By Ahedor Jessica
The traditional Ghanaian society is pro-natal -a belief that promotes the reproduction of human life, where the ultimate purpose of marriage is to produce children who will continue their family lineage. As such, after marriage in most homes it is expected that a cry of a baby will be heard a few months on. In some places, during the marriage ceremony, there are expectations that the woman must be pregnant.
Contrary to this expectation is the family pressure and name -calling that will ensue it. Available literature on public perception about infertility is usually about the woman being cursed or belonging to a cult that exchanged her womb for a material gain.
Bridget Dapaah is one of such women suffering the fate of not carrying her own child after being married for 5 years. She narrated how her mother-in-law has almost taken over her matrimonial home for the past 3 years after arranging other women for her son to bear grandchildren for her. “Few months after we got married, my mother-in-law came to visit. And said I hope my son hasn’t brought home another man? I expected her actions towards me to change after I confided in her I had a miscarriage a year and a half into our marriage. They were twins since then nothing happened again except the pressure and the insults from my mother-in -law”.
For Bridget, what is compounding her situation is the diminishing support from the husband in these difficult years. Funding for alternative means to bear children is not forthcoming because the cost involved is huge and the National Health Insurance Scheme NHIS does not cover most fertility tests. In a typical African society, it is usually women that suffer the pressure from in-laws and sometimes physical and emotional abuses regarding childbirth.
But infertility according to the World Health Organization WHO is a disease of the male or female reproductive system defined by the failure to achieve a pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse. Infertility affects millions of people of reproductive age worldwide–and has an impact on their families and communities. It is estimated that between 48 million couples and 186 million individuals live with infertility globally.
Fertility specialist in Accra, Ghana, Edem K Hiadzi, during the Merck foundation’s media training conference as part of the 8th Edition of Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary said, infertility in Ghana and other sub-Saharan countries deserves more recognition as a public health problem.
He called on stakeholders in the health sector, to work towards including fertility related issues onto the policy agenda of reproductive health needs of women. “We are aware cost is a major challenge to many couples who are going through infertility issues. And I hope policy makers will include fertility and its related issues will be captured onto the National Health Insurance Scheme to lessen this burden”.
Meanwhile, the First Lady of the republic of Ghana and one of the Ambassadors of “Merck More Than a Mother” Rebecca Akufo Addo is leading education among peer groups and the Rebecca foundation programs to intensify public education about the causes of infertility and prevention to break the stigma and its associated abuses dealt with.