How Society Increases the Challenges of Non-Child-Bearing Couples

The decision to get married is probably one of the most personal and private decisions any adult has to take in their life. Despite the personal nature of this decision, society often feels entitled to one’s time of marriage. That is why the moment a lady or guy reaches a certain age and station in life, the people close to them begin to drop indirect and sometimes direct hints about the need for them to get married. 

If the concern and uninvited interests in people’s personal decisions could stop at just showing interest in when eligible young people decide to get married, that would have been slightly acceptable. But the issue is much more than that. Married couples are mostly under intense pressure by society to begin bearing children whether or not they are ready or can.

Non-child-bearing couples

And couples who are married without children are not spared from all forms of innuendos. The jabs and criticisms from society have no regard for the couple’s privacy and personal liberty. And not the least concerned about the toll such criticisms have on the couple’s mental health and marital balance.

On the above premise, this essay will look into the ways through which society contributes to the challenges of non-child-bearing couples. Its effects on their marital lives and how such social behavior can be addressed.

Why do people feel entitled to a couple’s childbearing?

The simple answer to this is that any parent yearns and dreams to see his own grandchildren. The desire for parents to keep watch on when their children begin bearing children is very understandable and natural.

What is not understandable is how random strangers pitch their tents in the private matters of newly married people. 

Ways through which Society interfere in Lives of Non-Child-Bearing Couples

In this section, we’ll take a look at some of the ways through which members of society interfere in the private lives of Non-Child-Bearing couples. Here are some of the ways:

  • Cultural Wedding Practices

Right from the moment a wedding date is fixed, brides are subjected to a series of cultural treatments and preparations. Most of this preparation centers around the use of aphrodisiacs to enhance the bride’s sexual libido. 

This means the agenda for marriage has already been set and predetermined for and on behalf of the bride. 

While some brides are willingly interested in partaking in these cultural rites of passage, others are not very much interested. And only partake out of coercion by aunts and other close family members.

The substances given to the bride to consume are mostly administered without following strict doses. This is unlike drugs that follow strict protocols and are certified by NAFDAC. 

The overdose of these substances often leads to fertility complications for some brides and in the worst cases, cervical cancer. The aim of the aphrodisiacs ends up getting defeated on the altar of ignorance.

  • Set Time for Birth Expectancy 

After scaling the hurdle of the earlier mentioned bridal preparations, an additional burden is placed upon brides right from the day the wedding is tied.

It is a common expression to hear attendants of wedding ceremonies making comments on how they expect to be back after nine months for naming ceremonies. This comment is insensitive and has no regard for the preferences and aspirations of the newlywed. To those members of the public, all they care about is that after attending a wedding they expect to be called back after nine months to celebrate the birth of a newborn baby.

On a  day when a bride is happy and rejoicing with her family, the seed of societal expectations is planted in her heart with which she moves into her matrimonial home. It gets downed on the bride that her entire sense of worth is now tied to her ability to pop up a child in record time to appease the members of the public who expect nothing less from her.

  • Constant Nose-Poking

When the time frame set for a bride by the public to give birth elapses without any sign of a baby, the questions begin pouring in. Some women have reported cases where their stomachs get touched by members of the public, unsolicitedly. To feel whether they are pregnant or not. 

For newly wedded brides, any illness is seen to be an early sign of pregnancy. The comments are made in an unmistakable way that suggests what they are expecting. 

These unsolicited acts of nose-poking are common and experienced by many brides in different forms and places. 

  • Subtle Stigmatization and Criticisms

When a lady has been married for some years without bearing children, she begins to experience subtle forms of stigma. People use a wide range of means to deliver their intended stigma. Some of these means include:

  1. Criticizing her for consuming food without producing anything.
  2. Criticizing her relationship with the children of other people by making subtle remarks about when she will have her own.
  3. Criticizing her way of holding babies of other people by telling her if she has hers, she will learn to care for babies better.
  4. Criticize her by telling her she won’t understand children because she does not have any child of her own.
  5. Criticizing her by telling her she is not a complete woman yet – only motherhood can make her a complete woman.
  • Child Gender Preference

After the criticism and stigmatization of a woman who has no children, bearing a child of her own is not the end of her struggle with society. If the first child is a girl, they will say it’s time to give birth to a boy next. If it is a boy, society will say the woman needs to give birth to a girl to complete the set.

At the core of these gender suggestions lies the well-known preference for the male gender. It is a historically documented fact that many societies prefer the male child to the female child – a preference that gives the continual unhealthy rise of patriarchy in our societies.

It is a good consolation now that with the advent of modernity and the rise of the feminist movements, the psyche of gender preference is sharply getting adjusted. It is an indisputable fact that both genders are different, yes, but they are both equally special and two sets of human beings capable of everything that makes us humans.

Effects of Societal Pressure on Non-Child-Bearing Couples

  • Anxiety and Depression

The culminating effect of not bearing children in a society that places a premium on children and feels entitled to it is that it leads to anxiety and depression.

Because society seems to conspire to remind the Non-Child-Bearing couple at any chance they get – that they are incomplete without bearing children. This takes a toll on them to the point of depression.

