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Breaking The Infertility Taboo

Usually, it is the woman who bears the brunt of infertility but according to experts, infertility is caused by 50 per cent male and 50 per cent female factors.

Breaking The Infertility Taboo

Women aren't the only ones who suffer from infertility

Infertility refers to a couple's inability to conceive. In India, infertility affects around 10 per cent to 15 per cent of married couples. Besides the emotional toll infertility takes on childless couples, the topic of infertility is stigmatized and viewed as embarrassing in our country. Hence, awareness or open discussion about it is almost unheard of. Also, being infertile can invite questions and comments, which are not always empathetic. Therefore, couples dealing with infertility find it challenging to obtain expert counselling and treatment. More and more young couples are seeking infertility treatment.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that infertility rates may be rising due to various lifestyle and environmental factors. Changing lifestyles and food habits have also contributed to the increase in infertility incidence in recent years. Infertility is a problem not only in rural areas but throughout the country. The lack of information-sharing platforms or advocacy organisations also causes widespread unawareness in urban areas. 

A person struggling with infertility can feel isolated. Work-related stress can harm women's sexual health and may result in an increase in fertility problems through the negative impact of stress on lifestyle. However, due to cultural, religious, and social restrictions, women in India find it difficult to discuss or approach fertility specialists.

Furthermore, women aren't the only ones who suffer from infertility. Men experience infertility too due to poor lifestyle choices, and chronic health problems, leading to poor sperm quality. However, virility and sexual competence was often equated with male infertility, making it difficult for men to seek infertility treatment. This is changing and we see more men approach fertility clinics for assessment. 

Usually, it is the woman who bears the brunt of infertility but according to experts, infertility is caused by 50 per cent male and 50 per cent female factors. Both egg and sperm play critical roles in the development of an embryo. Consequently, knowing the quality of sperm is equally essential to the success of fertility treatments. It's a welcome change to see couple approaching the fertility treatment together and open gradually to examination, tests and further treatments  

A woman's fertility is finite, which means she is born with all the eggs she will ever have. There is a gradual loss of eggs every month with ovulation. This decline becomes more steep after age 35-37 years. Because most couples are unwilling to admit to having infertility issues, they often delay seeking treatment.

The delay in diagnosing infertility is also related to couples often not realizing the existence of these issues until it is too late. Furthermore, due to a lack of support, these couples may find the entire process intimidating when finally deciding to undergo treatment.  

Assisted Reproductive Methods

Due to recent advancements in science and medical technology, infertility specialists are now well-equipped and trained to perform assisted conception treatments in a safer way and with better outcomes., Treatments such as Intrauterine insemination (IUI), In vitro fertilisation (IVF), and Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), with self or donor egg and sperm are now mainstream. 

These methods of assisted reproduction have helped couples who might otherwise not be able to conceive. With such advanced fertility treatments, infertile couples can now successfully become parents of healthy children.  

Breaking the Stigma: Need of the Hour 

It's high time we normalized the infertility conversation, dispel the stigma surrounding it and make assisted reproductive techniques affordable and accessible for all. Advanced reproductive technologies and procedures can only benefit when society stands together to combat infertility's stigma.

Public discussion of male and female infertility could help couples experiencing infertility issues feel less alone. In addition, bringing these issues out in the open will contribute to their acceptance as health issues rather than something to be ashamed of.  

Leading infertility specialists from the top institutes and organizations should take the opportunity to come together and spread awareness about infertility among patients. Medical communities also need to come forward and collaborate to create a sustainable awareness program for the masses. 

Similarly, support groups must also encourage people dealing with infertility to speak openly. Additionally, they must educate the people about the available assisted reproductive options that can help childless couples to have a baby of their own. Last but not least, infertility must come under the purview of health insurance so that people can seek appropriate treatment without worrying about expenses. 

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