Infertility has a devasting effect and a major emotional impact on those who suffer from it.
It strains relationships and takes an enormous psychological toll on individuals.
It is estimated that infertility in Africa affects one in six couples, which means that in Southern Africa alone there are eight million people who suffer from infertility. And yet there are still taboos and stigmas surrounding the subject.
Which is why news of the African continent’s first ever dedicated fertility show was enthusiastically received from all quarters.
Fertility Show Africa (FSA) follows successful international fertility events that have taken place across the globe. They offer those struggling to conceive, and those on a journey to parenthood, the opportunity to engage with specialists and experts and be exposed to every conceivable alternative in a supportive and unobtrusive environment.
FSA gives attendees the opportunity to chat face-to-face with a wide range of clinics and experts as well as offering an unparalleled speaker programme from leading fertility and adoption experts in a space where visitors can engage, ask questions, find answers and gather information from some of South Africa’s best specialists, embryologists, nurses, psychologists and social workers.
Exhibitors range from doctors to clinicians and practitioners, top class fertility clinics, adoption and surrogacy specialists, advice groups, donor agencies, complementary and alternative therapies, supplements, diet, nutritional & lifestyle advisors. There is an impressive line-up of speakers in the Expert Talks and Support Zone areas at the show.
The driving force behind the exhibition, Heidi Warricker, is well aware of how difficult it is for some people suffering from infertility to come out in the open and discuss it.
“FSA will host fertility patients in a discreet environment where they will be with a likeminded community to share their journey and obtain support while discovering and exploring the wide range of options available to them, she explains.”
And while she has some of the best medical experts in their field all under one roof, she is also aware of how important it is to feature those who have walked the hard road of infertility themselves.
Two such people are Pastor Jerry and Karabo Zwane who founded Hannah – You Are Not Alone after their struggles with infertility and to help other couples. Depression and loss of hope took the best out of them and so they have devoted themselves to helping couples rise above the perceived shame of infertility.
Says Pastor Jerry: “You can’t talk to your father about it because your father has another plan which is get another wife. You feel isolated, you feel lonely. Infertility is still regarded as a taboo in South Africa and a lot of couples still experience the stigma around it. Couples need to get crucial information for their journey from reputable professionals. It’s all about information, information, information. When struggling with infertility, ignorance is not bliss, it’s expensive,” he says.
“It’s also imperative that those suffering from infertility meet with those who have gone through the same experiences. It helps you to keep believing in miracles when you hear other people’s success stories,” he believes.
Award-winning filmmaker and entrepreneur Molatelo Mainetje-Bossman has spoken out about her battles through her documentary film When Babies Don’t Come where she documents her 10-year struggle with infertility.
Through the film, Mainetje-Bossman has not only inspired many people but has also given a voice to many men and women with the same condition.
“Infertility affects more people than we think. But because it’s such a stigmatised condition, many would rather die in silence than seek medical assistance. Infertility is also one of most misunderstood medical conditions, especially in black communities where only women take the blame. I am determined to explore and break the silence on infertility in these areas.” explains Mainetje-Bossman.
However, just as important is that those suffering from fertility obtain the necessary support.
Renowned clinical psychologist Mandy Rodrigues has worked in the field of infertility for the past 24 years. This includes working with individuals, couples and groups, helping them cope with their fertility journey and assist them with making life-changing decisions. A large part of her practice involves stress management and the need for a multi-disciplinary approach to infertility.
What is her No 1 piece of advice for those embarking on a fertility journey?“It is a process, and a very emotionally charged one for the individual and the couple and touches all aspects of one’s life. Each step is overwhelming but there is a process that can help one predict the journey and acquire the skills to make the journey more manageable. It makes it a little hopeful instead of simply overwhelming.”
It’s a view echoed by fellow psychologist Sue-Ann Bright: “The experience of infertility is a difficult one and has significant impact on relationships and an individual’s sense of self. We need to start to break down the social stigma of infertility which will lead to productive and healthy conversations and can give individuals and couples a different perspective on their fertility status.”
The last word to Tertia Albertyn, co-founder of Nurture Egg Donation Programme who is an ex-infertility patient herself.
“If are you open to it, there are many wonderful ways to have the family you so badly want. The conception might not happen the ‘old fashioned’ way; you might need the help of donor sperm or donor eggs, or even a surrogate. But there is hope!”