moved out from the Dark Age.

There are many knowledgeable and well to do families who also consider childlessness as an issue that demands blaming either of the partners or apportioning blames to fictitious beliefs.

THE IGNORANCE

It must be noted that humiliations attached to infertility is an issue which comes with varying psychological, social, emotional and physical strains for couples especially women. These are mostly in the society’s blind side.

Society needs to understand that infertility is not a blame game but a situation which gets both partners physically and emotionally weary.

More striking is the harmfulness of infertility to the health of couples. Emotionally, these couples tend to feel deserted as everyone including their families seem to be against them and as such becomes reluctant seeking medical attention.

These couples do not prefer any treatment or diagnosis due to the great social stigma attached to not having children. As such, there are many disease conditions that get unnoticed and untreated by sterile couples due to thepressure from society.

Normally, these couples resort to traditional or religious means in solving their problems and prefer not to talk to health experts or close associates about their condition to avoid all the questions, blames and “raising of eyebrows.”

To most of these infertile couples, medical practitioners or fertility specialists arestrangers who they cannot hastily share their health concerns openly with.

With the sprouting up of fertility centres all over the place one can go in for consultations and treatments. That is because infertility can also be treated with assisted reproductive technology (ART) such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), cryopreservation of gametes or embryos,and/or the use of fertility medication.

THE FAITH FACTOR- The “not denial bit”

The saying “Delay is not Denial,” has over time become popular and is articulated mostly by Christians. People who have jumped to this saying use it to motivate themselves and others, particularly in challenging times.

Many preachers across the world use the saying as exaltations by dwelling on quotations like Isaiah 46:13- “I am bringing my righteousness near, it is not far away; and my salvation will not be delayed I will grant salvation to Zion, my splendour to Israel;” “For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks ofthe end and will not prove false. Though it lingers, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay” (Habakkuk 2:3) and “For in just a little while, He who is coming will come and will not delay” (Hebrew 10:37).

Connecting to childbirth-The Christian bible also chronicles the life of women like Sarah, wife of Abraham who could not have a child until age 90; Hannah, Rebecca and Rachel who were barren until after some time.

Despite their struggle and the humiliations they faced, their once impossible situation finally became possible at some point. This has also been the case ofsome contemporary women in this age.

Can we therefore say that these infertile couples who some of us stigmatise are“waiting and not denied of child birth?”

WAYFORWARD

First and foremost, it must be understood that either man or woman or both of the partners are responsible for infertility for which reason one cannot blame either of them for this condition. In most of the cases, the women are called barren whereas the male partner does not even go for a checkup. It is therefore imperative that both partners openly discuss and understand the problem.

Secondly, it must be known by all that in this 21st century, infertility is not a dishonouring situation which requires stigmatising victims. People should stop attributing sterility to abortions or unchaste lifestyles lived in the past as research and data has shown that people could be normal and still struggle to have children.

We must also learn to support persons faced with this condition by associating with them, encouraging and recommending solutions if possible.

Over the years, technology and infertility treatments have changed the situation entirely by making sure that people do not need to be childless for the rest of their lives.

As a result of societal humiliations, people see adoption as the alternative to remaining childless. This has however become a fallacy over time because science and sophisticated technology have proven to make most things almost possible in this era.

Let us therefore see things from different perspectives-All is not lost yet!!!!!

BY ABIGAIL ARTHUR

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