The excitement with which we look forward to marriage can be overwhelming. This is evident in the pre-wedding photoshoots, the colourful invitation cards, bachelorette nights, breath taking decorations and wedding receptions. Most newly married couples understandably look forward eagerly to having children. Apart from couples, their respective in-laws, family, friends, colleagues, neighbours and church members have expectations that one day the couple would be blessed with children. The expectation of a child is not a bad thing, but it is always advisable to manage it because it is not within the power of a couple to produce children immediately after marriage. There can be delays in conception for so many reasons if not deliberately planned. The couples themselves need to manage their expectations to enjoy their marriage and not get stressed from the pressure that comes with the delay in childbirth. This article shares tried, tested and trusted tips on what to do when God's gift of a child delays. It further touches on the causes of delayed childbirth or infertility, treatment options, how to avoid being manipulated by spiritualists, herbalists and self-acclaimed prophets and biblical assurances on possibility of childbirth for every woman.
During marriage ceremonies in most African societies, in-laws and friends get the opportunity to socialize. As the ceremony goes on, prayer is said for the fruitfulness of the couples. Some external parties, however, make it their duty to police the implementation of the aspect of the vow that says, “Be fruitful and multiply”, by putting undue pressure on the woman when there is delay in conceiving. Most people normally forget that children are a gift from God and the timing for conception and delivery is considered divine aside other medical conditions that impede the process.
Most doctors advise that couples relax within the first year of marriage in situations where they are unable to conceive. It takes a man and a woman to conceive and any problem affecting the reproductive organs of either of them result in delayed childbirth. Some potential factors include the timing of sex, irregular menstrual cycle, polycystic ovarian cyst syndrome, blocked fallopian tube, low sperm count from the man and erectile dysfunction amongst others. Some of these factors are further explained below.
CAUSES OF DELAYED CHILD BIRTH IN WOMEN
Wrong timing of ovulation and irregular menstrual cycle
Ovulation is the process by which a woman releases egg in a monthly cycle. An unfertilized egg is released during this period and becomes fertilized when it comes into contact with a healthy sperm through semen from the partner during sexual intercourse. Science has also proven that when couples do not have sex around the ovulation time or within a fertile period, there is the possibility of no conception.
Miscarriages/ Incompetent Cervix
Some women may experience miscarriage possibly as a result of severe urinary tract infections left untreated. Others also miscarry due to hormonal imbalance. Women with incompetent cervix often are unable to carry pregnancy to term, and have their babies spontaneously aborted. Women with incompetent cervix can get pregnant but unable to carry the pregnancy to term as a result of the cervix opening early before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Most women with incompetent cervix have their babies aborted. If it is within the late second or early third trimester, the preterm baby can be placed in an incubator to enable him or her grow and survive.
Polycystic ovarian cyst
It is ranked as one of the most common causes of female infertility. It is a condition in which there is development of small fluid-filled sacs in the ovaries. This condition leads to irregular menstrual cycles and in most cases likely cause the egg not be released to facilitate ovulation. It is also responsible for the production of higher male hormones whose imbalance makes it difficult for the woman to conceive. Some symptoms include heavy bleeding during menstruation, no menstruation, excessive facial and hair growth and pelvic pain.
Blocked fallopian tubes
This is a condition where the fallopian tubes are blocked making it difficult for sperms to fertilize the eggs for conception. This condition is mainly caused by pelvic inflammatory disease. Other causes include history of sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea and chlamydia, and uterine infections caused by infection from abortion or miscarriage.
The uterus/womb of a woman can be damaged through abortions or fibrous scars tissues. These scars affect the functioning of the lining of the uterus thereby affecting the fertility of the woman. The condition affects the supply of blood to the endometrial lining. One major symptom to this condition is the woman’s inability to menstruate.
CAUSES OF INFERTILITY IN MEN
Contrary to the assertion that women are to blame in cases of infertility or delayed childbirth, research has shown that male infertility plays up to 50% in reported cases. Some couples are unable to conceive even after several unprotected sex for a year or longer. The respective male partners could suffer from any of these factors namely low sperm production, abnormal sperm function or blockage that prevent delivery of sperm, injuries, chronic health issues and unhealthy life style choices. Others are as a result of infections, undescended testicles, hormone imbalances, erectile malfunctions. All the causes of male infertility are generally grouped under three categories namely, the production of the sperm, the transmission of the sperms and the quality and count of the sperm.
