Vivian Onyebukwa and Vera Wisdom-Bassey
Cases of young lovers contracting marriage based on deception; where one of the spouses hiding from his or her partner, some secrets that can mar the marriage later, is becoming rampant nowadays. The guilty partner usually starts off foolishly and regrettably by trying not to let out some information that they feel could rock their marital boat, but in the long run, the decision to keep such secret ends up ruining the marital bliss they thought could be best kept by hiding such.
Hiding the truth during courtship
For instance, there was this story of a Christian brother in one of the churches in Lagos who although knew that he was impotent, nevertheless, deceived a lady member of their church into marrying him, by hiding that aspect of his life from her during courtship. The man, known as Asuquo from Akwa Ibom State and a teacher in one of the private schools in Orile, Iganmu, Lagos, reportedly hid under the Christian injunction of “no sex before marriage”, to hide the truth about his virility in order to marry the lady, one Ethel, a fashion designer from Abia State who resides in Lagos with her parents.
His newly married wife found out only after their wedding. She felt betrayed but though it initially cost some rumpus between the couple, they eventually made up and tried to manage the situation. But after five years of marriage without a child and with concerned relatives and friends asking questions here and there, and the man not letting out the truth to either his people or his wife’s, but causing them to continue to suspect the woman of being their cause of childlessness, Ethel began to undergo series of fertility tests, the results of which showed that she had no fertility problem. Somewhere along the line, the thoroughly frustrated young lady spilled the beans and called it quits with the marriage before relocating to Port Harcourt, Rivers State, where, according to sources, she still lives till today.
Woman proves that her husband is the problem
In 2008, Joy and Patrick, who both hail from Enugu State, but reside in Lagos, were joined in holy matrimony as husband and wife at a well-celebrated wedding ceremony, which took place in Lagos. While Patrick is a businessman, Joy worked as a salesgirl in Idumota market, Lagos, to an importer. Their joy knew no bounds when their dream of becoming husband and wife came through.
But five years down the line, the marriage was unable to enjoy the blessing of a child or children. Patrick started showing signs of worry and restlessness with the situation as to make their one-time flourishing love and chummy relationship begin to sour. Worried too, Joy began to go from one Pentecostal church-praying programme to another in frenzied search of solution for the fruit-of-the-womb problem. By the time they were nine years old in marriage, Patrick’s parents and siblings felt they have had enough and arranged and prevailed on him to get another wife, without Joy’s knowledge.
He started by maltreating her. He would often abuse and beat her at slightest misunderstanding or provocation. Eventually, he succeeded in throwing her out of their matrimonial home before bringing in the new wife. But luck however smiled on Joy as she got into another relationship after about six months of being thrown out. Some months into the relationship she conceived and bore a child. At present, she is pregnant with her second child, while her former husband and his new wife are yet to have their own child. This only went to prove that the problem was with Patrick not Joy.
Going into marriage with damaged uterus
There is also the story of Nkeiru, a HND graduate of Oko Polytechnic, Anambra State, who got married to an Italian-based young Nigerian businessman. The man called Kelechi, from Imo state, was introduced to Nkeiru by a relation, for marriage. But six years after, the couple was unable to have a child they could call their own. This development led her and her husband to submit themselves to series of fertility tests. It was in the course of that, that it was discovered that Nkeiru’s womb is damaged beyond repair from several abortions which she did while a spinster but which were done by quack doctors. This truth was not disclosed to her husband-to-be during courtship and for that Kelechi felt deceived by Nkeiru. He felt so disappointed that he started flirting with other ladies and got one of them impregnated. Traumatised by her husband’s action, Nkeiru called the marriage a quits and packed out of her matrimonial home to live on her own and to rue her fate.
Born with a reproductive disorder
Elders of a Pentecostal church in Lagos experienced the shock of their lives, when, some years ago, one of its local pastors who knew too well that his niece had the problem of a reproductive disorder called vaginal agenesis – in which women are born without reproductive organs, nevertheless encouraged a Christian brother to marry her after praying for them. However, leaders of the church he belonged were not happy when they got to know that he was well aware of his niece’s condition but strictly warned her not to tell the brother about it during their courtship, in addition to encouraging/putting pressure on the brother to marry her. Sources said he was later disrobed and placed under church discipline while the marriage was dissolved the reasoning being that there was no marriage in the first place because it was one based on deceit and deception.
