Explanations for infertility: The case of women in rural Ghana

Dorcas Ofosu-Budu, Vilma Hänninen

Abstract

Infertility is a troubling condition for couples, especially for women, in pronatalist cultures. The ways in which infertility is explained have important effects on the stigma associated with childlessness and thus on the suffering it causes. This article explored the explanations for infertility among involuntarily childless women in the North-East and Ashanti regions of Ghana. Thirty infertile married women were interviewed, 15 from each region, by using a semi-structured interview protocol. A phenomenological study design and thematic analysis were used to explore the aetiological explanations of their infertility. The data from the Ashanti region was transcribed verbatim from Twi to English, coded, and analysed into themes unlike the data from the North-East which was already in English. Most of these infertile women attributed their condition to supernatural factors irrespective of their settings, level of education, and religion. They proffered such explanations for conditions for which they could not readily pinpoint causes or when these were for them beyond comprehension. Other explanations of infertility were medical, such as fluid in the ovaries and hormonal imbalance. Moreover, lifestyle factors such as the use of contraceptives or having had an abortion were mentioned. Some women mentioned that the cause of their infertility had not been found. Health professionals should educate women on reproductive health issues.  Counsellors and therapists should educate would-be couples on the possible challenges in marriages, especially concerning childlessness and infertility. Moreover, to reduce stigma, it is essential that the communities are educated on the documented causes of infertility. (Afr J Reprod Health 2021; 25[4]: 142-152).

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