At Fertile Conversations hosted by The Times Of India in association with InfertilityDost and NOVA IVI clinic, the aim was to reflect upon a sensitive issue that everyone knows about but no one really talks about it. It is this hush-hush attitude towards the problem of infertility that makes it complicated and difficult for a couple to handle who have to go through physical trauma, psychological distress and social apathy often causing depression and derailment of treatment.
However, the good news is that infertility at the core of it – is simply a medical condition that can be easily treated with advanced medical technologies available.
And, with awareness and lots of compassion from an equally sensitized society we can make it easier for the couples to manage the journey of infertility.
In a country with a population of 1.3 billion plus, it is shocking that infertility is steadily on a rise and affects almost 10 to 15 percent of the population. At this juncture, it doesn’t make sense to talk in hushed tones or visit a spiritual Guru and fast to tackle the problem. The only possible solution can come from experts and that can happen only if we come out in the open and talk about it. Thus, The Times Of India partnered with InfertilityDost to launch a two-week nationwide campaign called Fertile Conversations to encourage open conversations around this taboo subject, spread awareness and disseminate good advice through a panel of experts.
Why ‘Fertile Conversations’?
We are living in a time when women empowerment is a reality and therefore, we as women need not be ashamed if we are not able to produce a child to carry forward the family’s legacy. But no matter how advanced we may be, there are still families that are orthodox in its outlook and subject their daughters and daughter-in-law to unnecessary physical and mental trauma for not being able to conceive. Keeping this in mind and to make people realize that the elephant is indeed in the room, The Times of India came up with “Fertile Conversations”, an initiative in association with Nova IVI to make people realize that infertility is a medical condition and has nothing to do with your Karma. A drastic change in the lifestyle in the present century has brought in higher levels of stress and hormonal imbalances that might sometimes be the reason why a couple might not be able to conceive. Rather than invoking Gods to get relief from your bad Karma, it makes sense to fix an appointment with an expert who can definitely ensure that couples can enjoy parenthood if they tweak their lifestyle and food habits.
The Fertile Conversations Seminars
The desire for parenthood is inevitable and universal. On the other hand, infertility or inabilty to have children affects both men and women of reproducitve age in all parts of the world. Infertility has multiple causes and consequences depending on the gender, sexual history, lifestyle, and even the ethnic background of the people. Childless men and women are stigmatised, and are likely to be discriminated against.
Of course, it is not easy to change the mindset of people in a trice. But it is definitely possible to set the ball balling by starting the conversations around infertility. This will spread awareness, clear myths and doubts and encourage more and more couples to come out of their thinking blocks. The seminars were spread across Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore in the third week of July which was attended in large numbers by those needing help, experts and doctors. Our founder Gitanjali Banerjee moderated all the sessions and urged the gathering to do away with the stigma and talk about infertility. She stressed that it is important to understand that infertility can be treated but for that we need to be mentally ready.
Fertile Conversations In Delhi
This public seminar organized in India Habitat Centre received overwhelming response. The seminar was opened by InfertilityDost Founder, Gitanjali Banerjee who set the perspective right by throwing light on multiple layers of problem of infertility.
Distinguished panel of experts also included:
Dr. Neena Malhotra, Professor, ART Centre, AIIMS
Dr Parul Sehgal, Fertility Consultant, NOVA
Dr Parul Katiyar, Fertility Consultant, NOVA
Ms. Saloni Egbert, Counsellor, NOVA
Mr. Avinash Kumar, Member, CARA
The live video of the event telecasted through facebook received more than 77 thousand views. Pertinent questions were raised and a mirror was shown to society. The details of seminar was also published in The Times of India print and e-paper while bytes were telecasted in Morning Health Talk show aired in Times Now.
Fertile Conversations In Mumbai
Similar pattern was followed in two seminar conducted in Mumbai. The public seminar was opened and moderated by Gitanjali Banerjee. Other distinguished speakers spoke about various aspects like busting the myths about infertility, the ticking clock of fertility, managing the rollercoaster ride of emotions during infertility journey, finding a new perspective to solution of infertility through the lens of adoption.
The Speakers were:
- Dr Duru Shah, Director, Gynaecworld Fertility
- Dr Richa Jagtap, Fertility Consultant, NOVA
- Dr Ritu Hinduja, Fertility Consultant, NOVA
- Ms. Shweta Mathur, Counsellor, NOVA
- Mr. Avinash Kumar, Member, CARA
- Ms. Gitanjali Banerjee, Founder, InfertilityDost.com
It was an interactive session when the house was set open for questions by the audience. People had questions about IVF process, adoption process and how to manage emotions.
Fertile Conversations in Bangalore
Conducted at prestigious Nimhans Convention centre, Bangalore seminar was a house full of enthusiastic audience.
List of speakers:
- Dr Kamini Rao, Medical Director, Milann
- Dr Rashmi Yogish, Fertility Consultant, NOVA
- Dr Pallavi Prasad, Fertility Consultant, NOVA
- Ms. Jeromi Elisa George, Counsellor, NOVA
- Mr. Avinash Kumar, Member, CARA
- Ms. Gitanjali Banerjee, Founder, InfertilityDost.com
- Ms Arunima, Mindcoach Speaker
Bangalore edition of The Times Of India wrote at length about the event and how it was first bold step towards breaking societal taboos.
Meeting With Union Health Secretary
A panel discussion on “Regulations, challenges and way forward for fertility programs and adoption in India” was organized at India Islamic Centre, Delhi wherein the panelists put their thoughts on the table while Union health secretary listened, deliberated and spoke about the policy changes that can improve infertility healthcare.
