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Open Access Research article

Infertility and childlessness: a qualitative study of the experiences of infertile couples in Northern Ghana

Philip Teg-Nefaah Tabong1* and Philip Baba Adongo2

Author Affiliations

1 Ghana Health Service, Brong Ahafo Regional Hospital, Sunyani, Ghana

2 Department of Social and Behavioural Sciences, School of Public Health, College of Health Sciences, University of Ghana, Legon, Accra, Ghana

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BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2013, 13:72  doi:10.1186/1471-2393-13-72

Published: 21 March 2013

Abstract

Background

Infertility is a global reproductive health issue that affects many individuals and couples. Despite the high prevalence of infertility in Ghana, no study has been done on the experiences of infertile couples in Northern Ghana. This study therefore explored the experiences of infertile couples in Northern Ghana using the Upper West Region as a case study.

Methods

We interviewed fifteen childless couples, forty-five couples with children, and eight key informants using a semi-structured interview guide. We also carried out three focus group discussions; one for childless women, one for women with children and one for men with children. The data were transcribed, coded, arranged and analyzed for categories and themes.

Results

Infertile couples are socially stigmatised and excluded from leadership roles in their communities. Couples without children are denied membership in the ancestral world thereby losing the opportunity to live again. Both males and females are engaged in sex with multiple partners to prove their fertility.

Conclusions

Both men and women suffer from the social effects of childlessness. The desire to have biological children in a pronatalist society results in unhealthy practices. Health policy makers and gender advocates should be more concerned about infertility.