Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive within 12 months of couples trying for a child. The social stigma of childlessness still leads to isolation and abandonment in many developing countries. Differences between the developed and developing world are emerging because of the availability of various infertility care and dignified socio-cultural values surrounding childlessness.
According to WHO it is a silent population of more than 180 million couples facing the consequences of infertility. Infertility care is probably the most neglected and underestimated health care issue in developing countries. In western countries, adoption and fostering a child is very common which the government also encourages by providing relevant allowances to the couple to take good care of the child. The two key arguments against treatment of infertility in developing countries are overpopulation and limited resources. The argument of overpopulation suggests that in some countries where overpopulation poses a demographic problem, infertility management should not be supported by the government.
For most men and women, infertility is a disruption of the life project and a social situation that differs from the majority. Women who desire a child and cannot achieve pregnancy perceive themselves as inferior to women who are fertile, and feel they are losing something important in their lives. Many societies still believe that women are solely responsible for infertility. Our society needs awareness that infertility is more than a health problem – it is also a social issue. As per statistics, approximately one-third of infertility cases are due to the male factor, one-third due to the female factor and the remaining third to a combination of male and female factors or to unidentified causes.
Probable causes of infertility are –
- ovulation disorders in women
- male factor semen abnormalities
- blocked fallopian tubes
- pelvic infections
- sexually transmitted diseases
- uterine fibroids
- female age of 35 years or older etc.
Series of infertility tests like semen analysis, transvaginal ultrasound scanning, physical examinations etc. are done on the childless couple to identify any prominent cause if possible. Well known treatments include – In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), medications to induce healthy ovulation, insemination, surgical process like laproscopy to correct the abnormality, reproduction through donor’s sperm or donor’s egg and gestational surrogacy where the embryo is transferred to another woman with healthy uterus to continue the pregnancy and childbirth. However, these procedures are costly and the society do look upon the couple undergoing the treatment with indifference. More than the societal views, none of the procedures gurantee success, which is more or less a gamble of destiny.
As a society, it is important for us to bring in a serious change of attitude towards infertility. At the same time, we should promote alternate options like adoption or fostering a child as they help fill the void in the couple’s life.