INFERTILITY STIGMA, A SILENT KILLER
August 29, 2015 was a joyous day for me, I happily got married. Yes! It was my wedding day with all the glitz, fun and merry. During the ceremony a prayer was said for me for the fruit of the womb.
When it was time for the picture session, a woman whispered to me and said, “Agnes, you are not done yet, make sure a year by now, we attend your baby christening, do you hear me,”
At least this woman should allow me to enjoy the moment of the ceremony without any interference.
So right from the church auditorium pressure started to mount on me. Fast forward, after a year, no sign of pregnancy.
Almost all my friends who got married in 2015 had their babies christening the following year. This reminded me of what the lady whispered on my wedding day. During a church revival, the pastor called women who were married but had no children to approach him for divine intervention.
As a believer I hurriedly got up, there were other women who joined me because they had similar issue (infertile). The man of God prayed for us. My husband and I later decided to seek medical help which we did.
To my surprise in 2017 January I discovered I was pregnant! Oh My God! No words could describe how happy my husband and I were. Because this was a sign of relief from all the hustles and difficulty in explaining to people who kept on asking me, when I was going to have children.
There were those who told me I was aging, therefore needed to give birth and others who advised me to consult a herbalist or a prophet who could fast track things in helping me to conceive.
In my first trimester, I lost the pregnancy, a scan at a hospital showed that I had lost the pregnancy. My world came crushing down, how do I face and answer these people who have been asking me all sort of questions.
In that same year, I lost another pregnancy and I would never forget the anguish.
One afternoon as I went to the canteen for lunch a colleague at office drew a chair and sat beside me. She murmured “Agnes what are you doing, its been some years since you got married, are you not ready to conceive?”.
This colleague did not consider the fact that we were in a public place, therefore someone could hear what she asked. I lost appetite, I just gave her a smile ,got up and left the scene.
At a point in my life, I lost interest in attending social gatherings just to avoid being questioned. Yes! I was tired of being reminded I need to have my own babies. Fed-up of being directed to see herbalists. Tired of being prayed for during church revivals. I kept questioning myself whether being a woman is a mistake, or a crime.
Last year which was my fourth wedding anniversary marked the turning point in my life. I was finally blessed with a bouncy baby girl. On January 18, 2020 at a family gathering, I was told to have a second child, meanwhile my daughter is only 7 months old. Another pressure has set in, but I would not allow anyone to frustrate me. At my own pace I would decide when the next child would arrive. Say no to infertility stigma now.
It sad to note that most couple especially women are under pressure due such problem in marriage which has resulted in many breakdown of marriages.
Have individuals, society and the world at large thought about how such women feel whenever they are questioned or ridiculed on their infertility status?
My husband stood by me and advised that I pay no attention to such people during such trying times. Society has forgotten that “It takes Two to Tango” therefore it is not the sole responsibility of a woman to get pregnant.
Speaking to Dr Hope Quashie Mensah, Gynecologist at the 37 Military Hospital advised women facing infertility not to resort to herbal medicine but to see a doctor for investigation, adding that infertility could be treated.
According to him, some women resort to herbal concoction which leads to serious health implication and end up damaging their kidneys just because they want children and their peace of mind.
“You do not have to kill yourself because you think you cannot have children, there is hope in every situation, do not accept the pressure from society but keep on seeing your health professionals and with God all things are possible,” he said
In our Africansociety we have attached too much importance on children in marriage that, every couple is expected to have children by all means. But elsewhere, people marry and they decide whether to have children or not.
Here, normally the pressure from in-laws is usually mounted on the womanas it mostly assumed that it’s the sole responsibility of the woman to produce children.
When people marry within the first three months with continuoussexual intercourse then couples should be able to expect their first child that is if there is no reproductive health problem with any of them.
Dr Mensah said, research indicates that 60 per cent of infertility cases are due to male infertility and not only women were the cause, “In fact it is never so, we have noticed that most of the infertility issues are men factors, up to 60 per cent men,”
Being a victim of infertility stigma I think it is time the world take up the challenge, break infertility stigma and help couples who are struggling with infertility issues.
Training programs on infertility should be championed by leaders in the society to educate members especially men, that infertility issues are not only women related. Also to encourage women not to accept the fact that they could not conceive but boldly say no to infertility stigma that has become a canker.
As women, let us support our fellow women who might be going through infertility issues, because most of the infertility stigma are perpetuated by women. Women ridicule their own sisters, aunties, sister in laws for not being able to conceive.
Religious leaders should also know that not all infertility cases are spiritual, therefore the need to advise infertile couples to seek medical attention. Husbands should not join others to ridicule their wives but rather support them to overcome the situation. Family members should all support the call against infertility stigma. Couples with such issues should seek early medical treatment or advice. Government should also roll outprogrammes and interventions that would educate and deal with infertility related issues particularly in reducing the high cost of treatment.
Media organisations should sieve advertisements that project herbal concoctions which claim to cure infertility. Infertility stigma is so painful that it kills ones soul, body and mind silently. Infertility stigma is a silent killer, therefore let us join hands in fighting it.
By AGNES OPOKU SARPONG