Montgomery Fertility Center
3202 Tower Oaks Boulevard
Rockville, MD 20852
Fertility and the Multicultural Patient
Infertility and subfecundity affects 15% of the world’s population. Access to fertility treatment may be affected by several factors.
In some cultures, the word infertility is taboo therefore acknowledging that one needs help may bring on psychological duress. Socio-cultural norms often prevent early access to treatment. These factors may not necessarily co-relate with educational levels.
Individuals and couples must embrace desired social roles in order to define themselves as infertile and seek treatment. In Vietnam, children are frequently believed to be the representation of personal happiness and marital satisfaction and are often the primary way for the wife to integrate into her husband’s family. In South African culture marriage is viewed as a joining of two clans rather than two individuals. By extension then children are seen as assurance of lineage. This same view may be seen in some areas of Nigeria, Ghanaian society in Chinese culture as well as in Middle Eastern cultures.
When social roles are rigid, there is stigma associated with infertility. Women may be expelled from their marital homes, labeled as barren, replaced by another woman, ostracized, debased within the family structure to become the family servant, and subjected to physical and psychological abuse.
Access to care may also be limited in patients who have reticence about the empathy or relatability of the care providers. Barriers to empathy may include language barriers or simply cultural differences. Most of these barriers can be overcome by being patient and listening carefully to the patient.
In order to adequately care for the multicultural patient, providers need to be sensitive to their backgrounds.