Ways of reducing the stigma of infertility: Views of infertile women and their herbalists

Dorcas Ofosu-Budu, Vilma Hänninen

Abstract

Infertility has debilitating effects on couples, especially for women and in pronatalist cultures. This study explored ways of reducing stigma from infertility in Ghana. Thirty infertile married women were interviewed: 15 each from the North-East and Ashanti regions. Ten herbalists were interviewed: five from the North-East, two from the Ashanti, and three from the Greater Accra, regions. A semi-structured protocol was used. A phenomenological study design was employed to explore experiences and views and thematic analysis was used: coding and analysing all this data, to identify themes. Ways of reducing stigma were suggested at different levels: society, community members, herbalists, and infertile women. The women and herbalists suggested that public education was necessary to avoid certain misconceptions about childlessness such as wombs being removed spiritually by others due to jealousy or envy. They stated that the community can be sensitized to the effects of stigma such as perceiving victims as cursed and useless. Women in the North-East region suggested they should be empowered and assisted financially to establish their own businesses. All the herbalists pledged their unflinching support for comprehensive public education and expressed their readiness to partake in the campaign to curb the stigma. Most Ghanaians have limited knowledge of the causes of infertility, resulting in stigmatization.  Most people do not know that infertility has some unexplained or natural causes and, therefore, attribute all causes to spirits, abortions, or both. It is essential that communities are educated on the causes and treatment of infertility as well as on how they can support such women and help improve their well-being. (Afr J Reprod Health 2021; 25[2]: 110-119).

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