Experts suggest that 15% to 20% of the South African population struggle with infertility. What that means is that one in every six couples will be going through the emotional heartache of infertility.
Many couples choose to keep their struggle with infertility secret from family and friends. This means putting up with jokes and jibes about when plans will be made to have the much anticipated babies.
Some couples endure a great deal of whispers and gossip about “whose fault it is”. Because of the stigma associated with infertility, many couples choose to keep their struggle secret. Many IVF clinics in South Africa are working toward changing the stigma surrounding the infertility process. What should you know about this topic and can you be part of the solution?
The Stigma of Infertility: Still Very Real in 2020
The stigma surrounding infertility has been around since the concept of infertility itself. Here are a few facts you need to know.
Why the Stigma?
The stigma of infertility is not country, culture or race specific. Everyone who is or has been on the infertility journey will at some point have been exposed to some form of prejudice because of their inability to have children. Whether it’s a comment, a look or a joke, it’s there. No one wants to be labeled as being infertile and creating the implication of failure.
Part of the origins of the stigma can be traced back to ancient times. Juno the Roman goddess of fertility is proof that fertility issues were prevalent even in Roman times. Ancient Hebrew culture even allowed a husband to exchange his wife if she didn’t have children. So, it’s been around for a while.
Irrespective of culture, society expects people to have children. Not being able to bear children hints at the question of purpose. If you’re not going to have a family, what are you going to do? The implication being that without the prospect of being a parent, you aren’t conforming to societal expectations.
In some countries infertility is considered something to be ashamed of. In most cases this shame is bestowed upon the woman because people make assumptions without knowing the true facts.
Not Everyone Understands
Unfortunately, people don’t always understand the rollercoaster of emotional turmoil that goes along with infertility. Have you heard the regular questions and jibes, ‘when is it your turn?’ or ‘You’re getting old, you need to start making a plan’? This can cause much hurt for some couples.
On the other side are people who try too hard to understand and end up offering all sorts of nonsensical ‘advice’ like ‘relax, it’ll happen’ or ‘you’re trying too hard’. Even this can magnify the loss, rather than help the situation.
Can There be a Different Future?
Fortunately, modern technology has been able to alleviate the struggle many childless couples face. However, there will still be couples for whom IVF doesn’t work. It’s up to society to change how people are treated based on the number of children they can or can’t have.
Being more accepting of the situation will ease the pressure and heartache childless couples feel. Stigmas won’t change overnight. However, acceptance and consideration are steps towards changing the way we view fertility.