by Nasreen Ebrahim-Sardiwalla
*Nasreen is a Clinical Psychologist based in Durban, South Africa
So many women and couples have a dream of falling pregnant. For some this dream becomes a reality, not once, but many a time. For others, sadly this is not the case as there are factors that hinder this process and make falling pregnant very difficult. This creates many physical and emotional challenges for the individuals involved.
This article serves to explain the above and also the factors to take into consideration when faced with such a scenario or when dealing with people who are faced with this difficulty.
I write this article as a psychologist who has experienced problems regarding the above first-hand. Hence the information hereunder is supported by first hand knowledge and experience of the above. I will also discuss ways that I have found to help one cope with infertility from professional and personal experience.
Infertility as defined by the Dictionary of Psychology is “An inability to produce offspring. A diminished capacity or less than normal ability to produce offspring. Infertility is typically used for conditions which are temporary or reversible. Sterility is preferred for those diagnosed to be permanent or difficult to reverse”.
Whether individuals are experiencing infertility or sterility the impact is more or less the same, although with sterility there may be a greater loss of hope.
In very general medical terms (as this is an article more of a psychological nature) there can be various reasons for infertility, namely :
• Female deficits with regards to the uterus, ovaries, eggs, etc.
• Problems with regards to previous pregnancies and childbirth.
• Male deficits with regards to sperm count and sperm strength.
• Unsafe abortions
• Genetic problems in family history
• Alcohol or drug abuse
Sometimes, there is no sound medical reason and some couples are just not able to conceive.
Psychological Impact of Infertility
Individuals who are unable to conceive for whatever reason undergo various difficulties. Society, sometimes compounds this as there are many inquisitive people out there that feel that it is their business to know why people are unable to have children and are ever ready to give advice as to why they are unable to conceive.
Some of the emotions and difficulties associated with infertility include:
• Feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness.
• Feelings of helplessness
• Guilt (this is especially evident for the individual in the relationship that may be presenting with the medical condition that is preventing pregnancy)
• Anger (at doctors, oneself and even GOD)
• Feelings of isolation
• Financial strain (couples will try many avenues in trying to address the problem which results in substantial expense)
• Marital / relationship problems (tensions run high between individuals in a relationship, blame shifting can occur and often if there is no understanding a marriage may desolve due to not being able to have a child)
Psychological Disorders associated with above Feelings
If the above goes unnoticed, is taken for granted or is not treated professionally, they may give rise to :
• Mood Disorders (Depression, Mania)
• Risk behaviours or suicidality
• Anxiety Disorders (Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)
• Adjustment Disorder
What To Do?
Identify that there is a problem and it is having an effect on you, your partner or both.
Do not be afraid to discuss the problem and how it makes you feel with each other.
Educate yourself on the problem through books, magazines, the internet and so forth. The more you know about a situation the more you open up to the possibilities out there to solving it. This also creates an awareness of others around you that may be going through similar circumstances.
Talk to close family or friends about it, only if you know they are going to be a source of comfort and not criticism which will make the situation worse.
Seek medical help (gynae, fertility specialist)
Seek authentic spiritual help (moulana, priest, etc)
Seek emotional help if need be, especially if any of the factors outlined above are evident (psychologist, psychiatrists, infertility groups)
Infertility Clinics (Although these have helped many, depending on ones religious orientation, one should be weary or mindful about what is going to occur here. Before commencing treatment, gather as much information as possible.)
Implement lifestyle changes (less stress, more exercise, healthy eating eliminate bad habits such s smoking or drinking)
Try not to allow the infertility to become the focus of your life. Many couples have reported that once they accepted the problem and decided to move forward from it, is exactly when they have fallen pregnant. Find other avenues or hobbies in life to redirect your thoughts.
If someone around you is experiencing the problem falling pregnant and you are not sure what to say to this person, rather not say anything. As human beings we are often under the conception that we have to say something to make the person feel better. However, all the person may require is for you to listen. If you do feel you need to say anything, rather it be in the form of encouragement and support and not criticism.
If you have a baby and do not know how to deal with a close a friend or family who cannot have a baby, take your cue in dealing with this person from the person themselves – if the person finds it difficult to be around you and your child, respect this and do not force the issue – if the person wants to spend more time with your child, indulge or entertain this as it may be a source of comfort to him / her.
If you yourself and your spouse are experiencing difficulty in being around people who have babies there are few things you need to consider:
Realise that your feelings (jealousy, anger,) are normal – do not feel guilty about them.
Accept these feelings but also come to a realization that you may have to accept the infertility as well – acceptance of any problem is the key to moving on from it.
If it is close family or friends and you feel comfortable enough, discuss how you feel with the people involved.
Also consider the advantages if you can, about not being able to have children, namely, less financial expenses in this day and age, less worry about the safety and vices that surround children in this era and the fact that you and your spouse ironically may now have a stronger bond with one another due to the fact that your time is divided only between the two of you.
Islamic Prescriptions for Infertility
Hafiz Aslam Patel in his book, Ashraf’s Blessings of Marriage (2008) states on infertility “Allah says in the glorious Quraan : To Allah belongs the kingdom of the Heavens and the earth, He creates what He wills. He bestows female (children) upon whom He wills, and bestows male (children) upon whom He wills. Or bestows both males and females, and He renders barren whom He wills. Indeed, He is the All-Knower and is able to do all things. (43:49-50) “
From the above it is quite evident that as Muslims we should place our faith solely on our creator and trust that He knows what He is doing in not giving us offspring. However, in so doing one should not forget the mercy of our Creator and never stop asking what it is we desire. It has been said that Allah tests those that he loves and if we forget Him in our time of need, surely we are failing the test. Also by asking, we are placing ourselves closer and closer to Him. So no matter how futile it may seem, never stop asking the Almighty or whatever God you may believe in for what you desire.
Also read abundantly : Rabbi hab lee mil la-dunka zhurriyatan tayyibah. Innaka samee-ud duaa (My Lord, grant me from You a pure progeny; surely You are the Hearer of prayers).
And Inshallah Allah knows best…
May all your duas be accepted accepted. Ameen