The shame that sometimes comes with being unable to have children

By Nina Steele 

For some, particularly men, having fertility problems bring a sense of shame and feelings of being inadequate. It is rather unfortunate I must say that the image of a man in most societies is that of someone who can get a woman pregnant effortlessly. A man’s virility is taken for granted and so when things turn out completely differently to what society had predicted, a lot of men find themselves at a loss and ashamed of not being able to fulfil this most basic of duties. If the man in this situation finds himself in a loving and strong marriage/relationship, he and his wife/partner can deal with it in a constructive way and come out of the whole ordeal stronger. However, if the relationship was never strong in the first place, then much work will have to be done to save it, if at all.

In some parts of the world for example Africa, the woman in the relationship is automatically assumed to be the one with fertility problems whenever a couple is unable to conceive. The stigma attached to childlessness is so great that the man in the relationship will either take another wife with the hope that she will be successful in bearing him children or divorce the wife with the perceived problem and get himself a new one. In a society where a person’s worth is often based on their ability to have children, infertility is a taboo and those facing such issues, particularly women become social pariahs made to feel ashamed of their ‘condition’.


  1. GemmaRowlands says

    I think it comes from the fact that having children is what human beings are supposed to do, in evolutionary terms. People have still not managed to get away from that, despite the fact that there are many other things now that people can do to help with the world and its progress. But you should absolutely never be ashamed of any decision that you make, as having children is a personal matter that nobody else has any business to judge you for.

  2. It is so unfortunate that women who cannot have children feel ashamed because of that. They probably feel bad enough about it already, especially as having children will have been something that they really wanted, without having other people make them feel worse about it. I honestly think that there is no shame in it, because everybody contributes different things to life.

  3. Julez Fitzmond says

    There is shame that comes along with this, and there is no doubt about that at all. As Gemma said, women are supposed to have children. It’s pretty much all we’re on the planet for – how depressing! But I have had a long, long time now to get my head around it, and as a result of that I no longer feel any kind of shame. You only get one chance at life, so try not to be ashamed by it.

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