Stigmatising childless women can cause depression – Clinical Psychologist

Stigmatising childless women can cause depression - Clinical Psychologist

Dr. Ebezer Tetteh Kpalam, a Clinical Psychologist and lecturer at Pentecost University, has called on society to cease stigmatizing women grappling with infertility challenges, citing the detrimental impact such stigma can have on their , including .

Dr Kpalam, who is also a pastor with of Pentecost, said such women already had a lot of psychological issues of their expectations to deal with; therefore, stigmatising them would compound it.

He defined a childless woman as a woman who is married and regularly engages in unprotected sexual contact for 12 months or more without getting pregnant.

He told the (GNA) in an interview that stigmatisation could be in many forms, noting that Ghanaian society and culture unconsciously fueled such situations against childless couples, especially women.

He said in the Ghanaian society where naming ceremonies were highly valued, these women who belong to families and other groupings would also want to invite their peers to witness such an event for them too.

This causes a lot of anxiety and fear of what people might say about them if they did not attend such events and the comments that people usually would make against her at the ceremony, he said.

He stated that loneliness and rejection through ridiculing by people, including family, in-laws, and friends, was another form of stigmatisation.

Dr Kpalam noted that religious people, especially Christian women who had infertility issues, sometimes suffered some form of psychological issue due to the feeling of guilt, believing that God was punishing them for some sin they might have committed that was yet to be forgiven.

He indicated that it was sometimes traumatising when people trivialised the issue, especially at church, making them feel like faithless women, explaining that “people make it look like you have not prayed enough, especially when others come to give testimonies on how they prayed and got children; all these can lead to depression and other psychological issues.”

He said another thing that pastors must re-consider is calling childless women to the front during service in a bid to pray for them, as doing so rather exposed them, and they might feel uncomfortable and unsure of what the church members think of them, increasing their anxiety.

The clinical psychologist said studies had shown that celebrations such as Mother's Day could be moments of trauma for some childless women, as all the airwaves, , and everyone else would say lovely things about mothers. 

He encouraged women with infertility issues to psych themselves up when such occasions were drawing near and recognised that they do not have control over the event but could rather control their emotions.

“Anticipate the time, don't hide your feelings, and express them to someone you can trust,” he said, adding that they must also identify a mother figure in their lives and channel that energy to celebrate the person on the day rather than being traumatised for not being celebrated for having any children. 

D. Kpalam further said research has shown that childless women who identify other mothers and channel their energy towards them manage their trauma, adding that they could also adopt children, either formally or informally, to care for them like their biological children.

He stressed that such women should remember that human biology makes it possible for some to be childless through no fault of theirs; therefore, they should not blame themselves but rather support others, as that will promote their mental health and overcome stigmatisation.

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