Don’t die in silence, infertility is treatable

Author, Mr Arthur Masiko. PHOTO/COURTESY. 

What you need to know:

  • Mr Arthur Matsiko says: Infertility’s causes pose a serious challenge to the distressed couple.

During one of my field visits in eastern Uganda while on a project about infertility, one woman intimated to me about how the community dubbed her ‘mother of nothing’. She was given the name because she has never given birth. Namuddu is currently 62, with no child of her own. 

Her experience reflects the many childless couples, who are living in constant stress and strain. 

Globally, infertility is recognised as one of the most disturbing conditions most couples grapple with today. Working with a fertility hospital has exposed me to so much experience and literature about infertility that I have realised how dire this health condition is increasingly becoming. 

According to Dr Sushma Deshmukh, a couple is declared infertile when there is no pregnancy after one year of marriage without using contraceptive with regular sexual practice. Due to ignorance, most people, especially in African communities, will blame the woman for failure to conceive. In fact, most women who visit fertility hospitals come without their husbands because society has framed the woman as barren, without realising that infertility also has a male factor. 

Besides, those who seek medical attention are few. Infertility’s myriad causes and consequences not only pose a serious challenge to the psyche and fortitude of the distressed couple, but also to the ability and knowledge of the treating physician. 

Devastated by what could be considered as a traumatic nightmare, patients, usually uninformed and ensnared in a vicious circle of circumstances dominated by stress, wander from practitioner to practitioner in search of the most eluding promise of a child. Many couples and individuals have confessed to me about how they have been conned of their money by individuals who claim to know treatment for infertility. 

Recently, one woman narrated to me about her fruitless search for a child five years in marriage. She said her husband has adamantly refused to accompany her for the required tests. Seemingly losing patience, she says her friend has advised her to try having unprotected sex with another man and see whether she can conceive. If at all she heeds this advice, which I discouraged her against, the consequences could be a matter of regret. Assuming that she actually conceives and gives birth, who will father this baby? I believe you can sense the direction this tangle would take. 

There are some cases where newly-married couples seek fertility treatment within three to six months. However, such couples need to be counselled and informed that only 15 per cent of couples conceive in their first month of marriage, 50 per cent in six months, 75 per cent in one year and 90 per cent at the end of two years. 

Infertility affects both men and women. In men, infertility can be as a result of mumps, absent or low volume ejaculate, azoospermia (absence of sperm cells in semen), oligospermia (sperm densities of less than 20 million/Ml), and asthenospermia (defects in the sperm movement), among others. 

In women, infertility can be due to blocked fallopian tubes, hormonal abnormality, endometriosis, and premature ovarian failure, among others. 
Amidst all this, however, advances in assisted reproductive techniques have sowed the grain of optimism in attempting to bring a smile to the couple careworn with childlessness. Thus, patients like Namuddu ought to visit a qualified fertility doctor, who will recommend the required tests after taking her medical history.

In the end, the role of a fertility doctor is in the determination of the cause of infertility and to apply the appropriate treatment. 

Mr Matsiko is communications officer, Women’s Hospital International and Fertility Centre,Bukoto-Kampala.
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