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Men too should bear the blame and stigma that comes with infertility

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 Men too should bear the shame and stigma that comes with infertility (Photo: iStock)

Men account for between 40 to 50 per cent of all infertility cases and yet I have never seen church programmes for men praying for the fruits of their testicles.

Since the beginning of time, infertility has been made a purely female issue, certainly because women have always been able to have children with other men to cover the shame of their husbands. I have never seen a man going through fertility treatment or climbing mountains and crossing rivers to look for a cure for his infertility.

I have been to churches where women who couldn't conceive were being prayed for and I have never seen men being part of those prayers even though one in 20 men have low sperm count.

The burden of having children and the shame of not having them is entirely placed on women despite the fact that it takes two people to have a child.

This shame that is placed entirely on women's shoulders is why men never plan their life around their biological clocks even though andropause affects a considerable number of men.

Male fertility has also been on a decline since the 1970s - not forgetting that sperm quality decreases after the age of 35.

They all believe they can get children at 70 even though sperm banks have an age limit of 40. Putting men aside, infertility is one of those facts of life we should all be taught to accept as we grow up. In our conversations with each other as young women, we often talk about having children and never take the time to talk about the very real possibility of never having children and what we would do if it happened that we couldn't.

I do not think men ever consider the possibility of being infertile either. Infertility always comes as a shocker to most people the moment they start trying for kids and that is why it breaks marriages. It is often depressing.

Not that people aren't allowed to grieve but acceptance would be easy if we all didn't grow up shielded from reality.

It breaks my heart each time I see a woman going through endless treatments, prayers, and endless trips to different witch doctors all because we haven't been taught to accept infertility for what it is. We have been socialised to believe there's something wrong with not being able to have children of your own and that infertility is a curse from God or something. Women are especially blamed fully on this and that is why they struggle with infertility than any other demographic.

Being childless is okay and I am glad a child-free movement exists. It is the first movement that has shown women that it is okay not to have children. Women without children have always been treated as outcasts and they are often accused of having ruined themselves with abortions even though abortions are not part of the top ten causes of infertility. There's no shame in being infertile but as long as having children is seen as a milestone everyone must hit, women are never going to break free from the shame and the pressure that comes with infertility.

We have to normalise being childless by choice to destigmatise infertility just like we need to normalise adoption. The question women should learn to talk to men about before they get married is infertility. Are biological children an absolute requirement?

What do they feel about adoption? Would they defend you against their families if you couldn't have kids? Would they expect you to have kids with another man if they were infertile?

As a woman without children, infertility is also one of those things you should think about deeply. I am all for positive thinking but you should not move through life with the absolute belief that you will automatically conceive a child in the blink of an eye when you decide to have one.

Just like you actively plan for the day you will have children, you should also plan for the possibility of not being able to have any. What do you feel about surrogacy? Are you open to adopting? How many rounds of IVF treatments are you willing to go through before you consider alternative options?

There's only so much a person can do but women usually put themselves through unimaginable torment because society hasn't accepted infertility as a normal occurrence of life.

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