The Social Suffering and Stigmatization of Infertile Women in Africa

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The central difficulty associated with infertility in developing countries is that infertility transforms from an acute, private agony into a harsh, public stigma with complex and devastating consequences. Although male factors contribute to about half of all cases of infertility, women are also overwhelmingly perceived as being the party responsible for a couple’s infertility, and subsequently the social suffering associated with infertility tends to be greater for them than their husbands.

Discrimination against the infertile woman may include that a girl will never pass into womanhood (regardless of age) if she never becomes pregnant, are no longer marriageable and become viewed as a burden on families, communities or societies.

Violence: Intimate Partner Violence (IVP), gender ‐ based violence (GBV) and domestic violence have shown to have significant association with individuals and couples suffering from infertility. to have significant associations with individuals and couples suffering from infertility.

Mental health: High rates of clinically significant symptoms of depression and anxiety, suicidal tendencies, and a strong conceptualization of grief affects infertile individuals.

Prevention: Lower levels of development are thought to be associated with higher levels of non‐genetic and preventable causes of infertility such as poor nutrition, untreated sexually transmitted infections (STIs), unsafe abortion, consequence of infections caused by the practice of female genital mutilation, exposure to smoking and exposure to leaded petrol and other environmental pollutants.

Reproductive Rights: Addressing &rdsquo;reproduction&ldsquo; within the public health sphere of reproductive health is important in order to fully address reproductive rights. &rdsquo;People have the capability to reproduce and the freedom to decide if, when and how often to do so.&ldsquo; As defined by the International Committee on Population and Development, ICPD.

Stigma: An inability to have a child or to become pregnant can result in being greatly ostracized, feared or shunned, may be used as grounds for divorce and will often justify a denial to access any family traditions.

Together we create a Culture Shift

Together we need to challenge the sexist beliefs about women, their roles, bodies and worth in society, both within and beyond the medical profession in order to achieve any systemic shift in the current culture of gender discrimination in the context of fertility care in Africa.