Inequitable income distribution, lack of housing, education, and healthcare, growing demand for jobs, and increase in pollution and waste are real problems that need immediate attention. But amongst the noise and hustle are a community of childless couples that despite being aware of where the world is heading, are still living with hope. The hope of bringing a new life that will promise to change their world forever.
This world population day, we at Happiest Health navigate through the vast tapestry of humanity. Celebrating the incredible diversity, potential, and challenges stemming from the intricate web of human existence, we bring you the stories of three childless couples and how they are coping with their health conditions to beat the odds.
Accepting a childless life
Shubha Ghorpade and Dinesh Shah from Mumbai have been in a childless marriage for 11 years and have now reconciled with the fact their home will never resonate with the chatter and scurrying around of kids. Ghorpade, a counsellor says there were times when she would just stand and compare her empty and silent home with Mumbai’s over-buzzing and crowded streets. Shah a stock market broker, says he could somehow never relate to the debates and challenges surrounding the looming population problem that always flooded the media.
The couple’s doctor has cited low sperm motility as the reason for their inability to conceive and has prescribed insemination treatment which hasn’t led to any positive results yet. They have also been suggested In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) where a male sperm is combined with a female egg externally and transferred to the uterus but the couple doesn’t want to consider the option due to the physical and mental complications. “We will keep praying and when we are destined to have a baby we will,” says the couple who donate generously to an orphanage in Aurangabad.
About 1,000km away, in Bangalore, Lalith and Mahima have tried IVF but are still struggling.
“We have been married for 13.5 years and have always wanted to be parents,” shares the couple.
They say that they have consulted about 10-15 Gynaecologists and IVF specialists and the only diagnosis is ‘unexplained infertility’ although all the reports are normal.
Speaking about their experience with infertility treatment, the couple from Bangalore says they haven’t kept track of all the medication and treatment they were put through whenever they visited the doctor. But they do recall the pain, hormonal injections, tablets, mood swings due to medications, anxiety, worry and the feeling of despair, and the fact that they spent a lot of their savings on the treatment.
Additionally, they also wish to bring to notice how the vast and scattered information available on digital platforms was so overwhelming and did not help them decide as they didn’t know what was right or wrong for them.
Is IVF good for everyone?
“IVF is a safe procedure as the couple is initially evaluated for any pre-existing medical issues,” says Dr Aruna Kumari, Consultant Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, Bangalore. She further adds that there is frequent monitoring of the follicular growth and dosage of injections by the fertility specialist to avoid any lapses.
However, according to the specialist, the success rate depends on maternal age, the cause of infertility, lifestyle factors, and choosing the right expert for the treatment.
“Persistence is key,” says Dr Chetna Jain Director Dept of Obstetrics & Gynecology, Cloudnine Group of hospitals, Gurgaon.
For women dealing with PCOS, the doctor says there is no better treatment than regular exercises, muscle training, and a low-carb diet. “Most couples who follow the above regime can conceive in a year’s time and the rest can be helped with medications along with lifestyle modifications,” says Dr Jain.
Why people don’t want to adopt
According to the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA), just 3,405 children were placed for adoption with families living in India and abroad between April’21 to March ’22.
The Department of Community Medicine, Armed Forces Medical College in Pune, conducted a study titled ‘A Study of Knowledge and Attitude Towards Adoption Among Infertile Couples’ and found that although 89% of couples surveyed were aware of adoption as a method to have children, only 54% were willing to adopt. The study also found that only 8% had any knowledge about the legal process of adoption.
Sarrah Ali, an adoption counsellor at an NGO based out of Hyderabad speaks about the prejudices surrounding adoption. She says she has seen significant resistance in couples. The reasons are caste differences, socio-economic background disparities, family pressure, age of the child, and medical history. Most want their own genes and lineage while there are many who are apprehensive when it comes to adopting children with special needs.
Lalith and Mahima admit that they did refrain from considering adoption due to ‘certain inhibitions’ but add that they don’t feel any kind of resentment toward their situation.
For Fatema and Zoeb Shehabi from Surat, being childless was however too overwhelming not to consider adoption. Fatema, a Montessori teacher recalls being shattered when she was told by her gynecologist that she couldn’t conceive because of an ovulation disorder due to Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).
“Every time I saw kids be it at school or at a social gathering or even on the road, I couldn’t hold back my tears and kept asking myself ‘Why me?’
“Since Fatema was beginning to show signs of clinical depression, we decided to adopt a baby after a lot of deliberation, discussion with the family, and blessings from our spiritual leader,” reveals Zoeb who says it wasn’t easy in the beginning as Fatema’s sister was the baby’s biological mother and every time she visited, there was awkwardness with emotions running high.
“Eventually both the families started settling down to the new reality and all is well now,” he says with a sense of relief.
Psychological effects of childlessness
A study featured in the British journal- Facts, Views, and Vision Obstetrics and Gynaecology, states that there are various psychological and psychosomatic effects of being involuntarily childless, especially in women. The most frequently mentioned effects are distress, raised depression and anxiety levels, lowered self-esteem, feelings of blame and guilt, somatic complaints, and reduced sexual interest. For a small minority of women and men in the Western world, these effects are at a clinical level or can be considered extremely serious.
Adding to the above-mentioned information, Rabia Ghadiwala a Mumbai-based Psychologist says “Every individual copes differently with the situation. While some people are consciously aware of their reactions, others do them sub-consciously.” She encourages couples to always communicate openly, share their thoughts and feelings and consult a mental health professional if they are unable to sort out the issues.
While all these couples have made peace with their situation in their own ways, they collectively have these tips for the other childless couples out there based on their personal experience.
- You are not alone.
- Have faith, keep exploring options, and talk to multiple specialists.
- Have no regrets. It is something beyond your control.
- Being thrown the childlessness curve may hit hard but it should be considered as just one hurdle which you as a couple should try and cross together.
- Though it is normal to go through a varied set of emotions, the world we live in is not ideal and you should try not to let those emotions influence your decisions.
- Never let the bond between you and your spouse weaken. Support each other, that takes care of most of the problems.