June 2023 World Infertility Awareness Month – Dispelling Infertility Stigma
Each year during the month of June, people across the globe observe World Infertility Awareness Month, dedicated to raising awareness about infertility and its effects on millions of people everywhere. Certainly, among the worst effects of infertility is the false stigma incorrectly attached to fertility challenges, which prevents many people from seeking help or getting the treatment they need.
At Medfem Fertility Clinic, we enthusiastically observe World Infertility Awareness Month, and add our voices to raise crucial awareness about infertility, contributing to global efforts to dispel infertility stigma by helping more people become aware that infertility is a medical condition that can be treated.
Infertility remains a taboo subject in many cultures, and as a result, there are many misconceptions, incorrect information and even superstitions around the topic, creating false stigmas that not only do great harm to those struggling with infertility, but also prevent many people from seeking the help, support and treatment for infertility that is available.
As the numbers of people facing fertility challenges rise rapidly in a modern, stressful world, it is becoming increasingly urgent to raise awareness of the truth about infertility.
Currently, the World Health Organisation estimates that one in six couples worldwide are struggling with infertility. The real numbers are most likely even higher than reported, because many couples struggling with infertility suffer in silence.
Sadly, these numbers have also not decreased over the last two decades and, in fact, are expected to continue to increase as modern lifestyles, lifestyle diseases and other factors contribute to rising infertility rates.
The impact of infertility on people extends beyond the physical ability to achieve a pregnancy. As the World Health Organization (WHO) says: “Infertility has significant negative social impacts on the lives of infertile couples and particularly women, who frequently experience social stigma, emotional stress, depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, divorce and violence.”
This is why World Infertility Awareness Month is so important – it is an opportunity to reach out to the growing numbers of people facing fertility challenges, as well as their families, friends and communities, raising awareness of the truth about infertility and dispelling any stigma that remains.
The truth about infertility
The truth about infertility is this: infertility is a medical condition that can be treated.
Because infertility is a disease of the male or female reproductive system, it results in a disability: the inability to conceive naturally.
However, this doesn’t mean you can’t have children, but it does mean you will need assistance or treatment to achieve a pregnancy.
Understanding this, it is easy to realise that any stigma around infertility is not only false, but also detrimental to everyone involved, particularly where infertility stigma results in people not seeking treatment, which is available.
The false stigma of infertility
Because sex and conception are such intimate matters, these are often deemed as taboo topics for public discussion. The result is a widespread and general lack of awareness, misinformation and false stigma surrounding infertility.
Infertility is already an emotionally difficult experience – but it is often made worse by society’s archaic and incorrectly judgemental attitude towards it.
Stigma is defined as a negative feeling of being different compared to others in society and being contrary to social norms.
Infertility stigma, and its related social pressures, influence all the dimensions of a person’s life and well-being.
In many cultures, for example, fertility is inaccurately considered ‘necessary’ to be regarded a ‘full’ adult, or a ‘real’ man or woman, or to leave a legacy. In other cultures, infertility and childlessness are disability stigmas or violation-of-group-norm stigmas. While both men and women are subjected to infertility stigmas, in many traditional cultures, women are considered responsible for child-bearing and thus for any fertility challenges. Sadly, infertile men and women not only face social stigma but also self-stigma, both of which threatens their psychosocial wellbeing and self-esteem.
Both social and self-stigma can cause depression, anxiety and stress, feelings of guilt and relationship problems. It may also cause psychological disturbance, decreased self-esteem and self-efficacy.
Social stigma, in many countries, can result in isolation and the loss of social support. In some cultures, not being able to have a child can lead to being disinherited, or to divorce, or even to physical or psychological violence. Infertile women may be considered no longer marriageable, or as a burden on families and communities.
Given these realities, a global effort is required to dispel any negative stigmas still surrounding fertility issues, and to eliminate the lack of awareness around the truth about infertility that prevents couples from seeking help or getting the support they need.
Breaking infertility stigma
Around the world, organisations – from the WHO to local non-profits and private fertility clinics – participate in dispelling fertility stigma.
In Africa, 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 its high-profile Ambassadors – the First Ladies of more than African 20 countries – for its ‘More Than a Mother’ campaign.
Recently, the campaign announced the winners of its “More Than a Mother” Film Awards, which aims to raise awareness of social issues including Breaking Infertility Stigma. Third place in Awards went to Huzzain Bello of Nigeria for his film about infertility stigma called “NOT ADRESSING THIS ANYMORE”. You can watch it here.
At Medfem Fertility Clinic, we are strong supporters of initiatives aimed at breaking the stigma of infertility and gladly share information about these projects. While we are based in Sandton, Johannesburg in South Africa – the economic hub of the African continent – we welcome fertility patients from all over Africa and many of our patients come from Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Zambia, Cameroon, Tanzania, Botswana, Ghana and Nigeria.
Beyond our country’s borders, we support creating awareness of infertility issues through the Southern African Society for Reproductive Medicine and Gynaecological Endoscopy (SASREG) and locally, in South Africa, through the Infertility Awareness Association of South Africa, IFAASA.
Our message remains this: infertility is a medical condition that can be treated!
Where to get infertility treatment, without any stigma
Don’t let false infertility stigma prevent you from receiving treatment for this medical condition!
If you are concerned about your fertility, it is highly recommended that you contact a fertility specialist without delay. A registered and experienced fertility specialist will be able to identify the cause of your fertility problem and provide expert information regarding available treatment options.
At Medfem we believe in helping you reach your family dream through:
* World-Class Fertility for Everyone – we believe in making world-class fertility treatments available for everyone
* A Positive Fertility Journey – It is our joy and commitment to give you a positive outcome to your fertility journey
* Delivered With Empathy & Caring – So you may have a fond memory, of a feeling of empathy, caring and being part of the Medfem family
If you would like to meet one of our fertility specialists at Medfem Fertility Clinic, simply click here to book an initial consultation or contact us telephonically on +27 (11) 463 2244.
Our Fertility Specialists can also meet with You During a Virtual Consultation Skype or Zoom. Click here to book a virtual consultation now.
We look forward to meeting you at Medfem Fertility Clinic!