Fertility test goes awry for a married woman
Saturday Sun published a story sometime ago in which a woman, one Veronica, from Benue State, after coming under undue pressure from her mother-in-law, slept and got pregnant for his son, Simon, from her first marriage, in an attempt to test her fertility. And, that was because her husband, one Sebastian, had refused to go for virility test. Although the sexual escapade turned out to vindicate her as not being the cause of childlessness between her and her husband, it later cost her the marriage.
“I am not a loose woman,” she told Saturday Sun. “I am just a woman who loves her husband very much and didn’t want to lose him. I did what I did to save my marriage even though I feel guilty about it. It was not easy but I slept with my first son from my first husband so that I could give my husband a child. But rather sustaining my marriage, the plan has scattered it and I have lost it.”
Clergy’s views of the matter
Given these tales of deception and betrayal, should intending couples go for fertility test or should they not? That was the question Saturday Sun took to Nigerians in sacred and secular callings. The reporters also reached out for the views of medical doctors, with the question.
Speaking on the issue, Archbishop Emma David Okafoagu, the International President of Masterseed College of Bishops and Ministers Network, said he believes it is necessary for intending couples to go for fertility test before marriage. According to him, although there is need for them to do the test, he also believes that faith can work if the couple-to-be exercise strong faith in God. “We have met women who have no womb yet they, by God’s mercy, gave birth to children,” he said. “If the couple believe that there is God who makes impossible to be possible, let them go ahead without the test.”
But Bishop Nath Ofor, General Overseer, Jesus Campaigners Ministry, Lagos, who has been a church leader for more than 18 years, has a slightly different view, which he hinged on insincerity and deception among some intending couples. “I have listened to a lot of people’s experiences. People are deceiving each other, they are not telling each other the truth about their past lives because they are desperate to get married,” he said.
For this reason, he would want intending couples to go for test. It is even better for the two to know about each other medically before going into marriage so that they can know the battle they are going to fight, he posited. “Both should know and take a decision to go into it. If they know their backgrounds and go into it, it means that they already know the battle they are going to face,” he said. “If they take a decision and decide not to back out, they would move on without regret. But if they go into it without knowing, they will in future start blaming each other. So it is better for them to know themselves medically because the Bible says that two cannot work together unless if they agree. So let them make each other to either work together.”
Pastor Richard Babalola of God’s House Assembly, Lagos, said he was aware of infertility test before he got married, but did not undergo it. Although a strong Christian, he believes very much in it. “There is a place of faith, so don’t let us mix it together. Faith has it’s own work to do and medical line has its own too; they are two different things,” he insists. “By the time you go for the medical test and they give you medical report and the report is not good enough, that is when faith comes in to change the medical report. That is when the scripture says: ‘Which report will you believe?’
He stated further: “As a matter of fact, it has happened to people of the past and they all died in ignorance. But thank God for the technology that is opening us up to know many things, and somehow we need to know these things. Before now, there was nothing like knowing health status, genotype, blood group, and so on, But these days we encourage our members to go and do their genotype before they can have intimacy, not for us but for the generation that will come after us.”
Nigerians’ discordant views on the subject
Miss Stella Okafor, a teacher in one of the schools in Ijesha, Lagos, disagrees and says if you can pray, there is no need for fertility test before marriage. She advised intending Christian couples not to bother themselves about the test. “Take your mind away from those things because if you are child of Abraham and you have been keeping yourself holy, you should keep your mind away from that (fertility test),” she said. “If you are prayerful you would conquer every evil. That is why you have to wait for the man to pay your bride price and with that, you have made your choice.”
