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Coping with Infertility: An Explorative Study of South African Women’s Experiences

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DOI: 10.4236/ojog.2015.51008    4,591 Downloads   5,225 Views   Citations
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ABSTRACT

The expectation of getting married and having children is for many individuals a natural part of adult life. Many young people anticipate the prospect of becoming biological mothers and fathers. This expectation of parenthood emanates as individuals and couples are socially groomed to aspire to this social norm. Therefore, infertility can be a very traumatic and tormenting time for many men and women who aspire to conform to these socio-cultural conventions of normative parenthood and who believe that childbearing is central to their lives. Infertility is medically defined as the inability to achieve a pregnancy after a period of at least twelve months of regular sexual intercourse without contraception. For both men and women infertility may present pervasive feelings of incompleteness, a sense of failure and inadequacy. However, infertile women tend to endure a myriad of feeling losses and high levels of suffering and sorrow as a result of their inability to have children. This study explored a sample of South Africa women’s experiences of coping with infertility. Utilising a qualitative methodology, a diverse group of 21 married women who were diagnosed with primary infertility were recruited. Semi-structured, in-depth individual interviews were conducted and the data were analysed using thematic analysis. The results of the study indicated that the women reported emotional turmoil characterised by emotions such as disappointment and shock, anger and frustration, a deep sense of sadness and then progressed to experience a sense of acknowledgement that a problem existed. The findings of this study suggest that severe psychological and emotional strain accompany infertility. The coping strategies employed by these women in the study included social withdrawal and women isolating themselves from social events and social gatherings, avoiding pregnant women and women with children, engaging in escapism strategies on both a psychological level and a physical level. Employing an escapism strategy on a psychological level would involve deliberately thinking about strategies to avoid thinking about infertility, pregnancy or babies. Escapism on the physical level would include engaging in activities like shopping, working longer hours, sleeping more than usual, engaging in activities that would occupy an individual to the extent that they cannot think about anything else except the activities they are currently engaged in.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Cite this paper

Pedro, A. (2015) Coping with Infertility: An Explorative Study of South African Women’s Experiences. Open Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 5, 49-59. doi: 10.4236/ojog.2015.51008.

References

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/humrep/16.2.215
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3843/GLOWM.10413
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[19] Schmidt, L., Holstein, B., Christensen, U. and Boivin, J. (2005) Does Infertility Cause Marital Benefit? An Epidemiological Study of 2250 Women and Men in Fertility Treatment. Patient Education & Counselling, 59, 244-251. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pec.2005.07.015
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[21] Miall, C.E. (1986) The Stigma of Involuntary Childlessness. Social Problems, 33, 268-282.
http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/800719
[22] Joshi, H.L., Singh, H. and Bindu (2009) Psychological Distress, Coping and Subjective Wellbeing among Infertile Women. Journal of the Indian Academy of Applied Psychology, 35, 329-336.
[23] Wirtberg, I. (2006) His and Her Childlessness. Dissertation Karolinska Institute, University of Sweden, Stockholm.
[24] Ndaba, N. (1994) The Experiences of Infertile African Women in Durban. Unpublished Masters’ Dissertation, University of Natal, South Africa.
[25] Ulrich, M. and Weatherall, A. (2000) Motherhood and Infertility: Motherhood through the Lens of Infertility. Feminism & Psychology, 10, 323-336. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0959353500010003003
[26] Wager, M. (2000) Childless by Choice? Ambivalence and the Female Identity. Feminism & Psychology, 10, 389-395. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0959353500010003010
[27] Woollett, A. and Boyle, M. (2000) Reproduction, Women’s Lives and Subjectivities. Feminism & Psychology, 10, 307-311. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0959353500010003001
[28] Van Balen, F. and Gerrits, T. (2001) Quality of Infertility Care in Poor-Resource Areas and the Introduction of New Reproductive Technologies. Human Reproduction, 16, 215-219.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/humrep/16.2.215
[29] Klock, S. (2011) Psychological Issues Related to Infertility. Global Library of Women’s Medicine. http://dx.doi.org/10.3843/GLOWM.10413
[30] Seibel, M.M. and Taymor, M.L. (1982) Emotional Aspects in Infertility. Fertility and Sterility, 37, 137-145.
[31] Domar, A.D., Zuttermeister, P.C. and Friedman, R. (1993) The Psychological Impact of Infertility: A Comparison with Patients with Other Medical Conditions. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 14, 45-52.
[32] Boonmongkon, P. (2002) Family Networks and Support to Infertile People. In: Vayena, E., Rowe, P.J. and Griffin, P.D., Eds., Current Practices and Controversies in Assisted Reproduction, World Health Organisation (WHO), Geneva.
[33] Hasty, J.A. (2011) Fundamentally Flawed: Finding Peace and Hope in Infertility. New Book Publishing.com, USA.
[34] Kubler-Ross, E. (1969) On Death and Dying. Macmillan, New York.
[35] Abbey, A. (2000) Adjusting to Infertility Loss and Trauma: General and Close. Relationship Perspectives, 12, 331-344.
[36] Cooper, R. (2007) When the Professional Is Personal. Forum, 33, 5-6.
[37] Pedro, A.S. (2001) The Emotional Experiences of Infertile Couples. Unpublished Thesis, University of the Western Cape, Bellville.
[38] Pedro, A.S. (2004) A Discourse Analysis of South African Infertile Women. Unpublished Thesis, University of the Western Cape, Bellville.
[39] Larsen, U. (2000) Infertility in Central Africa. Tropical Medicine and International Health, 8, 354-367. http://dx.doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-3156.2003.01039.x
[40] Schmidt, L., Holstein, B., Christensen, U. and Boivin, J. (2005) Does Infertility Cause Marital Benefit? An Epidemiological Study of 2250 Women and Men in Fertility Treatment. Patient Education & Counselling, 59, 244-251. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pec.2005.07.015
[41] Lee, T.E., Sun, G.H., Chao, S.C. and Chen, C.C. (2000) Development of the Coping Scale for Infertile Couples. Archives of Andrology, 45, 149-154. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01485010050193922
[42] Miall, C.E. (1986) The Stigma of Involuntary Childlessness. Social Problems, 33, 268-282.
http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/800719

  
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