This study explores the experiences of infertile married African women in South Africa. The study explores the women’s emotional experiences, their experiences of their relationships and the possible ways in which their culture may have influenced their experiences. The literature review gives an overview of female infertility, motherhood and feminism- from its conception to its current status in South Africa. The study is carried out in a clinical setting where the participants are already attending an infertility clinic for treatment. Six black women participate in this study and they are all married and experiencing primary infertility. This study does not include women experiencing secondary infertility because although they may presently be infertile, they have previously experienced one or more successful pregnancies. Therefore, primary infertility is chosen as the focus of this study because unlike secondary infertile women, primary infertile women have never experienced pregnancy and childbirth and thus their infertility is more noticeable and severe. The study is qualitative in nature and it is conducted within a feminist social constructionist research paradigm. This research paradigm is deemed to be more relevant in researching an issue pertaining to women, because feminist research enables social scientists to explore women’s social history, women’s perception of their own situation, their own subordination and their own resistance (Mies, 1993). Through social constructionism, the women are each able to make meaning out of their experiences and to include the influences of their culture, gender and social context in the construction of their experiences. Furthermore, since feminist research perspectives have supported the process of telling sensitive human stories as research, a narrative approach is employed in gathering information regarding the women’s experiences of being infertile. Thus, through telling their own self-narratives, the women are able to relate their experiences as well as the events that took place in their lives regarding their infertility. Structural narrative analysis as well as content narrative analysis are employed in the analysis of the women’s narratives. What emerges from their stories is the hope and the subsequent disappointment that follows from their countless visits and consultations with different health professionals, both western and traditional, as they search for pregnancy. It also emerges that in addition to their personal experiences, these women’s marital and familial relationships, as well as their extended social relationships, also contribute to the emotional distress that they experience as a result of their infertility. Although most of the women mainly report negative experiences, there are also some who report positive experiences and some form of support in their lives. It is hoped that the results obtained from this study will enable psychologists to intervene effectively and to work collaboratively with other health professionals towards delivering services aimed at assisting infertile African women medically, socially and psychologically.
Dissertation (MA (Clinical Psychology))--University of Pretoria, 2008.