"I dreamt I was holding a baby boy": Infertility in northern Malawi

Joanne M. Hemmings, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Infertility can have profound and damaging effects on women’s lives, especially in societies where women’s status is largely constituted through childbearing. However, little attention has been paid to the problem of infertility in the developing world. This study analysed demographic and health data and qualitative life history interviews to explore the effect that infertility had on women’s socio-economic, health and marital status in rural northern Malawi. Women with fertility problems were more likely to experience marital disruption and other reproductive health problems, and were more likely to be HIV positive. Treatment was largely through traditional healers, due to lack of facilities and trust in government clinics. Levels of knowledge concerning the aetiology and management of infertility were low. The study concludes that incorporating the prevention and management of infertility into primary health care in such settings would contribute to a more rounded, ‘locally coherent’ and trusted reproductive health service.

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Presented in Session 72: Reproductive health and infertility