Sperm quality and count
During sexual intercourse, the man releases millions of sperms into the woman to fertilize the egg for the formation of a fetus. Unfortunately, not all men have the required 15 million sperm per milliliter of semen that can lead to a possibility of fertilization and conception. Men with this condition can be classified as men with low sperm count.
For a man to impregnate a woman, the man should be able to produce healthy sperm. This relates to the growth and formation of the male reproductive organs during puberty. There are two testicles and at least one must be functioning well. Undescended testicles fall under this category.
After sperms are produced, it needs to be transmitted to the female in order to get her pregnant. Men with erection and ejaculation problems cannot make a woman pregnant. Abnormal sperm function or blockage prevents delivery of the sperm into the female reproductive system falls under the transmission problems.
A male partner may be infertile due to injuries which affect the spinal cord. Also, chronic health issues like tumors, diabetes and prostrate disease may affect sperm production and transmission leading to male infertility. Some infections can interfere with sperm production and health for instance the inflammation of the epididymis, some sexually transmitted diseases like HIV and gonorrhea can result in permanent testicular damage thereby leading to male infertility. Hormone imbalances can lead to infertility in men. Additionally, certain lifestyle choices like drug and alcohol abuse, obesity can lead to infertility in men. Some antibiotics attack sperms leading to infertility as well as exposure to some industrial chemicals.
Consequences of Delayed Childbirth
Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” So when couples are faced with delay in childbirth, they begin to lose hope. This could be demonstrated in how united they remain and how they react when they see other people with children or how they respond to ridicule concerning their plight. Depending on the level of faith of the couple and their maturity in handling challenges, they could be susceptible to the manipulations of spiritualists, herbalists and self-acclaimed prophets. It is important to acknowledge that this can happen to the very best of us especially when desperation sets in. In instances where couples delay in giving birth, they can be faced with ridicule, verbal abuse and pressure from their in-laws and society at large. Also, some couples risk breaking up their union as a result of delayed childbirth.
How to avoid being manipulated by spiritualists, herbalists and self-acclaimed prophets
Waiting to have a child after years of marriage can be frustrating. The expectations which turn into ridicule from the immediate family and society can put immense pressure on the couple or woman over time. It is worse when the husband joins the opposition. In the quest to seek solutions cum recommendations ranging from orthodox medical interventions, traditional or herbal to spiritual interventions, manipulation from any of the solution givers can set in. Some herbalists can give all manner of concoctions to their unsuspecting clients that can have damaging effects to the woman’s health causing further problems at a cost due to desperation. Some spiritualists like fetish priests and mallams also recommend that certain rituals be performed alongside some concoctions that most often does not yield any results but lead to demonic covenants that can fight their marriage and/or unborn generations.
The most disturbing aspect is the role of some self-acclaimed men of God who often attribute infertility or barrenness to other family members in the spiritual realm. They often attribute the delay or inability to conceive to witches or demonic attacks and testimonies of such attest to the confusion that such prophecies have created further worsening matters especially when innocent person are implicated. Some of the unfortunate stories shared include the plight of vulnerable woman engaging in sexual relations, spiritual cleansing baths, sale of anointing oil, stickers and satanic covenants initiations.
It is advised that in order to avoid the manipulation and abuse from some of these false spiritualists, herbalists and pastors, couples seek medical attention while waiting on God in prayer backed with faith. Couples must be in agreement with the prayer needs and stay united with the hope to overcome and find solutions. Joshua 23:10 says, “One shall chase a thousand and two shall chase ten thousand.” They can also request for intercessory prayers from their church prayer warriors, pastors or apostles.
TREATMENTS OR REMEDIES FOR INFERTILITY IN WOMEN
There are numerous medical interventions currently available for infertility cases. The doctor would most likely adopt a particular procedure or treatment that tackles the presented condition after thorough medical diagnosis. Potential infertility is assessed as part of physical examination and medical history regarding potential factors. Healthcare providers will require urine or blood tests, pelvic exam, laparoscope, ultrasound among others. It is important to acknowledge the financial implications these treatments present to couples and sometimes their families. Diagnosis tests and treatment procedures can be relatively costly. The following methods can be prescribed by health expert or workers manage and treat infertility issues in women.
