A Feature by
Christabel Addo, GNA
Accra, June 30, GNA –
Infertility is socially constructed in many cultures including Ghana, as men
and women are presumed by society, as being destined to become parents, and
that, women are especially socialized to become mothers.
The issue is also a
huge problem socially because we live in a society where womanhood and manhood
are generally tied to motherhood and fatherhood respectively, therefore, any
individual who fall short of fulfilling this perceived destiny, is scornfully
treated as being under a sort of curse or overwhelmed by evil forces.
Within the African
culture, the true meaning of marriage is only fulfilled if the couple are able
to bear children, because Africans consider their children to be a source of
power and pride, and an act of insurance for their parents in their old age, as
well as an assurance of family continuity.
have been the underlying causes of the stigmatization of persons with fertility
The World Health
Organisation (WHO), for instance defines infertility as the inability of a
woman to conceive within two years of exposure to pregnancy, that is having
unprotected sex, but the use of the word “inability to conceive” is
problematic, as it places couple infertility on the doorsteps of the female
Sammy and Mansa (not
their real names), have been married for 15 years without being able to have
their own children, but their resolve to keep sustain their love and marriage
vows to each other, and to wait for God’s appointed time, has been a very
challenging the journey.
started barely a year after our marriage with incidences of initial empathy
from our respective families, friends and our community, to that of perpetual
harassments from these people on regular basis,” Mansa explains.
As usual, she is
being blamed for the dilemma, and has been assigned names that affects her
dignity, but “I was a virgin when I got married, and has never experienced any
sickness that should make me infertile,” she said.
current predicament with streams of tears pouring down her rather pale face,
Mansa, admitted that her husband has rather remained very calm and loving, but
said “my mistake was to accept the proposal of my in-laws to live in their
family house after our marriage because Sammy is their only child”.
“I feel very guilty
and hurt about our situation, because I now see visible signs of premature
aging with its attendant gray hair on my husband, as a result of the burden and
frustration of our childlessness”.
She said “my husband
used to be a very jovial person, but has suddenly stop relating to some of his
friends and even refuse to talk about the issue with his parents, no matter how
hard they tried, but once admitted to his mother that we are seeking medical
Mansa said she has
become an object of ridicule both in her husband’s family and in the community,
making it difficult for her to relate to her peers without anyone reminding her
of the need for me to do something magical to change our situation.
She has abandoned
her pursuit for medical care and currently resorted to running from one church
pastor to the other in search for a solution, because they cannot afford the
huge medical bills.
Such are the stories
of many women other women in Ghana and the world over, seeking for answers to
their infertility problems to free them from the social shame and stigma they
are facing, and salvaging their dignity and human rights.
Some statistics from
both the Ghana Health Service (GHS) and the World Health Organisation (WHO)
shows that there is currently a rising prevalence of infertility among Ghanaian
couples and globally, with limited access to fertility services.
In spite of these
statistics, women continue to incur the wrath of their societies and endure the
worst of the blame for infertility problems, as in most cases leading male
Obstetricians and Gynaecologists are often quick to attribute couple
infertility to female factors leading to the belief that is widely held.
education that is yet to get down to the core of society is the acknowledgement
that there are scientific evidences of infertility having underlined causes
resulting from both medical, social and genetic factors, and the fact that
infertility is a shared responsibility between men and women.
widespread of problems of infertility, not much has been done to understand
community’s perception of infertility and childbearing in Ghana.
Dr Nana Kwame
Henaku-Larbi, the Medical Director of the Accra Fertility Centre (AFC),
explains that a couple is said to have an infertility problem after one year of
marriage and having enough sexual intercourse, that is “not less than three
times in a week, and too much in a day”.
He stressed that
infertility is not a curse, but a shared responsibility, as each partner
contribute 40 percent to the problem, with the remaining 20 per cent equally
shared between genetic and unknown causes.
He gave some of the
causes of infertility in women as cervical hostilities, which can be due to
untreated pelvic infections leading to tubal damage or blockade and other
complications in the female reproductive system.
He said infections
due to unsafe abortions, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), appendicitis,
Female Genital Mutilation and poor post-natal care among others, which common causes of infertility in women the
problem, while ovarian problems such as polycystic ovaries, contribute about 30
per cent to the problem.
Dr Henaku-Larbi said
some individuals have self-induced causes; that is their bodies naturally
produces hormones and secretions that reject or repel the male sperms, and
destroy them at the cervix even before they can make their journey through to
the fallopian tube for fertilization.
On the male part,
the doctor advices against any activities that puts pressure, introduce heat or
external shock to the testicles, which he said works effectively as the sperms
production unit under very low temperatures “below the normal body temperature
of 37 degree Celsius”.
He said the
testicles must always hung freely in an airy environment, and further cited
untreated STIs, poor nutrition, stress, and birth defects as other causes of
“Anything that makes
the testosterone low can affect the factory’s ability to manufacture the sperms
and finally get the sperms to move,” meaning that any man under any particular
kind of stress can have infertility issues because the sperms will exhibit the
exact type of stress being experienced by the man.
He said once the
sperms are made, they will need drive to climb into the woman, anything that
causes lack of energy for the sperms will lead to infertility, he further
urged men with suspected challenges of infertility to seek help from an
appropriate health care facility.
Doctor Mathew Yamoah
Kyei, who is a Consultant Urologist at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital at a
recent programme on the Joy Business Health and Wellness Trade Show in Accra,
on the topic: “Redefining the Frontiers of Fertility,” admitted that most
infertility problems in Ghana may be the fault of men and not women, as it is
He said infertility
has been a stressful experience and a threatening crisis for couples in all
cultures worldwide, and advised men to wear less boxer shorts, and protect
their scrotum from heat and harm, and also cautioned them to pay attention to
their lifestyles in order to reverse the trend.
Currently in Ghana,
no insurance policy covers fertility treatment, but Invitro fertilization
technology has been available in some private health clinics for about 17
years, with access limited to the affluent in the major cities because they are
A combination of
scaled-up diagnosis and treatment options, targeted attempts to reduce stigma,
and a diversified picture of family life are needed, and the social issues can
be addressed through the strengthening of the social welfare and old age
support systems, to reduce the economic pressure on couples who struggle to
More broadly, a
concerted effort is needed to redefine the family to include childless couples,
which might, for example, take the form of public campaigns to highlight the
diversity of family life in Ghana.
Dr Rasha Kelej, the
Chief Executive Officer of the Merck Foundation, a philanthropic Organisation
for health and wellness, and the President of the “Merck More Than a Mother”
initiative, at the launch of an educative children’s story book on infertility
titled “The Kofi’s Story,” in Accra, said despite available scientific
evidences on infertility, childless women still suffer discrimination, stigma
and ostracism within many cultures globally.
She said such women
subjected to isolation, disinherited, assaulted or divorced, but said the Merck
More Than a Mother initiative, has been created to define many interventions to
empower infertile women through access to information, health and change of mind-set.
She urged the media
to heighten awareness creation and education on the known causes of infertility
to ensure prevention, early treatment and elimination of Stigma and
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