‘Stress is the only external factor affecting fertility’
Stress releases hormones in the body that impact the body’s natural ability to reproduce as they interfere with ovulation, fertilization and implantation.Updated: Jun 30, 2020 11:13 IST
A whopping 2.75 million couples suffer from infertility in India, a country where there is immense social pressure attached to having a baby and starting a family. Not being able to conceive as well as going though treatments like In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) can add to stress levels, which in turn is detrimental to the very process of conception.
Numerous studies have established that stress is a major cause for infertility in young couples today. Stress releases hormones in the body impact the body’s natural ability to reproduce as they interfere with ovulation, fertilization and implantation.
There are several factors causing this stress. Young couples today are focussed on their careers and have demanding, stressful jobs. Working women may not want to sacrifice their jobs for childbearing. There is a lot of pressure from parents and extended families and even peers to get pregnant.
This only gets compounded by improper diagnosis. As a process our health system is channelized more towards routine gynaecology; whereas there is immense scope for providing relevant exposure to resident doctors in the field of infertility management. With the result, there is an acute shortage of infertility specialists in the country. India has barely 1,200-1,500 such specialists to cover the enormous spectrum of couples suffering from infertility.
It is no wonder then that just about 1-2 per cent of these end up undergoing IVF procedures. Not getting access to the right diagnosis and treatment or an unexplained infertility only adds to the stress. Fertility treatment today is so advanced that almost every condition may have cure. One must understand that infertility is not a disease but a just medical condition that is treatable.
Having a baby is possible when there is low or no sperms, no eggs or even if the uterus is not ready to carry the pregnancy via surrogacy. It is imperative to get to the right expert who can understand the problem and put you on correct line of treatment.
This needs to be done without losing time as age is the single most important detriment to a live birth. A woman’s chances of having a healthy baby decrease after 30-32 years but after age of 38, the chances of getting pregnant is less than 5-7% even with an intervention like IVF.
To take away this stress, we have started advising working women to freeze their eggs or even freeze embryos if they have a stable marriage and partner. This enables them to have a baby when they want to, without bothering about the biological clock.
The process of IVF itself can be emotionally and financially draining and many couples find it tough to deal with it. Eating a healthy, balanced diet and making time for some exercise into your routine, along with yoga or meditation can greatly help stay relaxed. Exercise releases endorphins, which help elevate the mood and destress.
It is equally important to understand your problem and the exact line of treatment along with the risks. We hold detailed counselling sessions for couples coming for IVF to our centres where they are told about the causes of infertility, treatment options and the costs attached and the treatment calendar.
During the cycle, couples need constant emotional support, so we ensure that they have access to the doctors whenever they need to understand how the treatment is progressing. This can be very reassuring – the process of IVF has evolved and success rates for IVF have gone up. But even with this evolution, the result is not in anyone’s hands. Every failed cycle can come as a huge emotional and financial blow.
It is commonly perceived that it is the process of the IVF cycle which is most testing. But actually it is the 10-15 day wait time after the embryo is planted into the womb to when the woman is tested positive for pregnancy which is most stressful. Earlier, patients were advised complete bed rest after IVF and were kept confined to a hospital room for 3-4 days post embryo transfer. The common thought was that the embryo will drop out and fall if I get up and walk.
But, over the last 5-6 years, we have moved to a process of immediate ambulation. The woman is asked to get up and change just 10 seconds after the process is complete. We have had couples take flights to Dubai and Australia or even train journeys to their hometowns.
We advise everyone to get back to work from the very next day so that the mind is diverted and not all the thoughts are about the result that will come after 14 days. Many couples from smaller cities quit their jobs and leave their homes to undergo IVF treatment. They are given positive vibes about the treatment and made to meet other couples, who have had successful cycles to share experiences, so their outlook is positive and stress is at bay.
Stress is the only external factor affecting fertility and being stress-free improves the chances of conception.
Dr Kshitiz Murdia
Dr. Murdia is the CEO of Indira IVF Hospital Pvt Ltd.
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