Reproductive health Shaming

Recently, news that a famous singer has had her first child at age forty-six after five years of marriage went viral on the internet. As with such news, there were a lot of congratulatory messages flying around. And of course, there were the naysayers who immediately attributed the conception to a successful IVF (or perhaps surrogacy), with disdain. Many claimed they had never seen her pregnant and had seen her doing shows etc. throughout the period of the “supposed” pregnancy. They claim the pregnancy couldn’t have been “normal”.  So, what if she conceived through IVF or even surrogacy? Does it make her less of a woman or her baby less human?

This is a classic case of stigma against women on their health issues.  Stigma is shame or disgrace attached to a circumstance or person. It can also be the discrimination against a person because of their social characteristics or choices. Over the years, women have been made to feel all kinds of shame. There is body shaming, slut shaming, appearance shaming the list goes on and on. Then there is reproductive health “shaming”. Many women cannot make reproductive health decisions without facing some kind of stigma. Some cannot even express their femininity without shame. Like all humans, women should be able to do as they please with their bodies.

IVF is not the Boujie way out of infertility. People make it feel like if conception is assisted its trivial. It is actually a remarkable experience. IVF is not some random thing that happens because you tried. It is financially draining and emotionally exhausting. IVF is probably one of the most difficult ventures any one could undertake. There are all the checks and tests to be done, then the injections one has to get, then the roller coaster of emotions that creep in during the two week wait to find out if it was successful.

 Are people not sympathetic because of the money involved? Research shows that many couples who undergo IVF actually cannot afford it, many fund their cycles through loans and grants. It’s the innate desire to procreate that drives people to seek assisted conception and no one should be shamed for that.

This reminds me of the many stories I have heard about women being shamed for having a baby through Caesarean section (CS). The argument is that women who delivered through CS opted for the easier way out and were not women enough. It is seen as an easier option. This is a sad assumption.

It is so bad that many women don’t tell if they had their babies through CS. There are many conditions where CS could be indicated. It is one of the surest ways of reducing the risk of losing a mother or child or both during delivery. Conditions like eclampsia, placenta previa, breech births and fetal distress may require a caesarean section. 

It does not come without risks in itself. Like all major surgical procedures, the patient stands a chance of developing complications which are quite scary. In fact, women who deliver through CS should be hailed instead of shamed. Caesarean section saves lives and no stigma should be attached to it.

It marvels me to see that there is a stigma against women who take charge of their bodies and their reproductive health. Contraceptive uptake is one of the tested ways of reducing maternal mortality which is of public health concern. Women don’t have to carry the burden of an unintended pregnancy anymore. Neither do they has to brave a life-threatening abortion. A woman who takes control of her sexuality is surely an empowered woman. In recent times much effort has been put into empowering women to reduce all forms of abuse against them. Contraceptive use aids in development on a personal level and on a broader scale.

Stigma surrounding women’s health and reproductive health needs should be addressed. We should talk more and educate more, because it prevents women from making the right choices. Shaming women for their reproductive choices should come to an end. Just as men have rights over their bodies no woman should be belittled because of the way she decides to be who she was made to be. … a woman.