While one can be married “happily ever after”, for many couples the celebrations are cut short when it comes to having a “baby soon after”. In a country of 1.2 billion people, 10 per cent suffer from general infertility — as presented in a survey by Asia Pacific Initiative on Reproduction.
The solution in sight, most naturally, are the infertility treatments . But on the flip side, such procedures are expensive, the treatment cycle too long and the success rate only 30 per cent. And then there is the fact that as long as the treatment is underway, sex becomes a chore — an awkward moment of false intimacy that starts to take a toll on both the man and the woman.
Treatment is soul destroying
Rajesh (30) had been married to Nina (25) for six months when the couple decided to have a baby. Unable to conceive, they went to see a doctor. Even though their test results were normal, the doctor prescribed a procedure, a specific time frame when the two must copulate. But the husband faltered. The stress of performing only on specific days got to him and he started skipping the days the two were asked to have intercourse. The wife, on the other hand, perceived his absence as lack of interest.
The doctor who was treating them made matters worse by lashing out at them: “I am doing my best. But you two need to hold up your end of the deal”. To cut a long story short, the wife filed for divorce stating she was married to an impotent man!
“Sex cannot be a mandate,” says doctor Narayan Reddy, well- known sexologist, adding, “The relationship aspect is often forgotten and it’s a terrible disappointment for couples when they can’t have a baby. And that’s when the blame game begins. It is very difficult to cope for both, man and a woman.”
When couples are directed to have sex on a specific date and time, they feel the pressure and fail. “Parents want them to have kids soon and they are being constantly nagged. And often, treatments don’t work at the first go. So it’s important for every fertility centre to have a counsellor who can guide and assure the couple, help them vent out their frustration and make them feel safe,” he adds.
A sensitive problem
Married in a loving family, Shreya had no complaints – she adored her husband and her in-laws were always there for her. Yet she found herself stressed and depressed. A few years after marriage, she and her husband tried to have a child, but were unable to do so. After a trip to the doctor, she realised she had abnormalities of the uterus.
“The silver lining in this gloomy situation was that her family was extremely supportive. They kept running around, would keep admitting her to the hospital and took very good care of,” says Dr Lakshmi Kiran, obstetrician and gynaecologist at Rainbow Hospital.
Even after Shreya’s exhausting treatments began, she had eight miscarriages before she delivered a healthy baby. “Depending on the issue, the treatment comprises scans, injections, insemination and surgery in a six to eight month of (alternate) cycle — one cycle could easily cost a lakh or more. And then there is the success rate, out of 10 couples per cycle, only two might conceive,” says Dr Kiran, adding, “One can imagine the toll it takes on the couple.”
Infertility treatments require frequent trips to the hospitals. “Ovulation doesn’t wait for a Sunday. One is supposed to come for treatment no matter what time or day it is. Even though people are very open nowadays to seek treatment – out of 20 infertility patients a day, three keep it a secret from their friends and colleagues, which then makes it difficult when they have to regularly take time off work or explain their prolonged absence,” says Dr Kiran.
An IVF and infertility specialist, Dr Suma Hariprasad has been practising for 23 years. “My practice is in Secunderabad and Kukatpally and the demographics of these areas are quite interesting,” she says.
While the women from the Secunderabad region are usually housewives and dependent on their husbands and families for support; the couples from Kukatpally are more aware and often come for treatments together. “Couples from the Kukatpally area are concerned about the intricacies of sexual health; whereas the other group is closed when we ask them how often they have intercourse and related questions; they just want to have a baby, no other questions asked.
The longer a couple is married for, the more reserved they often are when it comes to talking about their sexual history,” says Dr Suma, who also conducts lectures at software companies. Any infertility treatment, the doctor admits, results in turmoil in the patients’ lives.
“Whether it’s a success or failure, the concerned party is often devastated with the treatment — intercourse becomes mechanical, treatments are painful and there is the whole psychological aspect of a man or a woman blaming themselves. “That can result in tensions,” says Dr Suma.
A bitter reality
“It might be hard to accept but even now, women carry the burden when it comes to infertility. They are often blamed by their husbands and the families, and since the treatments are expensive, for many the option of not working is out of question. So by the end of the end of the day, you have a tired, overworked couple hoping to have a baby; there are high chances that romance is the last thing they would have on their mind,” says Dr Kiran.
Any infertility treatment results in turmoil in the patients’ lives. Success or failure, the concerned party is often devastated with the treatment – intercourse becomes mechanical, treatments are painful and there is the whole psychological aspect of a man or a woman blaming themselves” — that can result in tensions.
— Dr Suma
Ovulation doesn’t wait for a Sunday. One is supposed to come for treatment no matter what time or day it is. Even though people are very open nowadays to seek treatment — out of 20 infertility patients a day, three keep it a secret ” — that can result in tensions.
— Dr Lakshmi Kiran
*Some names changed on request...