- Hormonal medications, Anti-biotics and Birth control pills
Women with irregular menstrual cycle would find it difficult to predict ovulation. Irregular menstrual cycle can be caused by polycystic ovarian syndrome and high level of prolactin. The woman in question would have to do some hormonal tests for confirmation. The gynecologist can suggest hormonal medications to address hormone imbalance, endometriosis, or a short menstrual cycle. Some medications are also given to stimulate ovulation. Antibiotics can be prescribed to treat a range of infections in the productive systems. Some women with irregular and debilitating painful periods find relief by taking birth control pills ultimately leading to more regular periods.
- Ovulation calculator and test kits
Convenient mobile applications have been developed to help keep track of the menstrual cycle of women. These applications have been proven to give accurate predictions for ovulation, fertility periods and track other issues in the quest to conceive and plan adequately.
Depending on the severity, women diagnosed with damaged wombs can be repaired through surgeries by specialist surgeons. Some cases of women with blocked fallopian tubes can also be corrected through surgical procedures alongside fertility enhancing medications. In the case of women with the problem of incompetent cervix, doctors can perform a minor surgical procedure known as the cervical cerclage to close the opening of the cervix. Cervical cerclage simply involves the stitching of the cervix around 14 weeks of pregnancy and unstitching it after 37 weeks. When this is done, spontaneous abortion of the pregnancy is avoided and the baby can be delivered full term.
- Assisted Reproductive Technology.
This does not cure the cause of infertility but can help couples increase their chances of conceiving. In-vitro fertilization is one of the commonest treatments for infertility. It is the process where the doctor takes the eggs from the ovaries and fertilizes it with the sperm outside the womb in a specialized lab. There are numerous success stories of IVF in Ghana and across the world. In 2016, the Lapaz Community Hospital delivered the first quadruplets in Ghana. In 2014, the Trustcare Specialist Hospital and Fertility Centre in Kumasi also delivered the first quadruplets for expectant couples.
It is also important to adopt good personal hygiene and health practices. It is advisable to have annual checkups with a doctor once you are sexually active as these could immensely assist in early diagnosis and decrease the possibility of infertility. Stress levels must be managed.
TREATMENTS OR REMEDIES FOR INFERTILITY IN MEN
Depending on the diagnosed cause of infertility in men the following options can be prescribed.
Surgery can be done to correct sperm transmission problems that relate to the blockage of vas that transmit sperm to the female reproductive organ.
- Treat infections
Medications like anti-biotics can be prescribed for the treatment of urinary tract infections, sexually transmitted infections, erectile dysfunction and supplements to enhance fertility in men.
- Hormone Treatment and medications
Men diagnosed of hormonal imbalance can be treated using medications in order to correct hormonal imbalance and restore fertility. Medications can be given to improve sperm production.
- Healthy living
Men treating infertility must eat well and exercise to keep the body fit. Alcohol and other hard drugs must be avoided. Also, exposure to toxic industrial chemicals must be avoided.
- Biblical assurances on possibility of childbirth for every woman
The Bible contains the infallible word of God. God exalts His word above His name. In view of that, God’s promises can be perfectly relied on in all situations and childbirth is no exception. The Bible says in Exodus 23:26 that, “None shall be barren and none shall cast their young before time.”
All the women who were referred to as barren in the Bible later gave birth to children. Sara, Abraham’s wife, gave birth to Isaac; Rachael gave birth to Joseph and Benjamin; Elizabeth gave birth to John the Baptist; and Manoah’s wife gave birth to Samson. Despite the delays, they gave birth to children who had special assignments to fulfill on earth. The word of God never changes and many have conceived and delivered what is termed as received miracle babies after several years of delay.
No matter the medical report presented with or the various spiritual proclamations given to the delay, remember it is not too hard for God. The Bible says in Philippians 4:6 that we should be careful for nothing but in all things prayer and supplication and thanks giving, we should make our request known to God. Hebrews 11:6 tells us that without faith, it is impossible to please God. You cannot be anxious and fearful and expect a miracle.
Coping strategies against societal expectations and ridicule
- Manage your emotions
Couples going through the challenge in delayed childbirth need to be focused. They should not be swayed by distractions in the form of ridicule. Every marriage has its own challenges; if yours is delayed childbirth, others are also battling with issues like poverty, misunderstanding, and deviant children, etc. So don’t allow people with equally challenging marital problems to make you feel inferior. However, while it may be difficult to avoid such pressures as human as we are, the key to this is to try not to be overwhelmed by them. It is essential to maintain a united front and remain unperturbed in the face of unsuccessful attempts. Avoid the company of people who are immature and do not understand the virtue of empathy. Be selective of those with whom you share private matters with. Remember stress is harmful to the body and worsen fertility problems.
