There has always been a premium on the fertility status of a woman especially in our country. A woman who cannot conceive faces not only psychological trauma but also social humiliation and ostracism. Medical science and awareness has done a great service to womankind by putting the ‘blame’ squarely on the shoulders of both the man and the woman. Men in general contribute to one third of the cases of infertility and the women too contribute one third to the phenomenon and the rest are attributed to both the spouses concerned. That is some relief indeed for women who have been unnecessarily facing the entire flak for involuntary childlessness for ages.
There are a number of research studies that highlight the social and psychological effects of infertility on the couple. They mention high on the list factors such as emotional distress, anxiety, depression, low self esteem and extreme stress. Besides these emotional responses there is a significant negative impact on the quality of life of the couple, marital stress, deterioration of the relationship and its happiness, and social pressure. Surprisingly there are more studies on the effects on women to the exception of men whereas the facts state that men who are diagnosed with infertility problems suffer equally or may be even more than women. It is also seen that women externalize their emotions to solve the problems by sharing it with friends. This helps them to mitigate their suffering whereas men internalize the sorrow and the horror of it and suffer alone making them prone to psychosomatic complaints. But this area of male infertility and its psychological dimensions has been sorely neglected by the specialists. Counseling would be absolutely essential not only for women but also for the men.
The rate of infertility is on the rise agree gynecologists across the country. The rate has grown from 8 to 10% to almost 20 to 25% across the globe. India is not behind says Dr. Meena Chimote President, Nagpur Obstetrics and Gynecologists Society and Medical Director of Vaunshdhara-Test Tube Baby Centre. One of the many reasons which contribute to the increase in infertility, she says, are the changing life styles of men and women, delayed marriage, delayed parenthood, career orientation of women, stress and social pressures of various types, and many types of medical complications which cause difficulties in conception and pregnancy. Dr. Chimote says ‘as the age of conception increases the chances of women infertility also increases’. This is due to something called ‘ovarian age’ in which the number of eggs a woman has begins to deplete with age and so does the quality of the eggs. So late conception is not recommended for young adults who would like to marry and raise families. This is an important message for young expectant would be mothers.
Women’s career ambitions and pursuits could be also be blamed for the rise in infertility to the extent of causing mental and physical stress due to the pressures on the job which in effect cause hormonal imbalances and irregular menstruation. Another important factor to be considered is the body weight and its imbalance – both obesity and the fashionable ‘zero weight’ are negative contributors to the process of conception and pregnancy. This is again a good aspect young women should be aware of in the right perspective.
With men the factors contributing to infertility are changed life styles, changed habits, increase in addictions like smoking, alcohol consumption, love for fast food, sedentary life styles, sitting at the table with the computer for long hours, etc.
It is ironical that on one hand we are trying to decrease the population numbers by asking people to delay the age of marriage and the number of pregnancies while on the other hand the rate of infertility is growing due to late marriages and delayed pregnancies. So one thing leads to another- there has to be a balance somewhere and we need to understand this golden mean. Dr. Meena Chimote sums it up beautifully -‘young adults should get married by the age of 23 to 24 years and try to conceive as spontaneously as possible. The latest age for pregnancy one should plan for ought to be by 27 to 28 years’.
That is sound advice indeed for all expectant young couples as they can give birth to healthy babies and enjoy parenthood while youthful. It also means that there is a right age for everything in life, more so marriage and parenthood. So marry young and have babies while young. This is exactly what our grandparents told us to do! The wheel seems to have rotated full circle!
Published in The Hitavada – Womens World Persona For 9 March 2011