Demystifying infertility issues

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A BIG part of being a woman is our ability to carry a child naturally in our bodies. It makes us feel empowered and confident in our womanhood to have that function or environment within our physic that allows for a brand new, delicate little human being with a heart, limbs and everything to be fed, develop and be safe for up to nine months.

Also, as the carrier of new life, we have the benefit or power to choose when we want to actually carry that life. For example, most women actively try to have a baby once they get married and other women will usually try after they have achieved most or one of their life goals.

You see most of us take for granted that we will fall pregnant when and as we want to but this is not always the case. Conceiving has proven to be a struggle for a lot of women dating back to Mrs Abraham, Sarah, in the Bible, who prayed for a child for years and years before she was finally blessed with Isaac.

I do not know what it is but it is as if God designed us to need a baby when we get to a certain point in our lives. I am a mother and my son was given to me when I was not ready to have him but I love him and now I even question who I was and what I was doing before him. I can therefore appreciate the role that a child plays in a woman’s life. Women were born to nurture and to care for others so a child gives you purpose and meaning to life, it becomes a friend and whether a woman is a mom or not, the absence of a child feels like a huge, gaping, black hole.

Infertility can be a lonely journey especially for women that have always imagined themselves being mothers one day. It is worse if the partner is not supportive. We have all witnessed men engage in extra-marital affairs when they are failing to conceive in their marriage.

Others get emotionally abusive and will bash their wives to every person willing to listen. That is the wrong way to deal with frustration. Men, the first thing you need to do when faced with this challenge is to remember that the victim is not you, it is your lady. Imagine how she is feeling. Probably helpless, disappointed and angry at herself for not being able to do what she should be able to do naturally and effortlessly. The best thing you can do is support her and map a way forward.

It is unfortunate that in Zimbabwe, a way forward, which involves a doctor, can be unaffordable. The surgeries, hormones, antibiotics and the supplements could mean parting with hefty sums of money. Nevertheless, there are ways of increasing fertility that are not as costly like exercising more, letting go of smoking, alcohol and illicit drugs and a change of diet. This all depends on the diagnosis.

Women are not open about their infertility issues because the world’s ignorance in general has led to a woman being blamed right off the bat for being that way. What woman, if given the option, would choose to be infertile?

There is a lot of stigma still attached to childless women that includes name-calling and even witchcraft speculations. It’s however important to note that men can also be infertile. Many a times in a relationship, it is the woman who is blamed for the couple’s failure to conceive even before she is diagnosed with anything. It is ridiculous. According to Dr Mahmoud Fathalla, male infertility has been found to be the cause of a couple’s failure to conceive in about 50 percent of cases. But the social burden falls on women thus we are zooming in on female infertility today.

Infertility issues should be demystified in our communities. I love my people but we have certain secrecy or pride that chains us from accessing information that could emancipate us from a lot of issues that we pretend not to face.

More than enough families in both rural and urban Zimbabwe face infertility issues but would rather die without having sought proper help than to ‘expose’ their dirty laundry. Women infertility is nobody’s fault and if it is treated that way, then services to treat it can be easily integrated into our communities.

There are a lot of reasons as to why some women blink and fall pregnant, why others will take a little longer to do so and why some are not able to fall pregnant at all, most of which are medical. There are conditions like ovulation disorder where a woman has irregular or no ovulation cycles due to hormonal imbalance or stress.

Some women will have an excess of cervical mucus that blocks fertilisation from taking place. I have also heard of a lot of cases of fallopian tubes being damaged by fibroids and tumours/cysts that lead to a woman’s conception complications. I am not a doctor so I will not get too technical with this but there is a wide spectrum of causes of infertility in women, some reversible yet some just leave permanent damage.

Infertility services and procedures like IVF are not available especially in developing countries. These issues are still linked to reproductive health care and maternal care so if services in those areas are improved and made more accessible not only to the rich but to the poor as well then the causes and preventions of women infertility can be addressed more effectively.

Usually, if you have been trying to conceive for over a year with no success, doctors advise you to go and see a gynaecologist. Diagnosis is done through a physical exam so tests will be done, samples collected and symptoms will be asked for.

Symptoms include abnormal periods, heavier bleeding or lighter than usual, irregular periods, no periods, skin changes and loss of hair. Fortunately today, information is at the tip of our fingers so learn more about your situation and get the help you need.

Everything happens for a reason and all of us as women face our many different challenges; what is important is to fight and stay strong.

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