This anxiety is bound to happen regardless of whether the couple is without children by choice or as a result of a medical condition. Society barely gives any room for the option of choice.

And when the lack of children is a result of fertility problems, some members of society can be brutally unsympathetic to the cause of the couples. The first suspect and bearer of all the stigma is the wife, who culturally is mandated to bear children for the husband. Even in cases where the husband is the one medically certified to have fertility problems, the woman mostly gets to bear the burden of such misfortune.

  • Tension and Aggression

As it has been made clear so far, the pressure from society on Non-Child-Bearing couples can be enormous to the point of causing anxiety and depression. When couples do not have a healthy means of dealing with such anxiety and depression, it tends to result in tension and aggression in the marriages.

This is why it is important for couples to totally have each other’s backs and a strong understanding of their circumstances.

The comments can come from relatives of either of the couples and when not handled amicably can cause ugly rifts between couples. The wife should be assured of her husband’s protection from such comments from his relatives and the wife should give the husband the assurance of not entertaining negative remarks from her own side of the family

  • Cost of Treatment

When couples are faced with the challenge of infertility, navigating through the medical hurdle can be a huge burden on their personal lives and finances.

The advancement of healthcare and technology has made it possible for couples to engage in the services of In Vitro Fertilization among many other range of options.

These medical options are pretty expensive and mostly not covered under the Nigerian health insurance scheme. In fact, not many federal hospitals have the expertise and equipment to perform the procedure. 

Going through this financial struggle of treating infertility and having society constantly reminding or urging couples to have a baby is enough trouble on its own.

  • Extramarital Affairs

There are cases of couples engaging in extramarital affairs to solve their infertility problems and satisfy the demands of society for them to have a baby.

These extramarital affairs can be from either the husband or the wife. There are cases of men keeping secret families from their wives who could not bear children. There are also cases of women engaging the services of other men to procreate babies unbeknownst to their infertile husbands.

This situation leads to ugly scenarios of hide and seek between the couples. An endless cycle of cover-ups and drama to avoid facing the realities of paternal or maternal frauds committed by either party.

  • Divorce or Threat of Polygamy

When cases of such extramarital affairs get exposed, some marriages end up in bitter divorces and shattered hearts that have trusted their partners to be faithful.

Sometimes, divorces happen without the case of extramarital affairs. When fertility tests are done and the cause of the problem is identified, couples sometimes opt for the option of divorce. This is to enable the partner without medical complications to give it a shot at having their own babies.

For people whose religion or culture permits polygyny, it can serve as a solution to the childlessness problem. This arrangement comes with great emotional stress to the wife whose husbands decide to enter into polygamy.

Some men are considerate enough to make the polygamy option bearable on their Non-Child-Bearing wives, others are not very so. This can immensely add to the emotional burden experienced by childless wives.

Ways to cope with childlessness in a society that is extremely child-centric

Whether the reason a couple is childless is as a result of choice or medical condition, it has been seen in this essay that society tends to be relentless in its pursuit to pressure couples about it. Here are some ways to handle the pressure:

  1. Look at the option of adopting if you’re truly in need of children.
  2. Be brave enough to address persons who are shameless enough to confront you about your childlessness. Their behaviors are on the rise because they are hardly confronted.
  3. Join support groups either online or offline and share your experiences with other persons experiencing similar challenges. 
  4. Discuss your circumstances extensively with your partner and look at the option of professional counseling on the matter when necessary.
  5. Avoid social gatherings with persons who have a history of stigmatizing persons that are childless.

Word of advice to members of society

This is an appeal to members of society who are guilty of unnecessarily guilt-tripping, blackmailing, and stigmatizing couples who are childless. The time of excessive entitlement to the personal lives of people around us is well behind us. This is not the 19th or 20th centuries where archaic practices of considering childlessness to be a spiritual problem or an abomination reigned.

With the advances in technology and healthcare, it should be understood that reproductive issues can be explained medically. And it is time for us to jettison our toxic cultural idiosyncrasies that hurt the people around us.

The fact that not all men and women have the confidence to talk about their reproductive issues is not a warrant for members of the public to turn such issues into public spectacles. The privacy of everyone should be respected. Unless your help is sought, do not offer it without applying tact and wisdom.


It is undeniable that members of the public are heavily interested in the lives of close members. From intervening on when society feels it’s time for people to get married to when they should give birth or sometimes how many children they need to have.

While it is also true that couples can not separate themselves from their larger society, society can understand to separate themselves from personal matters. 

The decision of couples to have or not have children can not hurt society in any significant measure because, for any couple that decides to be childless, there are multiple others who are reproducing young ones.

This distinction between matters of public interest and personal/private matters of couples is one that urgently needs to be established in our society. Because it is only through the establishment of such delineation that couples can be allowed to thrive and have a shot at pursuing a fulfilling life.

Maryam Idris Bappa

Maryam is an Architect and Writer who enjoys other creative activities such as crotchetting and sketching.. she studied Architecture from ABU Zarja and likes to chat with her friends during her free time.