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- Infertility (or subfertility) may be defined as the inability to procreate. For women, this state of being may include: being unable to conceive, being unable to maintain a pregnancy to full term or being unable to carry a pregnancy to a live birth. World Health Organization (WHO), Infertility, WHO website, accessed 27.05.2013 The reproductive age for women is considered to be between 15 and 49 years of age. Demographically, one can be determined infertile after 5 years exposure of consistent sexual intercourse without the use of contraceptive and being non-lactating.World Health Organization (WHO) Infertility http://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/topics/infertility/definitions/en/index.html
- Primary Infertility is when a woman is unable to bear a child, either due to inability to become pregnant or carry a pregnancy to a live birth.
- Secondary Infertility is the same as Primary Infertility, except following a previous pregnancy. Thus those who have experienced multiple spontaneous miscarriages would be considered secondary infertile.World Health Organization Infertility Definitions http://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/topics/infertility/definitions/en/index.html
For men, fertility depends on the production of normal sperm and the delivery of it into the female vagina. Thus male infertility may be defined as the inability to produce or deliver healthy, fully functioning sperm. Urology Care Foundation: Male Infertility http://www.urologyhealth.org/urology/index.cfm?article=102 This is not to be confused with impotence or impotency (also known as erectile dysfunction) or the inability to maintain an erection.
In women, infertility can be caused by structural problems of the fallopian tubes causing blockages, structural problems with the uterus, or problems releasing eggs. However, a major factor with female infertility may be attributed to the inability to ovulate. Other factors include being over or underweight or her age, as a woman’s fertility declines with time, noticeable after age 35. NHS Choices: Causes of Infertility http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Infertility/Pages/Causes.aspx
In men, causes for infertility include testicular malformations and low semen quality or low semen count, often affected by drug use, radiation, or infection.
In both men and women, STIs can cause infertility as well.
In many cultures around the world, infertility has a very strong social stigma, especially in its relation to women, depending on the cultural context. Reproduction represents a continuation of the family and the survival of the species. Therefore fertility is respected and almost revered in most cultures around the world. The Social Construction of Infertility by Minority Women http://gerrystahl.net/personal/family/dissertation.pdf Those who are not able to reproduce are often stigmatized. For Example in Nigeria , motherhood can define a woman’s social worth, her treatment in a community, her economic status, and her own identity’s self worth. | Brown Anthropologist Examines Stigma of Infertility in Nigeria . In Amakiri, barren women are considered having not reached full womanhood and thus cannot participate in certain social events..
In Africa, infertility is a particular concern due to the widespread extent of the problem and the negative social connotations associated with it. The highest prevalence of infertility occurs in sub-Saharan countries. The average infertility rate in Africa is 10.1%, getting as high as 32% in some countries. Infertility in Africa http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12319540 As many as half of these cases are caused by male infertility, a fact rarely acknowledged by African communities due to conceptions of masculinity and infertility. Cultural belief and inaccurate information put the cause of infertility on the woman in most sub-Saharan african communities. Domestic Violence and Infertility http://nigerianhealthjournal.com/?p=338
Like many African countries, and developing nations in general, there is a stigmatization in Zimbabwe against those who are labeled as infertile. Married women, are without a doubt, the population who feel this stigma and pressure the most. The social burden rests on them as they are expected to become pregnant, often within the first year or two. IVF helps Nigerians overcome infertility stigma http://www.cnn.com/2011/09/15/world/africa/nigeria-ivf-treatment-stigma For many, infertility is a justifiable reason for divorce. According to a 2003 research project completed by Health Care Women International on the fertility patterns of women in Zimbabwe, at least one in every four women of childbearing age suffers from some degree of infertility. In fact, a 2010 World Population Prospect survey demonstrated that Zimbabwe has one of the world’s highest infertility rates.