- Shri CK Mishra, Health Secretary
- Dr Manish Banker, Chairman & Medical Director, Nova IVI Fertility
- Dr Neena Malhotra, Professor, Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, AIIMS
- Prof. Sudha Prasad, Director Professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Maulana Azad Medical College (MAMC)
- Dr R.S. Sharma, Scientist ‘G’ & Head, Indian Council of Medical Research
- Dr Kamini Rao, Medical Director, Milann – The Fertility Center
- Dr Rishma Pai, President, The Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India (FOGSI)
- Dr Hrishikesh Pai, Secretary General, The Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India (FOGSI)
- Mr. Gaurav Malhotra, CEO, Medicover
- Mr. Avinash Kumar, Member of Steering Committee, Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA)
- Ms. Gitanjali Banerjee, Founder of InfertilityDost
It was a very fruitful discussion and in a room full of doctors, InfertilityDost brought on table the perspective of a patient urging for holistic treatment and management facilities. The potent points raised by Gitanjali were:
Which is a good IVFclinic or doctor?
Gitanjali stressed upon the need open of and accessible portal with listing of authenticated and consolidated information about clinics and doctors like accreditations, number of successful cases etc. counselling is important and mandatory by rules to provide in clinic but leaving a few top-notch clinics no one provides or it is there just for namesake.
Thus, we need a nodal agency with strong control monitoring periodically and ensuring transparent reporting over treatment cycles. Simultaneously, patients must be educated to leverage this information to ensure best practices and good choices. Going forward this accessibility of data will lead to finding ethical doctors and clinics.
2. Infertility Treatment Cost Issues
For a middle class family approximately 2 lakh rupees per IVF cycle and a minimum of 1.5 cycles for average success is stretching it too far.
Firstly, we need to bring down the cost. For example, most clinics insist on medicines to be brought in-house and not through wholeseller where the cost is drastically less. Surely, a vigilant eye over margins can make the cost affordable.
Secondly, why don’t we have enough insurance companies cover infertility treatment? Very recently, one private company has started giving insurance but has difficult abiding policies. With 33 million people affected I think it is time to push for its inclusion. And, once insurance companies jump into it they will also ensure that protocols are followed and good treatment given sieving out the mushrooming clinics and also guiding the patients for it is now their money at stake and we know how brutal insurance companies can be. Government needs to set some example with pushing government insurance bodies in infertility treatment.
Thirdly, while pregnancy delivery is part of insurance provided by employers, infertility treatment has absolutely no acknowledgement. With infertility affecting corporate couples and in metros usually leading to women workforce to dropout of job, we should work towards making infertility treatment a part of employee insurance, atleast partially. This will also do away with all the stigma attached to it and encourage open conversations.
3. Alternative Treatments
We have spoken at length about Allopahty treatment. Though, I don’t deny the fact that medical interventions like ART have outstanding results but parallely I would say that alternative treatment methodologies can’t be totally ignored.
Ayurveda has good results in managing initial stages of infertility and control hormone fluctuations or managing lifestyle disorder issues. Acupuncture has proven impact on increasing IVF success. Alternative treatments ensure holistic well being.
All I want is that government helps in bringing it to the forefront. Give an impetus. Atleast people should know. They should be aware of available options.
4. Creating Social awareness
I urge the government to help spread awareness thereby breaking the social taboos. Needless to say infertility is less of a medical problem and more of a social problem. There is no dearth of instances where women undergoing infertility have been ostracized, pushed into depression and forced out of marriage all because of infertility. As per a research if we compare a woman undergoing cancer and a woman undergoing infertility treatment then the former get social empathy while the latter, the women with infertility gets social flak and apathy. Why?
Government can’t shy away by saying that increasing population is already a big problem.
We need educational programs and awareness campaigns, and especially for Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities where social complexities are far more binding and knowledge about correct treatment option hardly any.
We need to change this and when government begins to take a strong stand on this we may be able to penetrate the patriarchal mindset that invariably blames the woman for all fertility related issues. We must help the woman who bears the brunt of it all.
5. Infertility treatment should be patient centric
We know that infertility patients go through depression but do we have any numbers on it? Do we have any stats on emotional health and well being of women undergoing treatment? We don’t have enough patient data. Make that data collection and analysis – mandatory and a regular protocol. This way we will be able to help the patients better.
Infact we need to bring more digitization to the complete process of infertility care. We have to create an ecosystem. Currently, we are just focussed on the medical part of it.
Digitization will increase accessibility of treatment information which at present sadly stands at 1% as per EY report and that too only in the metros. It will also reduce patient harassment and misleading. We need a modal portal backed by government authenticity to address all information related issues. And to reassure the patients that they are listened to. We need to bring regulation and accountability.
6. Preventive Care
As the problem of infertility is increasing with estimated addition of 10 million cases every year in India and most of this is induced by lifestyle issues. It is time to focus on preventive care not only to ensure that our future generations continue to procreate and we don’t end up like Germany or Japan but also to help with managing quality of health and life.
Focus should be on informing and helping young generation understand the issue and its future impact. This will work as a double benefit sword as it will also build the right attitude and social environment for future.
A time will come when infertility is seen no more than a normal treatable medical condition and not marred with social complexities of demeaning a woman.
Success and Beyond
The seminars were a huge success in every city that it went to and apart from the audience, thousands watched the live-streaming. There were discussions and questions which helped bust several myths around infertility. This was enough to prove that there are thousands out there waiting to be heard and it was heartening to listen to them. InfertilityDost is proud and happy to be part of an initiative that touches upon the core value for which it came into being. We are happy to help couples connect to experts and handhold them through various stages of the treatment. To enable this, we request you to bring the devil out of the box, discuss and help us walk with you on your road to parenthood.Tags: fertility experts. fertility seminar fertility talks