Infertility, Psychological Distress, and Coping Strategies among Women in Mali, West Africa: A Mixed-Methods Study

Rosanna F. Hess, Ratchneewan Ross, John L. GilillandJr

Abstract

Relatively little is known about infertility and its consequences in Mali, West Africa where the context and culture are different from those of previously studied settings. This study therefore aimed to specifically examine infertility induced psychological distress and coping strategies among women in Mali. A convergent mixed-methods design—correlational cross-sectional and qualitative descriptive—guided the study. Fifty-eight infertile Malian women participated: 52 completed the Psychological Evaluation Test specific for infertility and a question on general health status, and 26 were interviewed in-depth. Over 20% scored above the cut-off point for psychological distress, and 48% described their general health as poor. There was no significant difference between women with primary vs secondary infertility. The study found that infertile women lived with marital tensions, criticism from relatives, and stigmatization from the community. They experienced sadness, loneliness, and social deprivation. Coping strategies included traditional and biomedical treatments, religious faith and practices, and self-isolation. Health care professionals should provide holistic care for infertile women to meet their physical, spiritual, psychological, and social needs. (Afr J Reprod Health 2018; 22[1]: 60-72).

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