The quest of infertile women in squatter settlements of Karachi, Pakistan: a qualitative study

Type Journal Article - Social science & medicine
Title The quest of infertile women in squatter settlements of Karachi, Pakistan: a qualitative study
Volume 49
Issue 5
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 1999
Page numbers 637-649
Objectives: There is a dearth of knowledge regarding Pakistani women's perceptions and treatment seeking behavior for infertility. We conducted this study to explore the contextual factors that influence the health-seeking behavior of infertile women in the lower socio-economic group.

Methods: In-depth interviews were conducted with 17 women, identified from clinics and community using pre-tested interview guidelines covering issues as the chronological sequence of the number and types of the health care providers consulted for infertility, household dynamics regarding decision making, perceived causes and social and psychological effects of infertility on the woman and her family.

Results: 14 of the 17 women interviewed presented with primary infertility and three with secondary infertility. Reasons reported for seeking treatment for primary infertility were: someone to carry on the family name, feeling alone andakhrat par maan bap bun kar uthna (getting up as a parent on judgment day). Two of the three women suffering from secondary infertility were seeking treatment because they did not have any male offspring. Of the 14 women, 11 initially sought treatment within the first two years of marriage; one woman reported that she was “coerced” by her mother-in-law to seek treatment following the first week of marriage. On average, a woman went to three health care providers (general practitioners, gynecologists and Traditional Birth Attendants) in her quest for assistance. The effects that infertility had on these women ranged from social pressure, coercion by in-laws and/or social isolation. Only one woman reported being put off by sex because it was not giving her what she ‘desired’.

Conclusion: Women in Pakistan seek care for infertility early and go to various types of health care providers. Infertility is usually treated as a clinical disease by the health care providers without considering its social ramifications.

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