Social and emotional burden of infertility

Rising burden of infertility
In India alone, 28 million couples suffer from this condition. Infertility has significant negative social impact on the lives of couples unable to conceive, particularly women. As a society, we put the onus of bearing a child solely on the woman. While clinical sources point out that at least 50% of fertility issues are among men, women often tend to hide the performance issues of their partners due to social concerns. With limited facilities for treatment and few avenues for advice, women are often left to untrained doctors and subjected to unscientific and expensive treatments that they cannot afford. They suffer the bulk of the consequences, sometimes experiencing violence, divorce, social stigma, emotional trauma, depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.

Factors leading
to increasing
infertility rates
There is an alarming increase in infertility related complications in India due to a multitude of reasons. Many people attribute infertility to fate, past sins, and other misconceptions, but scientifically it’s attributed to biological factors or lifestyle factors or referred to as ‘unexplained fertility’. As women age, their fertility gradually declines, especially in their mid-30s, and it drops rapidly after 37. Moreover, both partners may reduce their chances of getting pregnant by smoking tobacco. The consumption of alcohol also contributes to fertility decline. Being overweight or underweight are other risk factors. Modern lifestyle factors like long working hours and inadequate focus on overall well-being add stress, thereby increasing the risk of infertility. While infertility can be caused due to various factors, there is a tendency to react to it as an individual or personal failure. As part of this vicious cycle, the mental pressure around fertility issues can become a cause of infertility.

Fertility Issues and their psychological impact
Women are subject to different physiological, and emotionalpressures as a result of fertility treatments. Confusion, frustration, melancholy, anxiety, hopelessness, and guilt are just a few of the psychological-emotional disorders or consequences that some of the hormonal changes brought on by the medication might induce. In addition, the difficulties and ups and downs of the treatment process might result in a loss of control and low self-esteem. Mental health may be impacted by coping with the numerous medical decisions and the uncertainties associated with the outcome, can affect mental health. Moreover, the taboo and social stigma surrounding infertility can make it an extremely isolated experience for people.

Bringing care to fertility treatment
Mental, emotional, and social wellbeing have a significant impact on overall health. Combating fertility issues also requires a similar approach, with patience and a positive attitude. There is a need to bring compassion into the process of fertility treatment. It is important to understand the individual preferences of patients, respect their choices and customize treatments that are best suited to each patient. It is also critical to empower patients by making more information available to them so they can make choices about their treatment with full knowledge and understanding. A fertility care provider can make a significant difference to the quality of the journey for patients, by providing not just the best of science but also empathetic support.
Dr Puja Singh is a Fertility & IVF Consultant.

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