Stress, smoking, drinking among the many reasons
A man came in with swift steps with a box of sweets in his hands. The nurses smiled and congratulated him on having his first newborn. In contrast to him was a woman, not more than 25 years of age, wiping her tear-stained face with the crumpled end of her saree. Beside her was her husband trying to console her.
Rima Thappa was 25 years old and two years into her marriage when she decided to start a family. Her hopes were shattered when, after trying for months, she could not conceive. She has had irregular and extremely painful periods since a very young age.
“They are supposed to be painful” is what she thought. Years later, her doctor informed her large cysts had blocked and damaged her fallopian tube.
The fertility rate in Karnataka has been falling as per the latest National Family and Health Survey(NFHS 5). The rate was found to be lower in urban women (1.5) than rural women (1.7).
Women unable to conceive have to turn to artificial methods like in-vitro fertilization (IVF), intrauterine insemination (IUI), intracytoplasmic sperm injection and surrogacy. An official at the Jainistha fertility centre, Rajajinagar, informed The Observer that it records over 60 new patients on an average in a week.
“The number has been increasing for a decade. The infertility rate among both men and women has been on the rise. This is why we have a lot of new patients every day. On an average in a day, we have at least 10 new patients and several continuing patients,” said Swetha A, a senior embryologist at the centre.
Rima Thappa, 29, a homemaker, remembering her treatment, said: “I had to use IUI method to conceive. It was a long and painful procedure involving several visits to the hospital. The doctors told me the chances of me conceiving in the first try are negligible. Only if I had known that I had PCOS earlier and got the right treatment, all that could have been avoided.” Rima is now a mother of a five-year-old boy.”
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is one of the reasons for the declining fertility rate. As per a report in the Deccan Herald, PCOS has been on the rise in Karnataka for five years. PCOS is a metabolic disorder in which ovaries fail to release eggs regularly, leading to irregular, prolonged or no menstrual periods at all. The effect of this is manifold: from menstrual irregularity, hair growth, acne, obesity and infertility. It is a more severe form of polycystic ovarian disease (PCOD) in which ovaries produce many premature or partially mature eggs.
Dr Shewtha Y. Baratikkae, a gynecologist and senior fertility consultant at Jainistha, said: “Over 40 per cent of women in the country have PCOS. Fifty per cent of the women who are infertile and come for treatment have had a history of polycystic ovary syndrome. The chances that a PCOS patient, if left untreated, will get infertility are very high.”
Lifestyle is the main reason for infertility in women. Drinking, smoking, excessive stress and unhealthy eating habits are some of the reasons for rising infertility in women, she explained.
Sikha Verma, a student who has PCOS, shared: “I have been dealing with it for 3-4 years. For a year, I had irregular periods but I never bothered to visit a doctor. The doctor told me that if I don’t take proper medicine and treatment, I will damage my ovaries and will definitely face fertility issues.”
Many women, especially young teenage girls, have little or no knowledge of this condition. Nishika Chandok, 16, a student, said she has very little knowledge about PCOS. “I have heard about it from a friend. She has PCOS since two years. She said her gynecologist had asked her to make several lifestyle changes like eating habits.”
Fertility centers across the country have been increasing in number, as per a Financial Express report. India could soon become the world’s IVF capital. As per research by expresshealthcare.in, India is the third largest consumer of artificial methods of conceiving after China. Many couples dropped their fertility treatment during the pandemic but they are now coming back, according to a Deccan Herald report.