Over the years, as a practising gynaecologist, treating women with fertility issues has been a core part of my job. I have treated thousands of women with numerous problems obstructing their dream of motherhood.
After so many years of medical practice, the severity of the cases doesn’t amaze me. However, I am still surprised by the simple reasons which can hold women back from their right to motherhood.
Every patient is an individual with a different educational and family background. Therefore, I don’t expect everyone to be equally informed. However, I have noticed that even women from influential and educational backgrounds have very little knowledge and understanding of the key problem areas.
Almost 6 years ago, Savitri from Pune consulted me about her fertility issues. She had been undergoing fertility treatment for the past 12 years and was at her wit’s end.
Allopathic and Homoeopathic Treatments: She started her journey to become a mother by consulting regular gynaecologists in her area and even consulted homoeopathic doctors as suggested by her family and friends.
IUIs: Savitri underwent several IUIs. Every attempt raised hopes only to be broken at the end of the month.
Hormonal Replacement Therapy (HRT): She took hormone replacement therapy without being fully informed about its risks. Although she would have probably taken it even if she knew the risks because she wanted to have a child.
IVF: In the end, her gynaecologist encouraged her to undergo IVF. She was promised guaranteed success. That’s what pushed her to go for this expensive treatment despite her constrained budget. However, despite 3 failed IVFs, she was still looking for hope.
I saw the extensive medical file she was carrying. She had carefully maintained all the documents. However, I realised the real problem when I asked some simple but important questions.
I wanted to know about her ovulation. She had no idea what I was talking about.
This woman had been seeking fertility treatment for the past 12 years with no knowledge about ovulation.
None of the above treatments could have been carried out without accurately estimating the ovulation cycle. However, it had been kept a secret from Savitri. It would be more accurate to say that she was never included in the discussion or had its importance explained to her.
She didn’t know anything about her reproductive health or its problems. She was just being pushed from one clinic to another in the blind hope of striking gold somehow.
Being a woman and a doctor, I understand her desperation and empathise with her situation. However, until women like Savitri realise their situation and become aware, they’ll keep getting tormented and exploited.
Desire or longing to be a mother can be very potent. However, it has also been used as a tool to exploit women. Countless women have been exploited financially, emotionally and physically just to bear children. Even when women could easily bear a child, they were made to feel incapable and cursed.
Times have changed. Today, we have the internet and a free flow of knowledge. Still the awareness level among women is unsatisfactory.
But it’s not just the women who are at fault. People with knowledge are not very generous with it. They hold on to their knowledge and only impart treatment. Most people feel that women will not understand the complex problems of the body.
Women only need to be made aware of the general upkeep of their reproductive health. They must have the right resources to understand when their reproductive system isn’t functioning normally. For the rest, they always have the experts to consult. But if they keep ignoring simple problems because they don’t know about them, the problems can snowball quickly.
Treating fertility or other reproductive system related problems can become serious if you are not aware of them.
Unlike in Western countries, In a traditional society like India, women find it hard to discuss issues related to their reproductive health or seek the right guidance. Even if there is a simple urine infection, women tend to bear it for longer before seeking treatment because it isn’t easily available. However, if ignored for long, that simple urine infection can cause serious damage to their reproductive health.
When it comes to conception, things are far more complicated. It isn’t so because these things are hard to understand. Such things are never really discussed or paid attention to.
If you think you are alone in this, you are not. At least 10-14 percent of the Indian population trying to conceive face such issues. It means there are at least 2.7 crore couples still facing some level of fertility problem. However, these aren’t infertile couples. This is the approximate number of couples who might be struggling with conception-related problems at any point in time.
The solution to their problems might be simple enough. They only need to work in the right direction.
A few years ago, I consulted Reena from Satara. Like any other woman seeking fertility treatment, her troubles were also similar. She had been trying various treatments for the past three years and had knocked on many doors.
When I scanned her reports, I didn’t see much problem with her. She had some period irregularity issues that are quite common in women and easily treatable. Her reports also mentioned some ovulation related problems that had been treated successfully. Reena’s report had nothing exceptional that could have prevented a successful conception.
I enquired about her husband’s investigations, and that’s when I realised the real troubles. Reena had been seeking treatment to conceive for the past three years, but her husband hadn’t agreed to any testing. Not only this, he became defensive when I suggested regular semen analysis.
Reena did not need any treatment. Physiologically, her body was ready to bear a child. The problem seemed to be somewhere with her husband. However, he seemed too defensive to agree to any testing or treatment.
Usually, the problem is with semen quality and sperm count. Because Reena’s husband wasn’t ready to give semen for analysis, we gave him some medicines to increase the semen quality.
Reena had to give it to him as a health tonic. However, the trick worked and Reena conceived in the second month itself.
A problem with which Reena had been struggling for the past three years got solved with some semen quality improving medicines.
It isn’t just about the financial cost of the past three years. Think of the enormous stress and taunts Reena must have endured during this period. The relentless persistence of relatives, self-doubt, the trauma of constant medical analysis and treatment. All because her husband refused to believe that the problem could be at his end.
It is a general mentality to hold women solely responsible for all pregnancy-related issues
As per the WHO report, India’s overall male infertility percentage is 23%. In almost 50% of conception related cases, men are the primary cause. Thankfully, most such problems can be easily treated through medication and timely intervention. Even a few months of medication can resolve most semen-related issues.
Infertility doesn’t just affect the man or the woman. It affects the couple as a whole. Therefore, if a couple tries to welcome a child to their family, it is important to step forward together. However, it cannot be achieved if they are unaware of these facts.
Low sperm count, motility, abnormal sperm function or blockages are only a few problems leading to conception issues. Besides these, obesity, diabetes, genetic factors, physical injuries, infections and stress can also lead to such problems. The important thing is to seek treatment because most of these issues can be treated easily through medication.
If the couple is open about such things to the doctor, these problems can be resolved easily and years of struggle can be ended within a few months. It would save a lot of money and mental agony for the couple.
You might have heard countless people complaining about the expensive healthcare system.
If you know anyone who has sought IVF, their woes will be endless. They can’t stop thinking about how expensive the treatment is and its doubtful success rate. Yet you will find numerous IVF clinics mushroomed around you.
Do you know the reason why?
Healthcare is a for-profit industry. The sooner you get your head around this fact, the better. It will always try to extract as much profitability from its customers as possible.
You will encounter numerous healthcare professionals and institutions eager to exploit your vulnerabilities if you are unaware.
As I have maintained from the beginning, fertility also brings a lot of psychological and social pressure, unlike other illnesses. Hence, people are more inclined to feel desperate pretty quickly. Once they start losing hope or feel that things are not working out like others, they will trust anyone. Beware, blind faith in people and procedures can be dangerous.
Women generally feel that they don’t need to know all the details. That’s faulty thinking. You must know the basics. It will help you understand your problems better. You can’t seek a solution unless you realise a problem.
Besides that, even properly following a treatment requires knowledge.
Did you know many people still don’t know why they should take antibiotics post-meal? Because they don’t know, they don’t follow. As a result, they have an upset stomach. Then they seek medicines even for that.
Even simple information and awareness about your reproductive health can help you prevent serious health issues. Most importantly, if avoiding the problem isn’t possible, it can help you arrive at the solution faster.
The following chapters in this book will explain the reproductive system and the process of conception in an easy-to-understand manner.
The prime focus of this book will be on explaining simple ways to avoid most problems and focus on strengthening the system.
You will also understand your reproductive system and its health from the perspective of the time-tested science of Ayurveda. It will explain the widely accepted principles of Ayurveda that can help you conceive faster and ensure better health.