The horrible truth about infertility

The shame and privacy associated with infertility, heightens the emotional wounds in both the couples. Courtesy Photo.
The shame and privacy associated with infertility, heightens the emotional wounds in both the couples. Courtesy Photo.

Sitting alone on a bench at Mulago Hospital, Evelyn Nabatanzi was in tears as she recounted how she and her husband have failed to conceive a child after three years of marriage.

“It is such a horrible feeling because even my in-laws have started getting women for my husband. I seem useless! This makes me cry all night and day;” said Nabatanzi.

The question of infertility is shrouded in the mystery and stigma and takes a great deal of courage to overcome childlessness in a society of fertile people. This situation arises when a man and a woman have frequent unprotected sex but the woman fails to conceive for 12 months.

About 35 per cent of all infertility cases arise from a problem within the man’s system and about 35 per cent from abnormalities in the woman’s system. About 20 per cent of the cases are as a result of problems resulting from both the man and the woman.

Statistics as to how many couples in Uganda are affected by infertility are not available. But according to Dr. Kisha Dennis, it is a condition that can have dramatic effects on sufferers.

“In an African setting, infertility is either a curse while in others it is a medical condition that can be rectified,” said Dr. Kisha. And as a medical condition, he added, there are numerous treatments.

In women, the causes can be the result of pelvic inflammatory diseases which affect the ovaries, uterus and fallopian tubes, polycystic ovary syndrome or hormonal imbalance, endometriosis and fibroids affecting the placenta lining.

Other causes in women are tumors of the ova, Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) like genital herpes, syphilis, gonorrhea, being allergic to the partner’s sperms and immunity systems problems whereby women develop antibodies that destroy a man’s sperm. Most of these conditions can be treated with a high level of success.

In men, the major causes of infertility are oligospermia or malformed sperms, low sperm count, poor quality sperms that cannot swim fast enough or in the right direction because of an abnormally shaped tail and under-developed testis usually arising after a birth defect, injury or accident.

Others causes in men are swollen veins in the scrotum which affects sperm production, exposure to metallic elements such as pesticides and injury on the testis.

Some of these causes are as a result of poor feeding, poor sexual practices for example the overuse of lubricants, stress in women which causes irregular periods, not having sex often enough when trying to conceive, putting on very tight pants especially in men, over-age or menopause and the heavy use of drugs including marijuana and alcohol.

Dr. Kasha listed off numerous treatments that have had positive results including hormonal therapy, surgical therapy in case of fibroids, incubation of sperms and ova (eggs), providing immune boosters and even counseling services.

“If you are having trouble conceiving, come, we are ready to do our best and you will live happily, said Dr. Kisha.

Having heard herself of couples having success after visiting the clinic, Nabatanzi expressed hope that the doctors would be able to find out where the source of her infertility lies.

“You never know,” said Nabatanzi, “One day I’ll also have a baby of my own.”

By Anita Tumusiime

  • Jennifer

    Within my own culture it’s a long time since I have heard anyone say that it is a woman’s fault that she cannot conceive or that she should feel any shame or be mocked or called selfish for wanting a baby. What people may say to such unfortunate women is not to allow it to ruin their lives or marriage or relationships. We underwent 6 rounds of IVF with ICSI due to MFI. One of the first things our doctor said is that there is hardly any research into Male Infertility (it’s just not a research ‘driver’/ no money in it) and as such women are subjected to some pretty grueling and expensive treatments in its place. We would have given anything for a pill to increase sperm count, instead of what we went through. We agreed on surrogacy. And thanks to Biotexcom clinic we welcomed gorgeous little princess. But we should do more to change at the societal/cultural level to reduce the pressure and stigma for men who struggle with their fertility. This also adds to our stack of reasons why we need to improve mental health resources for men including taking the stigma off accessing those resources. For men, many issues are made worse because they’re made to feel that they can’t share and can’t seek help.