What infertile women go through, and why they don’t need your judgement
I don’t know how things roll in other countries, but in India, infertility (both male and female) is always talked about in hush-hush tones. People express sympathy as if an inability to reproduce normally makes a person less of a man or a woman. Women are labeled “baanjh” and men, “namard”. Despite advances in medical science and sophisticated methods of assisted reproduction available now, the stigma and shame remain right where they were centuries ago.
I have been married for 10 years and I have a five year old daughter. The latter didn’t come easy. I struggled with infertility treatments for a good three years before I could conceive. Fortunately for me, both my and my husband’s families were loving and supportive, doing everything in their capacity to make my struggle easier. But I also know from experience that not all women in India are this lucky. If a woman fails to make a baby, her parents are quick to be blamed for handing over a “defective piece”. Since there is no return or refund policy, these women are tormented no end with harsh comments, psychological abuse and dowry demands. Some families don’t even bat an eyelid before getting a second wife for the man while the first one is still in the house.
Anyone who has undergone infertility treatments would know how harrowing, time consuming, stressful and emotionally exhausting it can be. Social stigma and pressure from family is the last thing a couple needs at this point.
Although infertility does not look like an “illness” on the face of it, I wish people understood the pain and distress that thousands of women endure while undergoing infertility treatments.
These are the obvious side-effects of undergoing a treatment that is long drawn and comes with no guarantees. After every ovulation cycle, the woman has to visit the gynecologist every other day to monitor the release and fertilization of eggs through ultrasounds. With the amount of time and headspace this all-consuming process takes, it easily becomes the sole occupation of anyone undergoing it. Add to this the disappointment and crashing hopes at the end of each cycle when the pregnancy test does not come out positive. Women undergoing infertility treatments are therefore, highly prone to depression.
The body of a woman undergoing infertility treatments is under tremendous strain because of all the medication and hormones being injected to induce ovulation. This can lead to bloating, cramping, backaches, soreness in breasts and headaches. You have no idea how painful those oily injections are and how they hurt for days. If you find someone sitting on one bum at a time, there’s a significant chance she might be trying to have a baby the difficult way. I had severe PCOS and had to undergo a laparoscopic surgery that took weeks to recover from.
Undergoing infertility treatment is a stressful time for a couple, and despite having a supportive partner, battling infertility can take its toll on a marriage. Although the couple are in it together, it is the woman who has to endure the larger part of it. Interference from other family members can also worsen marital discord.
Grief and Loss
Many women aren’t first time lucky when it comes to infertility treatments. Sometimes conception takes place but does not hold up for a variety of reasons. A woman may have to suffer the loss of several pregnancies before a successful one happens. And one can’t begin to imagine how agonizing that can be.
We’re not even getting started on the stigma and unwarranted queries by strangers. The simple sight of a baby in a stroller or other women talking about motherhood can send one spiraling into a vortex of negative emotions.
Infertility treatments in India, especially IVF, are outrageously expensive and are seldom covered under health insurance. For an average family, this can be quite a dent to savings, especially because in most cases it takes several cycles to get results.
What you can do to help
A woman undergoing infertility treatment is not asking for pity or sympathy. She simply needs support and understanding. Don’t make it worse for her by belittling her struggles or making insensitive remarks. If anything, try to be a good friend, help her cope by lending a patient ear and do whatever you can to take her mind off stress-inducing thoughts.
If you are someone struggling with infertility, please know that you are not alone. Infertility Dost is a platform where you can find information, connect with others like you and get your queries answered by experts.
Shuchi Singh Kalra is the author of two romantic comedies – ‘Done With Men’, and ‘I’m Big. So What!?’. She freelances as a writer, editor and blogger, and runs a writing firm called the Pixie Dust Writing Studio. When she’s not writing, Shuchi likes to travel, read and bake awesome cakes. Find out more at http://www.shuchikalra.com. You can also tweet to her @shuchikalra.