After completing the first cycle of infertility treatment at a Bandra hospital two years ago, Nivedita (name changed) was advised 15 days of rest.
The 28-year-old had been married for four years and had been unable to conceive. Owing to the stigma attached to infertility, the Andheri-based couple did not tell their family that they were undergoing treatment.
Instead, Nivedita told her mother-in-law that she had a stomach infection. "It was so distressing to lie to my family and not share my problem with them," said Nivedita who feels that two subsequent failed cycles of in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) caused her a lot of stress.
Nivedita said some kind of psychological counselling would have helped her deal with it sit better.
Most clinics ignore the psychological problems faced by patients. A survey conducted by Heal Foundation, a Delhi-based non-profit, found that 53% couples interviewed did not receive counselling before an IVF cycle. The survey, which was conducted in September, interviewed 50 couples each from 10 IVF centres in Delhi and Mumbai.
"The World Health Organisation recommends psychological counselling before a couple goes through IVF cycles. We feel it should be integral to the treatment," said Vikesh Khetrapal, principal consultant, HEAL Foundation.
In Mumbai, some clinics have counsellors, but the majority do not address psychological problems faced by patients. Doctors claim most patients are uncomfortable to discuss the matter. Also, it increases the cost of treatment.
But Nivedita found help with a Delhi-based clinic run by Dr Manika Khanna that integrated psychological counselling with the treatment. "We had 10 joint counselling sessions with other couples. These helped change my perspective on infertility," she said.
"Studies have shown that IVF success rate increases if psychological counselling is integrated in the IVF protocol. A patient's anxiety increases secretion of cortisol hormone. Cortisol inhibits production of estrogen and progesterone, which are needed for production of the egg," said Khanna.
Nivedita is now four months pregnant. "I attribute the success to the counselling sessions which gave me peace of mind."