Tuesday, August 8, 2017

PSA for Low-Income South African Infertiles

Because I was there, because I know what it's like to have absolutely no clue where to go next, because I am more informed now than I was back then.

Because there are some taboos our culture needs to break. Because too many African women are unfairly stigmatised, called ugly names, even forced to watch their husbands take second wives... You know, because apparently only women are infertile?

Infertility-according to the WHO-is a disease. A disease. When you have a disease, you treat it, right? You check out the symptoms, go to the doctor, doctor gives you some course of treatment and if it fails, sends you to a specialist. Or realises immediately that it's beyond her ken and sends you to a specialist immediately.

Back then, I was in the UK when I waited the requisite 12 months before getting checked out. (Everyone says you're infertile if you don't conceive 12 months after trying. Even the WHO does. But the NHS GP told me I should have gone sooner. He didn't have a good bedside manner!) If you're older than 35, don't wait ages. There's the small matter of egg numbers being lower and quality being worse. Then before I even received all my results, we were in Kenya which is where more invasive and painful testing was conducted on me, and testing for my husband. I really had no clue where to go and who best to see.

Number 1. Ladies, it's not always you who has problems. Men can have issues with their s---m too. Be it in low numbers, having the wrong shape, not moving well. It could be anything! We really need to get out of labelling women when a couple fails to conceive. Not that men should also be labelled. But unless the man has fathered a child elsewhere, how do people know he's not the one with the problem?

Number 2. There are fertility specialists. Gynae isn't the only one who deals with that part of our anatomy. If a urologist has seen your spouse and he's got the all clear and the 'easy' gynae tests don't show much, or show something s/he can't treat, see a fertility specialist. Some are expensive, some are not. Number 3: Government facilities like Groote Schuur and Steve Biko are a bit cheaper than private, and then there's Tygerberg which is even cheaper. You do not have to lose hope just because you can't afford private care. It's just a pity no medical aid covers it, unlike some health insurers in the USA. It's sad because we apparently have a very high infection rate that has caused our country to have a huge infertility problem. All you need is a referral letter and you can contact them and get the ball rolling. Obviously waiting lists and which part of SA you are in will have an impact on how soon you can be seen.

Obviously there is no guarantee that treatment will work, but I hate seeing my sisters in tears because they are called names by the community or feel horrible pressure from in-laws, or have their lobola demanded back just because of something that CAN be treated. If this will help decrease someone's emotional burden, then .. great!

At the end of the day, besides the external pressure, there's the sorrow you feel as month after month, you are reminded that what others find so easy, you cannot do. If this will alleviate your suffering, give you hope, then that's ..great!

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