Also dismissing the fertility test with a wave of hand and calling it unscriptural, Mrs. Dorothy Udoh, a retired banker with three children, who said she did not undergo fertility test before marriage, said she would not recommend that to intending couple. “When Isaac married Rebecca, I did not see in the Bible where she went for fertility test, and the Lord says you should be a virgin,” she argued. “Whosoever God says is your husband or wife, I believe God does not make mistakes. Also looking at the way things are today, most people are drifting from the truth; people don’t want to listen to God again. They behave anyway they like. People want to satisfy their own will and not the will of God. God has a standard and if a real child of God will follow God’s standard, there will be no problem. Believers should know there is a standard for them, they should not follow the world.”
Agreeing with Udoh but only halfway, Sunday Usanga a businessman, from Akwa Ibom State, said when he got married in 1963, fertility test was something totally unheard-of. However, he would recommend it for intending couples including his children because, according to him, the world has changed. “What we were doing then, the so-called jet age are not doing it today,” he said. “So there is every tendency that I will recommend it to my children. I have female and male children. They may fall victim of this ignorance. They should avoid it. So I recommend it. It is not out of place. What these young children are doing these days cannot be imagined, things you will never think of. A young girl of 18 years has been committing abortion for many years unknown to her parents, and tomorrow, maybe my male children could unluckily meet this girl and want to marry her without knowing this. No way. Please, there is every reason for me to advise my children to do fertility test.”
Miss Loral Amade who works with an engineering firm in Lagos, sees it as necessary for everyone to undergo the test because one can never vouch for her partner that she shares her sexual life with. “You may not be the only girlfriend he has nor, could you be the only boyfriend, too. I think for every woman, it is necessary even after marriage because I do hear some women say before they got to 48 years they had stopped experiencing their menstrual cycle. I can recommend fertility test before marriage. It is necessary for my partner to go for it, so that he would not come up tomorrow to apportion blame to me.”
“As a result of the kind of Nigeria we are in today, I think is necessary because you see, some marriages are breaking”, Mr. Peter Ago, a property management consultant said. “Out of 100% of failed marriages, 35% is caused by infertility,” he added. “When I was a young man I had a girl who was my best friend. She was about 17 years and in Senior Secondary School 2 but she had done seven abortions. She was not my girlfriend, we were not having any relationship but she was my best friend. During her last pregnancy, the doctor had to remove her womb. Her mother did not know, it was only I and the doctor that knew. Then, she would tell her mother that she was going to stay in her auntie’s house. She was beautiful, ebony black beauty. So if I marry that kind of a girl without going for a test, what would happen to that marriage? So, I would advise intending couple to go for fertility test before marriage.”
Mr. Samuel Ifeanyi, a geological engineer and ICT consultant, from Delta State, told Saturday Sun that he would not only do it but also recommend it to his partner. “Even before you came, I have a fiancee who also suggested this and even before she asked, I had such opinion, that it is equally necessary. Aside fertility, it is also good to know your health status, whether you are HIV positive or not. These days, it is not even whether you love somebody. When eventually you find out some deformity, will you then go ahead? This is not the issue of faith, it is about doing the right thing.”
Fertility expert speaks
Infertility has destroyed a lot of marriages. This is why an Abuja-based naturopath and fertility expert, Dr Kingsley Onuzuleke, recently advised intending couples to ascertain their fertility status before marriage. He said there is need for intending couples to know their fertility status because cases of infertility among couples, is on the rise in the country.
According to him, correcting such challenges before marriage would help to address any malfunction that could lead to delay in conception, as well as conflict in marriage. He stated that there is an ongoing campaign to create awareness for intending couples to know their fertility status just the way they test for the blood group, genotype and HIV status before marriage.
Onuzuleke also appealed to religious leaders to take up the responsibility so that such fertility test becomes a prerequisite for wedding. “Both intending couples need to know whether they are fertile or not because Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs), infections, viral infections and chromosome deficiencies from either of the partners can also cause infertility,” he said. “Early diagnosis of such infections can be treated, for a more peaceful and stronger relationship among couples.’’
He mentioned some fertility tests for men to include analysis to determine if sperms are normal and healthy, functional and highly motile, and test for hormonal imbalance and ejaculation issues. The women, he said, could undergo test for STDs, which could affect the reproductive organs, as well as ovulation and hormonal checks.
