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Infertility resulting from ‘stress, late marriages’ on rise in Kashmir

Srinagar, Dec 7: Getting married after six years of their relationship was an uphill task for Mushtaq and Shakeela (names changed), whose families didn’t favour their bond.

Mushtaq has just completed his post-graduation when he asked for the consent of Shakeela’s family for their marriage. They rejected him for their daughter, as he didn’t have a fulltime government job.

Finally in 2007, a cleric convinced their families that job is not a prerequisite for marriage in Islam. And they agreed.

A decade later, the couples’ inability to conceive has separated their families once again, threatening Mushtaq and Shakeela’s marital life.

Mushtaq has oligospermia, a medical condition in which a male’s sperm count falls. They have been forced to seek medical intervention from a renowned fertility clinic here.

“We went to Chandigarh twice for treatment but nothing happened so far. Doctors have seen a ray of hope in both of us now,” Shakeela, who was waiting outside the clinic, said.

Much to the disappointment of Mushtaq’s family, his younger brother Sajjad, who was married a year later, too was detected with a similar problem.

Infertility in Jammu and Kashmir has emerged as a new challenge for the married couples.

The diseases, which was rare decades before is increasingly declining the birth rate in the state particularly in conflict torn Kashmir.

The Total Fertility Rate (TFR) of Jammu and Kashmir is recorded 72 per cent lesser than the national average, which is 2.33 births per woman.

As per the National Health Policy-2018, the state currently has a TFR of 1.7 births per woman, which is much less than 14 other states of India.

In J&K, the rural areas recorded higher TFR of 1.9 births per woman compared to urban areas where it 1.2 births per woman.

When comparing the current data to a decade before, the TFR in the state lowered nearly by 70 per cent.

In 2005, J&K had a TFR of 2.4 births per woman against the national average of 2.9 births per woman, which in 2011 slipped to 1.9 births per woman.

The fertility rate in the state is believed to have slipped further, but the Directorate of Health Services Kashmir has no fresh data regarding it.

With the downward trend in fertility rate in the state, the number of couples seeking medical assistance to give a birth goes higher.

Kashmir, which had a single fertility and In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) center a decade ago, has seen mushrooming of such centres considering the prevalence of the problem among the couples.

The valley currently has three prime fertility centres in Srinagar while dozens of clinics with Outdoor Patients Departments have come up in various districts.

Dr RuheelNisa, who set up first fertility facility in Srinagar back in 2003, said the mushrooming of fertility clinics equally depicted the severity of the problem in Kashmir.

“In March 2003, me and Dr JaveedMugloo set up this joint venture as then number of couples would travel outside states for treatment. Over the time many such clinics came up where the couples are treated and counselled daily,” she said.

Dr Nisa said her clinics would receive three to four childless couples every day for treatment.

“We have facilities like IVF and other related technicians. If we compare 2003 to the current years, there has been much advancement in the valley also,” she said.

In Kashmir, the late marriage coupled with changing food habits are believed to be the prime reasons behind the prevalence of this problem.

Renowned IVF Expert and Clinical Embryologist, Dr. Syed Sajjad Hussain, believed the trend of late marriages and stress were contributing factors to infertility in Kashmir.

“In most of the patients we see 40 per cent male and 40 female while 20 are suffering unexplained infertility. The late marriages are common here nowadays which affects ones reproductive health,” he said.

“Similarly, stress response hyperstimulation leads to such problems,” he said.