Once considered to be a problem plaguing the West, infertility is rising alarmingly among urban Indian couples.
Health experts say that the gravity of the problem can be gauged by the fact that almost one in five couples in the metros have trouble conceiving on their own and need treatment.
The peak fertility of girls is between 18 years and 25 years, and it is not unusual for girls to get married nowadays in their late 20s or 30s, by when there is already a significant decline in their fertility.
"Women lose fertility every month because of the falling egg reserve in their ovaries. Besides, gynaecological conditions such as uterine fibroids wherein tumours develop within the womb, become increasingly common when the first pregnancy is delayed to 30s that add to the problem," said Dr Renu Misra, clinical director, obstetrics and gynaecology, in-charge IVF unit, Sitaram Bhartia Institute of Science and Research.
The problem of infertility, particularly in India, is perceived more of a female problem, but experts say that men are responsible for this problem, either solely or partly in almost half the cases.
Although male fertility declines more gradually with age, there have been several scientific papers published in the past twenty years that indicate there was an overall decline in the sperm counts around the world. "In the last 40 years, the counts have fallen by nearly 50%," said Dr Misra.
The possible cause for this decline is attributed to smoking, alcohol, obesity and sedentary lifestyles, although it is difficult to quantitate the effect of these factors individually.