Breaking the Stigma of Infertility in Africa

At Medfem Fertility Clinic, located in Johannesburg in South Africa, we gladly and regularly welcome many patients from all over the African continent. As a result, we know the difficult challenges couples from African countries face in terms of infertility, not least of which is the stigma still attached to infertility in many societies.

Our team at Medfem Fertility Clinic wholehearted support efforts to break the stigma of infertility in Africa and in this article we are pleased to share great news in this regard.

At Medfem Fertility Clinic, located in Sandton, Johannesburg in South Africa – the economic hub of the continent – we often welcome fertility patients from all over Africa.

In fact, most of our African patients come from Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Zambia, Cameroon, Tanzania, Botswana, Ghana and Nigeria.

In many of these countries there are great initiatives aimed at breaking the stigma of infertility that still pervades many communities around the world.

What is infertility stigma?

Stigma is defined as a negative feeling of being different compared to others in society and being contrary to social norms.

In many cultures, there is still a strong but false stigma attached to infertility.

A recent study on infertility stigma confirmed the findings of other studies: infertile women face both self-stigma and social stigma, which threatens their psychosocial wellbeing and self-esteem.

The study notes that infertility stigma is associated with the feeling of shame and secrecy. If infertility is experienced as a stigma, it has the potential to deprive the infertile person of social support and cause depression, anxiety and stress, feelings of guilt and relationship problems. It may also cause psychological disturbance, decreased self-esteem and self-efficacy, and a tendency toward self-stigma. Infertility stigma and its related social pressures influence all the dimensions of a person’s life and well-being.

Although infertility has been stigmatised in both developed and developing countries, infertility stigma is likely to be greater in developing countries, where infertility expands from a private battle into a harsh public stigma with complex and devastating consequences.

The social stigma for childlessness, especially for infertile women, still leads to isolation and stigmatisation in many cultures. Although male factors contribute to about half of all cases of infertility, women are 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.

Discrimination, stigma and ostracism are still a reality for childless women in some cultures. An inability to have a child or to become pregnant can result in being greatly isolated, disinherited or assaulted. This may lead to divorce or physical or psychological violence.

Discrimination against infertile women may include that a girl will never pass into womanhood (regardless of her age) if she never becomes pregnant, is no longer marriageable, and is viewed as a burden on families and communities.

Furthermore, Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), Gender Based Violence (GBV) and domestic violence have been shown to have significant associations with individuals and couples suffering from infertility.

Breaking the stigma

At Medfem Fertility Clinic, we are strong supporters of initiatives aimed at breaking the stigma of infertility and gladly share information about these projects. Here in South Africa, we support creating awareness of infertility issues – locally through the Infertility Awareness Association of South Africa, IFAASA, and beyond our country’s borders, through the Southern African Society for Reproductive Medicine and Gynaecological Endoscopy (SASREG).

We also follow developments across Africa, as we have many patients from other African countries. One of the most active and high-profile advocates for breaking infertility stigma is the Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany, and the high-profile Ambassadors – the First Ladies of more than African 20 countries – of its ‘More Than a Mother’ campaign.
This campaign is a rallying movement to Break Infertility Stigma faced by women – and men – across the African continent, through a diverse number of initiatives.

Most recently, the 3rd episode of their TV program – ‘Our Africa by Merck Foundation’ – focused on the topic of ‘Breaking the Infertility Stigma’. Co-hosted by Brian Mulondo from Uganda, the TV program is currently being broadcasted in Kenya, Uganda and Ghana to feature African fashion designers, singers, and prominent guests from various domains with the aim to raise infertility awareness and create a culture shift across Africa.

This third episode featured prominent personalities like Nontando Mposo, Editor-in-Chief, Glamour Magazine, South Africa, and popular singer Blaze from Mozambique. Fashion designers Anuja Bharti from Ghana and Alberto from Mozambique showcased their designs that displayed strong messages on #NoToInfertilityStigma and #MenToo can be the cause of infertility. The episode also featured a song by H.E. George Weah, the President of Republic of Liberia created to support the ‘More Than a Mother’ movement.

The TV program is receiving great feedback from viewers and social media followers, and will also soon be aired in other African countries. If you missed the program or if you are in another African country, we are happy to share the link with you, so you can watch here:

“Breaking Infertility Stigma, especially around women, has been the main focus for our iconic ‘More Than a Mother’ campaign,” says Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation. “Together we can create a culture shift that will help our communities better understand and act on this issue.”

Breaking Infertility Stigma has also been the focus of other Foundation initiatives through the Fashion and Art with Purpose community. For example, a number of songs, as well as a book, have already been released to raise awareness about infertility stigma.

You can watch, share and subscribe to the ‘Plus qu’une MERE’ composed and sung by Ms. Lucky-Lou, the daughter of The President and The First Lady of Burundi here: or to the ‘More Than a Mother’ song by Cwesi Oteng and Adina from Ghana: You can also listen to all ‘More than a Mother’ songs here: .

‘David’s Story’ is a children’s storybook that emphasizes strong family values of love and respect, and was launched in partnership with the First Ladies of numerous African countries. You can read David’s Story here: .

Furthermore, also in partnership with African First Ladies, the annual ‘More Than a Mother’ Awards invite the African Community of Media, Fashion, Film making, and Musicians, students and potential talents to create a culture shift and break the silence about Infertility Stigma.

The campaign also supports building healthcare capacity in Africa, having provided more than 390 scholarships to doctors from 38 countries to advance women’s health by building Reproductive & Sexual care and Fertility Care Capacity in Africa.

From infertility stigma to infertility treatment

Infertility – in the majority of cases – is a medical condition suffered by either the woman or the man in a couple – and in many cases by both the male and female partner! In almost all these cases, there is a medical treatment available that can help an infertile couple to achieve a pregnancy.

Instead of enduring stigma of any kind – including self-stigma – it is recommended that you and your partner visit a fertility specialist, who can pinpoint the medical cause of your infertility and provide the right treatment.

Our team at Medfem Fertility Clinic believes in making world-class fertility treatments available for everyone. If you would like to know more about the cause of your infertility and the treatments available, simply click here or contact us telephonically on +27 (11) 463 2244.

We look forward to meeting you!




Spread the love