The Problem of Infertility in High Fertility Populations: Meanings, Consequences and Coping Mechanisms in Two Nigerian Communities

Marida Hollos, Brown University
Ulla M Larsen, University of Maryland
Oka Obono, University of Ibadan
Bruce Whitehouse, Brown University

The paper examines local meanings of infertility as they are shaped by the larger social and cultural context; the impact of the prevalence of infertility on these meanings and how the above affect community responses, life experiences and infertility treatment seeking behaviors in two African communities. The interdisciplinary research was conducted among the Ijo and Yakurr people of southern Nigeria. The methodology included a survey of approximately 100 infertile and a matching sample of 100 fertile women as well as in-depth ethnographic interviews with infertile and fertile in two communities. The overall findings indicate that while there are variations in the extent to which infertility is considered problematic, due to a number of factors, including the level and the history of infertility in a particular location, the descent structure and the symbolic meaning attributed to infertility, the necessity for a woman to have a child remains basic in sub-Saharan Africa.

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Presented in Session 112: Voluntary and Involuntary Childlessness: Gender Issues