Onuzuleke stressed that age could also play a role in female infertility, noting that delay in marriage could decrease the likelihood of conception. Age, he said, is a growing cause of infertility. “We encourage women not to delay marriage because from 35 years, the quality of eggs produced would begin to depreciate, then conception becomes more difficult,” he warned. “Couples already married should seek urgent medical assistance if after one year of unprotected sexual intercourse they’ve not had child.”
Advantages of fertility test
Dr Adesida Adeniyi, an anaesthetist at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), and a lecturer at the College of Medicine, University of Lagos, in his own view, noted that the advantages of conducting fertility test on intending couples far outweigh the disadvantages. Firstly, it helps to diagnose existing fertility reducing conditions prior to marriage and, therefore, reduce the emotional and financial stress the couple could be subjected to following marriage.
“If you are a woman, aged 35 to 40 years, if your menstruation is irregular or completely absent, or if you have painful periods, you have endometriosis or pelvic inflammatory disease, previous multiple miscarriages following unprotected sex or you have undergone treatment for cancer, you should have fertility tests before you go into marriage. Also, men who have history of testicular, prostate or sexual problems, small testicles, swelling in the scrotum, or a family history with infertility problems, you should go for fertility tests before marriage.”
He believes that many infertile couples would have been saved the agony of infertility if these tests have been done. “A man knows he has azoospermia, that is, no sperm at all and went ahead to get married,” he said. “Eighteen years after, the couple is unable to conceive by natural means, while the woman has gone past her reproductive age. This is absolutely unfair to the woman. She will resign her fate to God or seek other means of fertilization. If you compare this to a man who discovered that he has low sperm count or no sperm count due to the varicocele of the scrotum, a simple surgery before marriage increases the sperm count to normal fertility levels such that the story of infertility will not be told in that marriage.”
In order to avoid painful situations in marriage, he advised couples with the above conditions to seek medical help before contracting marriage. “A visit to the urologist by the man and a gynaecologist by the woman is all that is needed to resolve and treat these various causes before marriage.”
He equally blames religion for compounding the problem by making it difficult for couple to divorce especially in cases where it was all too obvious that the marriage was contracted based on deceit. This makes the couples to keep trying and spending a better part of their lives fighting religious pressure, depression and loss of self-esteem. He further advised intending couples to know their genotype, the test which he said should be carried out in two different laboratories, so that errors can be avoided. “Many children have paid the ultimate price for this error,” he said. “My submission is for couples to go for fertility tests before marriage to save them from agony.”
Why it’s not necessary – Gynaecologist
Dr. Emmanuel Enabulele, a consultant surgeon/gynaecologist at Nigerian Navy Referral Hospital, Ojo, Lagos, who, noted that a man and a woman must be living together and freely relating for a minimum of two years without achieving conception before you can start talking about infertility, disagrees with the idea of fertility test before marriage.
“It is very wrong to tell the upcoming generation that marriage is all about procreation, so if you are going to tie procreation to marriage it is going to send a wrong signal,” he said. “But you can advise them to go for medical test before going into marriage, but that is also going to create another problem. Premature sex is not advisable either.”
He believes that procreation should not be the reason for marriage. “If you say that years back, it is understandable, but not at this time. It is a very callous statement for the expert to make. Marriage is more than procreation, it is just a blessing in marriage; it is not compulsory. There are cases where people marry and decide not have a child. Some couples have terminated pregnancy because they don’t want a child. If it becomes a criteria, it is going to be invasive of privacy”.
He described marriage as a choice and noted that emphasis should be laid on that, adding that there are three important days in one’s life: the day you were born, the day you die and the day you get married. “You are not aware of what is happening in the first two just mentioned, but on your wedding day you are in charge,” he said. “Wedding is not marriage, it is just a public proclamation of people living together and making decisions together.”
Though he recommended such tests as Seminal Fluid Analysis (Sperm Count) for men, and Ultra Sound Scan, Hormone Fertility Test, Hormone Profile, Screening for Infections, HysteroSalpingography (HSG), etc for women who insist on going for fertility test, he nevertheless contends that all those tests can be normal but at the end of the day one may not achieve fertility.