The likelihood of infertility rises as we age. Approximately 50% of infertility is due to the female partner and 50% to the male partner. Around 1 in 7 couples may have difficulty conceiving. About 84% of couples will conceive naturally within a year if they have regular unprotected intimacy (every 2 or 3 days). For couples who have been trying to conceive for more than 3 years without success, the likelihood of getting pregnant naturally within the next year is 1 in 4 or less.[1]

Females tend to be more active in getting themselves tested and seek treatment than males which can be a problem when trying to determine the cause of infertility.[2] This problem may be due to many factors such as, family structures, self-confidence, religious views, taboo topics, etc. The problem may be further compounded by external expectations (especially living within an Asian/Muslim household) from in-laws and surrounding community.

Within most Asian households, if a couple is undergoing difficulty conceiving for many years, it is commonly assumed that the problem lies with the female partner without considering the possibility that it could be male infertility. This type of thinking and reaction is most often influenced by unchecked cultural norms and a general lack of education in these matters. Matters are only ever more complicated when it is considered a taboo subject, which is the case amongst our Muslim community. This usually hinders any type of open minded and emotionally productive discussion on the matter. Some couples even choose not to turn to their own family members or friends for support and comfort as they are almost certain of a negative reaction at worst, and at the very least disappointment and gossip.

As far as I am aware very little has been contributed to the subject of infertility and mental health in contemporary Islamic literature.

The issue of infertility is not just a physical problem, it also affects the mental state of a person. One who suffers from infertility, whether male or female, can experience severe depression, loss in confidence, self-doubt, lack of motivation, and loss of purpose. Such a person can also feel lost and become quiet, as they feel no one will truly understand the turmoil that they are going through internally. For some, knowing that these feelings may possibly never be extinguished can devastate them, leaving long lasting effects in their personality and confidence.

Most health care professionals only recognize 2 types of infertility. Primary infertility, where someone who’s never conceived a child in the past has difficulty conceiving. Secondary infertility,  where someone has had 1 or more pregnancies in the past but is having difficulty conceiving again.[3]

I would suggest there is a third category to consider. The partner of the one who is having difficulty conceiving can also suffer from many of the same (if not all) mental conditions as their partner.

Through this multi-part series, I seek to first show those of you who are suffering from infertility and feel all alone, you are not alone and that there are so many people around you that understand you, or genuinely want to understand you, and can provide a support network if you choose to reach out. Secondly, I wish to help those genuinely interested in infertility gain an insight into how it can affect one mentally. You may have a family member or a friend dealing with infertility. Despite your care and concern for them, you may not find yourself confident in approaching them sensitively, or you simply may not know enough to reach out to them to offer support.

Whatever the reason may be for your interest on this niche topic, I commend you for your effort and sincerity. Throughout this series you’ll read several contributions of those suffering from infertility firsthand. Up next: Infertility and In-Laws

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[2] page 87/Cupping Therapy for Muscles and Joints/Kenneth Choi/2018


Saj Ahmed

Muslim Mental Health | Books

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