Srinagar: Shazia (name-changed) was at the verge of mental breakdown. Her irregular menstrual cycles rendered her helpless and left her stuck in an endless cycle of despair.
“She had been taking oral contraceptives for months together. Without realizing, that these tablets are meant for emergency purposes and they had fiddled miserably with her hormone levels. Now, she has reached a point where she is unable to conceive and is simultaneously bogged down by the intermittent monthly cycles,” the gynecologist treating her said.
The doctor said the lack of awareness and misconceptions around infertility are common in Kashmir.
Sample this: A newly married woman in her mid-20’s was reported to Lal Ded Hospital, Srinagar a few weeks ago. “She complained of her inability to conceive. When in reality, she was married only a month ago. It is high time that couples understand that treatment for infertility only begins after one year of regular intercourse with no success,” the doctor said.
The gynecologist said the lady was counseled and told not to panic. “However, she was left unconvinced and unnecessarily sought treatment from other doctors. With the result, they put her on medicines which again led to tampering with the hormone levels,” the doctor said.
Infertility and its causes
If a couple is unable to conceive even after one year of trying without any protection, it is defined as infertility.
“The causes for infertility in women are many – they range from lifestyle causes like age, stress, obesity to biological reasons like ovulation issues, hormonal imbalances or endometriosis. Though treatable, the cause for infertility in women can be tough to diagnose,” Dr Nausheen Khan, gynecologist at Lal Ded Hospital, Srinagar said.
She said a woman’s ability to conceive starts reducing after she turns 35 years of age.
“Many women in the valley now marry in their 30s and want to start a family a few years later. However, by this time the quality of eggs produced by the ovaries has already been affected. There is another aspect to age, which also needs to be looked at. This is the ovarian or sexual age, which is often the cause for premature ovarian failure,” Dr Khan said.
She noted that about one-fourth cases of infertility in women in Kashmir are attributed to ovulation disorders, including Poly-cystic ovarian disease (PCOD).
“These can be triggered by stress, unhealthy eating habits, obesity, exposure to radiation from mobile phones or laptops or even BPA commonly found in household plasticware or non-stick pans. Women who have erratic periods are more likely to have trouble conceiving naturally,” she said.
J&K has lowest fertility rate in India
National Family Health Survey data for 2019-21 has revealed that the lowest fertility rate among larger states is in J&K at 1.4. It is also the state that recorded the highest decline of 0.6 in fertility rate between the last survey in 2015-16 and the latest one.
Common misconceptions about infertility
The Kashmir Monitor also caught up with some health experts to bust some popular myths around infertility. Here are few mentioned below:
Myth: Conceiving a child is easy
Fact: One in six couples experience challenges with infertility sometime during their childbearing years. This is because several factors can affect the ability to get pregnant including age, weight, smoking, drug intake and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Myth: Lifestyle changes can cure all infertility problems
Fact: Infertility can also be caused by ovulation disorders, blocked fallopian tubes, and genetically inherited problems in women and abnormal sperm production in men. Scheduling an appointment to see a fertility specialist could help explain the cause of infertility and if lifestyle changes are necessary.
Myth: Men don’t experience infertility
Fact: About 30 percent of infertility is due to a complication with the woman and 30 percent is due to a complication with the man. The other 40 percent is often unexplained or can be caused by both partners.
Myth: You’re not working hard enough
Fact: It is commonly believed that if a couple works hard enough, they will eventually get pregnant. However, sometimes this is not the case since many other factors can cause infertility. A woman who has been trying to get pregnant for one year and is under the age of 35 is recommended to see a fertility specialist. Because fertility declines with age, a woman who is over the age of 35 and has been trying to conceive for 6 months or more with no success is recommended to see a fertility specialist.
Myth: Infertility means that you can never have a child
Fact: Infertility is when a couple has trouble conceiving a child after six months to a year (depending on the age of the woman), not that they can never have a child. With the many fertility options available such as ovulation induction, insemination, fertility preservation and In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), many couples can have a child—or children—by finding the right treatment for them.