“Infertility in Kashmir has now emerged as a new challenge”

Doctor Syed Sajjad runs ‘Med Age’, an infertility clinic in Sringar. Umar Mukhtar talks to the expert about the state and status of the crisis that Kashmir faces. Sajjad, an MD, is trained in assisted reproductive technology (ART)

KASHMIR LIFE (KL): What is the status of Infertility disorder in Kashmir?

 Dr SYED SAJJAD (DSS): Infertility in Kashmir has now emerged as a new challenge for the medical fraternity. In previous decades infertility was very rare, quite a few cases were reported. But we cannot say that it is more prevalent in Kashmir than the other states. There are cases of infertility and it needs proper attention.

KL: What is the rate of infertile couples in the valley? Is the trend going upwards or downwards?

DSS: There is not a certain ratio or rate of the couples as such which can be stated but I can say that the ratio of infertility is showing a steep rise from past many years.

 KL: How many patients you receive in a year? 

DSS: I have the data of the last six months with me. Near about 1600 patients related to the infertility disorders have visited our clinic.

KL: What are the common problems in infertile males and females? And who are having more problems, males or females?

DSS: Azoospermia and Asthenospermia are some main causes for the male infertility while as Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, Polyps in the uterus, Endometriosis or fibroids, Scar tissue or adhesions, Chronic medical illness, ectopic (tubal) pregnancy are some of the reasons for female infertility.

I cannot give the exact figures that which gender has the most cases of infertility, but so far I have seen many patients. On that basis I can say it is sixty percent in females and 40 percent in males.

KL: What factors attribute to such cases? Has the conflict any role in such cases?

DSS: There are many contributing factors. In Kashmir, we have ‘late marriage’, after thirty years of age. In males it can become the factor for the reduction of sperm count while in females it can become the factor for diminishing of the ovarian reserve.

Smoking is another cause which is responsible for the infertility to a large extent in males. We always strongly recommend our patients to quit smoking.

Stress is another major contributing factor. Especially the women cannot afford the stress in their pregnancies.

The ongoing conflict adds to the problems in such cases. There are cases in which the patients have problems at home because of the conflict and such patients most of the time remain in stress. Stress especially to the patients who have been given IVF is very dangerous. It can sometimes lead to abortions.

KL: There is social taboo associated with such disorders, how people here react to it?

DSS: I do agree that people in Kashmir have conservative mindset when it comes to such cases. I have seen patients who visit us secretly. Some even want to keep their identity anonymous. Many such couples are very stressed as they have to face a lot of family pressures.

KL: How do you manage depression in your patients?

DSS: I properly guide and counsel them. I motivate them by helping them interact with other such couples who are also infertile but with proper treatment they had then conceived. Such things help their optimism.

KL: Do we have all facilities available in Kashmir that are needed for treatment of this problem?

DSS: Yes. Our clinic is most advanced clinic in north India in terms of labs and equipment. Here I have treated patients from the overseas also. Recently a lady from Canada was here for IVF.

KL: The treatment of infertility is costly. Is there any mechanism that this treatment can be affordable to all?

DSS: Yes, the cost sometimes goes in lakhs. Unfortunately, there is no such mechanism where the people with limited income and suffering from infertility can avail this. Sometime back we had made proposal and sent to government where we have recommended that any scheme should be made that would help such cases but I think that has gone to deaf ears.

There is need that people should come forward and should make efforts in helping such cases. I am thinking that may be at some point of time I can get some patients free of cost who are in need.

KL: Surrogacy is now getting attention in other parts of the country, and people go for it. Do the couples find it suitable here?

DSS: No, people did not go for surrogacy here. In fact people from other states have called me many times and insisted me to open clinic for that. But given the circumstances here, I decided not to go for it. Now there are also the laws which make surrogacy illegal in many ways. Only some specific people with certain disorders can go for it.

KL: The rate of divorce in childless couples is increasing. As a doctor do you see ‘infertility’ as the main reason behind divorces?

 DSS: Divorce is something personal. Sometimes such issues can become reasons but mostly I have seen the couples are very supportive to each other in such cases. Family pressures might be the cause for divorces if there are any.

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