Fewer things are more disappointing in life than trying to conceive and failing over and over again. According to the Indian Society of Assisted Reproduction, about 27.5 million Indian couples face this reality. The statistics don’t paint a pretty picture for urban couples where reportedly one in every six couples is likely to suffer from fertility problems.
Needless to say fertility issues are on the rise in India, but awareness about them remains dangerously low—thanks to our hesitancy in visiting a gynaecologist for regular check-ups. That’s why we’re roped in Dr Sujoy Dasgupta, Kolkata-based gynaecologist and infertility specialist, to help you understand what infertility is—and what you need to do become a parent. Dr Dasgupta has 15 research publications at national and international journals to his credit, and he consults at Genome, The Fertility Centre in the city—amongst other clinics. And this is what he has to say about infertility…
Understanding infertility is important
“Infertility is when someone unable to conceive even though they have been trying for a pregnancy for one year,” explains Dr Dasgupta. Stressing on what “trying” means, he explains: “Unprotected intercourse, regularly i.e. two to three times in a week for one year. And if they’re unable to get pregnant after that, they’re likely to have infertility.”
“Doctors prefer to use the term ‘subfertility’ which means difficulties in conceiving, rather than infertility which points to an inability to conceive,” he adds.
Risk factors for infertility
“Most of the couples who suffer from infertility don’t have any risk factors,” says Dr Dasgupta. But certain underlying conditions can wreak havoc on men and women’s reproductive health, putting them at risk of fertility issues.
“Women with irregular and painful periods and/or who find sex to be too painful tend to have some known diseases linked to infertility, like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, or fibroids,” he says. Women who have had previous surgeries involving the ovaries, uterus, and/or the fallopian tubes might also find it difficult to get pregnant—as do women who have undergone radiation or chemotherapy to fight cancer. Family history of infertility and premature menopause also reduces a woman’s chances of getting pregnant.
“Women who have multiple sexual partners and often catch sexually-transmitted infections like pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) are also at a higher risk of infertility,” Dr Dasgupta suggests
Talking about risk factors for infertility for men, he says: “Men who have had mumps—especially when it affected the testicles causing pain and swelling in the region—are at higher risk of infertility, so are men who have had surgeries involving the genital area.”
A condition called varicocele, where the blood vessels in the scrotum get enlarged can also cause infertility in men, suggests the expert. “Men who have diabetes, have received cancer treatments, catch STIs often, have multiple sex partners, have a disease affecting the prostate gland or even the spinal cord are at a higher risk of infertility,” explains Dr Dasgupta.
Think you might be at the risk of infertility? Here’s what to do next
“My simple advice to couples is have unprotected and frequent intercourse for a year if you want to get pregnant, and if you’re unable to conceive after that seek gynaecological help,” recommends Dr Dasgupta. “However, if you fit the bill for any the risk factors or if the age of the female partner is above 35, then don’t wait for a year; seek help if you fail to conceive within six months,” he adds.
Upon visiting the gynaecologist, you will be evaluated throughly—after which s/he may suggest a few treatment options depending on the nature of your fertility troubles. “Some people may require laparoscopic surgery. But many a times, couples don’t require invasive treatments; they can conceive by simple intercourse and some medicines to increase sperm count or boost ovulation,” says.
If these methods fail, then ART or assisted reproductive techniques come into the picture—starting with IUI. “In IUI or intrauterine insemination, we collect healthy sperms and push them inside the woman’s womb,” he says. If IUI also fails to help, then couples are advised to go in for more advanced treatments like IVF and ICSI. “With these techniques, a majority of couples can conceive,” concludes Dr Dasgupta.
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