Women’s Month Spotlight on Women and Infertility
During this Women’s Month, our team at Medfem Fertility Clinic would like to contribute to raising awareness of infertility issues by focussing on the impact of infertility on women specifically. In many ways, the burden of infertility disproportionately affects women because of myths and misconceptions about infertility, its causes and its treatment.
Our team goes to great lengths to contribute to raising awareness of many misconceptions that exist around fertility. We are proud to add our voice to that of other organisations and prominent persons who are committed to raise awareness of the truth about infertility and its treatment.
Every year, in August, South Africa marks Women’s Month, to pay tribute to the more than 20,000 women who marched to the Union Buildings on 9 August 1956 in protest against the extension of Pass Laws to women – and changed the course of history.
Sixty-five years later, Women’s Day is an opportunity to pay tribute to all women, and at Medfem we are proud to contribute to raising awareness of infertility issues that deeply affect women especially.
Infertility issues that affect women especially
* The myth that infertility is a “women’s problem”
* The false stigma of infertility
* The misconception that you are alone
* Lack of awareness that infertility is a treatable medical condition
These fallacies about infertility can be dispelled through greater awareness.
The myth that infertility is a “women’s problem”
In many societies and cultures, infertility is automatically assumed to be a ‘woman’s problem’.
This misconception is one of focal points of the Merck Foundation’s More Than a Mother campaign, which notes: “Disproportionately having an effect on women, the burden of infertility is often assumed to fault the woman, as pregnancy and childbirth are manifested in the woman.”
Of course, the reality is that infertility affects a couple – and it is a challenge a couple will have to face together.
Furthermore, statistics show that infertility is definitely no more a ‘woman’s problem’ than it is a ‘man’s problem’. Only in about one-third of infertility cases, the fertility challenge is due just to the female partner.
The male partner is the source of the fertility challenge in another one-third of infertility cases, which means men and women are equally likely to be the source of the couple’s infertility challenges.
For the remaining one-third of cases, the fertility challenge is a combination of male and female factor issues, or the cause is undetermined.
To change this misconception, the Merck Foundation coined the expression “Fertility is a Shared Responsibility” to create awareness throughout Africa that infertility affects both men and women equally. The takeaway message is for men to get informed; to get tested with their partner; and to support their partner during this challenge.
The false stigma of infertility
In many cultures, there is still a strong but false stigma attached to infertility. The social stigma for childlessness, especially for infertile women, still leads to isolation and stigmatisation in many cultures.
“In developing countries, infertility transforms from an acute, private agony into a harsh, public stigma with complex and devastating consequences,” notes Merck Foundation. “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.
The myth that you are alone
Infertility it is not the subject of casual conversations, and because of the myths and stigma surrounding it, many infertile women may feel isolated and alone.
However, according to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, infertility is one of the most common conditions affecting the reproductive age group between 20 and 45 years across the world, with an estimated 1 in 6 couples facing infertility challenges.
In developing countries, the numbers are even higher: more than 180 million couples suffer from primary or secondary infertility according to WHO data, which is 1 in every 4 couples.
Lack of awareness that infertility is a treatable medical condition
The truth about infertility is that it is a medical condition, which can be caused by an extensive list of possible causes, in both the male and the female partners.
For example, in sub-Saharan Africa, infection is the cause of infertility in up to 85% of women seeking infertility care, compared to 33% worldwide. In Africa, there are also higher levels of nongenetic and preventable causes of infertility such as poor nutrition; untreated sexually transmitted diseases (STDs); unsafe abortions; infections caused by female genital mutilation; and exposure to environmental pollutants.
There is also a wide range of advanced treatments available for the many different possible causes of infertility. These treatments have been used safely and effectively for decades to overcome virtually any infertility challenge.
Raising awareness to dispel misconceptions
At Medfem Fertility Clinic, we are proud to add our voice to that of other organisations that share this passion of raising awareness of infertility issues, such as IFAASA and SASREG locally as well as Merck Foundation in Africa, that offer those facing infertility excellent resources.
In South Africa, awareness of infertility is advocated by IFAASA, the Infertility Awareness Association of South Africa. IFAASA notes that the general public, numerous medical practitioners and many couples who are infertile are ignorant of the incredible journey infertile couples follow to achieve their families. IFAASA aims to drive public and industry awareness and understanding of infertility, and to lobby for fair support and change and equal access to public and private sector treatment. Find out more about IFAASA at https://ifaasa.co.za.
Medfem Fertility Clinic is a proud to be a supporter of IFAASA and pleased that our own Dr Antonio Rodrigues, a Reproductive Medicine Specialist and Director at Medfem Fertility Clinic, serves as a Non Executive Board Member of IFAASA.
Also advocating for greater awareness around fertility issues is the Southern African Society for Reproductive Medicine and Gynaecological Endoscopy (SASREG). SASREG serves to protect the interests of the patients undergoing fertility treatment and represents specialists in the field of reproductive medicine. Medfem Fertility Clinic is proudly registered with SASREG as an accredited fertility clinic.
Fertility Show Africa
Supported by both SASREG and IFAASA, the annual Fertility Show Africa, which will be taking place in October this year. This unique event offers Expert Talks programme with leading experts in the field of reproductive medicine to help visitors become informed and educated. The Medfem team will certainly also be at Fertility Show Africa, and we look forward to meeting you there.
Merck Foundation’s More Than a Mother Ambassadors – who are the First Ladies of more than 20 African countries – have joined forces to break the stigma of infertility and empower infertile women in their countries. The campaign aims to empower infertile women through access to information, education and a change of mindsets and defines interventions to break the stigma around infertile women and raises awareness about infertility prevention and management.
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 causes of infertility and the treatments available, simply click here to book an initial consultation or contact us telephonically on +27 (11) 463 2244.
We look forward to meeting you!