A Ghanaian fertility specialist has urged society to fight stigma and desist from blaming women over infertility issues.
Addressing a Merck Foundation zoom meeting recently, Dr Ekem Hiadzi highlighted that the Sub-Saharan Africa has a high infertility prevalence compared to developed countries such as the UK and USA.
“According to a WHO report from 1987 infertility is the failure of a couple to achieve a pregnancy after 1 year of unprotected intercourse. Primary infertility is if pregnancy has never occurred while secondary is if there has been a preceding pregnancy irrespective of the outcome,” said Dr Hiadzi.
He said in developing countries, the high level of infertility was due largely to consequences of reproductive tract infections.
“These are commonly from sexually transmitted infections post abortal infections and puerperal infection which lead to tubal occlusion and peritubal adhesions. All the above lead to blocked tubes and/or peritubal adhesions. Several studies have shown higher levels of infectious organism in infertile women compared to fertile controls.
“In addition prolonged obstructed labor is a frequent complication of pregnancy in many African countries. This is often complicated by pelvic infection which can result in maternal death or severe tubal damage or obstetric fistula (urinary or fecal) and its sequelae,” the fertility specialist said.
Dr Hiadzi said infertility is a major cause of marital disharmony in Africa which exposes women especially to ostracisation, social discrimination and physical violence.
“While infertility affects both females and males, for the sterner sex, in sub-Saharan Africa, sexually transmitted disease especially by Gonorrhea and Chlamydia account for a significant proportion of cases. “These infections cause chronic epididymitis and occlusion of the vas deferens leading to oligospermia (low sperm count) and azoospermia (No sperms in semen),” the fertility specialist added.
Speaking at the same meeting the First Lady of Zimbabwe, Auxillia Mnangagwa said it should be made known through media that males can also be sterile.
“We want the media to bring out the message that Infertility affects men and women. This cannot be a blame game yet women bear the brunt of this game,” said the First Lady.
“Factors that include poor nutrition, untreated sexually transmitted diseases, unsafe abortions consequences of genital mutilation and exposure to smoking also lead to infertility. Hence men and women are affected equally,” she said.