- Know the promises of God concerning your situation and speak it.
In situations where the physical body is unable to bear the pressure, I advise that you tap into the everlasting word of God. Couples going through challenging times have to learn and keep the Word of God in their hearts to enable them exercise their faith. If they do not learn God’s Word and get familiar with His assurances, they would be swayed by every doctrine and chase after solutions that would further intensify their problem. Also, daily declarations of faith need to be done by the couples; this is because the Bible says life and death lies in the power of the tongue. But above all remember it takes patience to build patience.
Recommendations on how to live happily while waiting for the arrival of the babies
- Get busy with personal development
Occupying yourself with personal and career development would make couples especially, the woman, to forget the issue of delayed childbirth. Taking a course in a chosen field, going for training programmes as well as engaging in some form of entrepreneurship apart from one’s official job can be of much help. Idle minds would always be fed with negativity because the devil finds work for the idle hand.
- Pray and remain positive always
Worrying does not change anything and that is why Matthew 6:25-33 admonishes us not to worry. Positive thinking is very paramount in managing all kinds of difficult situations. Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever is true, noble, pure, right, lovely, admirable, excellent or praise worthy, think about such things.” It is always good to remain positive and focused as the Bible admonishes. Prayer is a means of talking to God concerning any situation in which His intervention is needed. Since God is the greatest source of power, when you commit something to Him in prayer, you need to believe He can do it for you. While believing Him, you need to trust His timing as well so that you don’t get worried by the delay. Prayer can heal the brokenness and restore to whole.
- Parenting Plan
While waiting for the arrival of children, prospective parents have to plan the kind of parents they want to be. Come up with possible names for the children, education, their career path, if possible, and the kind of inheritance and legacy you want to leave for them. Planning this is an act of faith that your children would arrive; so you are making provision for them.
- Invest enough money for the family
The cost associated with nurturing children is very high and parents must invest towards it. Even the type of birth delivery can be costly; for instance, caesarian section in a private hospital can even cost more than GHS5,000.00 The cost of decent accommodation, good school, feeding, clothing and medical expenses need to be adequately catered for and investing towards it is a good start. God set a good example for us through creation by creating man on the sixth day when the conditions necessary for life like food, water had been provided.
- Work-life balance
Depending on the financial position of the couple, they can take a vacation to de-stress and revitalize their marriage. During this vacation, the couple can reaffirm their love for each other despite the challenges and pray together for God to quickly intervene in their situation. Plan and attend social programs to socialize with others.
- Maintain a united front
Those who interfere in other people’s marriages get the motivation to do so and succeed when they see the couples are not united. While a united front can be broken over time it is crucial couples must remain united through the storm to prevent others from stealing their peace. It is always better when couples are together; their combined strength can silence a whole clan.
- Adoption of children
There are some couples who have no medical issues but conception is a problem. There are a lot of children in orphanages who need the warmth of parents but to no avail. Couples going through delayed childbirth can discuss this option and adopt children and love them like their own offspring. After adoption, the couples become the legal parents of the child, thereby offering them the opportunity to be the parents they have been longing to be.
In conclusion, Children are a gift from God and gifts are dispatched to the recipient depending on the discretion of the giver. The giver determines the timing and who receives what gift. This thus implies that God determines when to bless a couple with children and not the couples themselves. There are couples without any diagnosed medical problems but are unable to have children. Issues of infertility or delay in childbirth continuous to be a problem among married couples despite the increasing awareness in recent times. While some enquire about children out of genuine concern, some attempt to use it to abuse others. Church members, co-workers, family members and neighbors of such couples should exercise restraint when dealing with them. Such couples deserve societal sympathy and not ridicule. Personally, this is a private issue for the couple.
Couples who find themselves in this temporary situation should seek medical attention while waiting on God. They should adopt coping strategies discussed or even adopt a child if they so desire. Jesus Christ is very compassionate and that is why during His ministry on earth, He went about doing good such as feeding the hungry, healing the sick, casting out demons tormenting people, seeking justice for those marginalized and so on. As Christians we must be compassionate towards the plight of others. Couples with children are not better than those without. Childbirth is not a license to heaven.
Written by: Sophia Kafui Teye
Email Address: [email protected]
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