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In many Sub-Saharan African countries, women with infertility search relentlessly for treatment. Guided by the Partners for Applied Social Sciences model for health seeking behaviour and access to care research, this study aims to understand the health seeking behaviour of women with infertility in the West Coast region of The Gambia and the influence of aetiological beliefs on health seeking paths. Methodology
A qualitative approach was used to generate both primary and secondary data for thematic analysis. The data collection methods included in-depth interviews (36), observations (18), informal conversations (42), group discussion (7) and made use of pile-sorting exercises. Sources of secondary data included government and non-governmental reports and media outputs.
The health seeking approaches of women living in both rural and urban areas were extremely complex and dynamic, with women reporting that they looked for biomedical treatment as well as seeking indigenous treatment provided by local healers, sacred places and kanyaleng groups. While treatment choice was related to the perceived aetiology of infertility, it was also strongly influenced by the perceived effectiveness of the treatment available and the duration of the fertility problems. Other relevant factors were the affordability, accessibility and availability of treatment and respondents' family and social networks, whereby access to the biomedical health sector was strongly influenced by people's socio-economic background. Conclusion On the basis of this analysis and our wider research in the area, we see a need for health authorities to further invest in providing information and counselling on issues related to infertility prevention and treatment. The availability of locally applicable guidelines for the management of infertility for both men and women at all levels of the health system would facilitate such work. In addition, the public sphere should provide more space for alternative forms of social identity for both men and women.