New hope for the childless

Test tube kids' session.

Test tube kids' session.  

The number of infertility treatment centres that have come up in Kochi alone over the last three years or so has motivated medical experts to ponder over the causes of what appears to be an increase in infertility.

Though specialised treatment to cure infertility is rather exorbitant, it is one of the key areas of medicine to which considerable attention is being paid to these days. There are approximately 10 In-Vitro Fertility (IVF) clinics in the State, of which, at least, three are in Kochi.

Medical experts say that changes in lifestyle have contributed to the increasing incidence of a number of diseases that has affected the fertility of couples.

The physical distance between couples on account of busy lifestyles and work pressure and increase in the marriage age are cited as reasons for increase in infertility. Wrong treatment is another reason, say experts.

Of those who seek treatment for infertility, 30 per cent of men and the same proportion of women end up undergoing treatment. In the remaining instances both partners require treatment.

In fact, it helps if both husband and wife undergo a check-up at the beginning of the treatment, so that one does not have to wait for the results of the treatment taken by one of the partners to decide on the course of action, says Jolly Thomson, who runs a fertility clinic.

According to an expert, about 15 per cent of couples seek treatment for infertility. Says N.P. Vijayalakshmy, who runs a fertility clinic and IVG centre, "one out of six couples have this problem."

People are now more aware of the options available, says V. Girija of the Family Health Department at the General Hospital. She says, "A few years back, couples would come only when they were advised by family members to consult a specialist. But now they come on their own."

According to her, usually women are the first to be subjected to infertility tests. The men are reluctant to undergo any tests until all possible treatment options available for women are explored, she says. This attitude has to change, she adds.

One of the major problems in women is imperfect ovulation (anovulation), says Dr. Vijayalakshmy. Ovulation is the release of the egg from the ovaries in a regular monthly cycle. But gynaecologists say that this problem could be easily corrected. Obesity, fibroids in uterus, endometriosis, polycystic ovary, etc. are some of the factors that usually cause infertility in women.

Among men, the main reason for infertility is usually the sperm count. While there are medicines to increase the sperm count, for women, treatment involves medication as well as surgical procedures. Laproscopy is usually one of the procedures to cure infertility.

But Dr. Jolly holds a different view. She says that Laproscopy is useful only if there is endometriosis. "There is a misconception that Laproscopy is a minor surgery. It is neither a minor surgery nor does it help in treating infertility due to other reasons. It should be used only in specific cases,'' she explains.

Intra-Uterine Insemination (IUI) and In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) are the procedures adopted in Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART).

While a routine check-up may cost Rs. 1,000 for each partner, a hormone study would cost another Rs. 1,000. It is easier to treat women for infertility because ovum development can be studied in 15 days, while the sperms take 72 days for development.

For the poor, infertility treatment is a very expensive option, says Dr. Girija. A Laproscopy would cost about Rs. 25,000 and IVF treatment may cost between Rs. 50,000 and Rs. 75,000 for one cycle. IUI is comparatively cheaper. However, artificial methods do not give 100 per cent results. Even for couples without fertility problems, there is only a 25 per cent chance of conceiving during a woman's reproductive cycle, says Dr. Jolly.

By Shyama Rajagopal

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