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Times of India,
Purnima Goswami Sharma

INFERTILITY Friends --- India's first support group for infertile couples completes its first year of existence on Saturday. Founded by well-known gynaecologist and infertility specialists Anjali and Aniruddha Malpani, it is a registered charitable trust.

The group allows infertile couples to sit together and discuss their problems and derive strength from their collective experiences.

In many cases, infertility leads to personal suffering and distress. The misery, however, is suppressed. The main reason behind the lack of public support for infertile couples is the widespread ignorance about the causes of infertility and its treatment, and low self esteem and reluctance on the part of the couples, which does not allow them to talk about their experiences.

"We realised only medical treatment is not enough," says Anjali Malpani. "Infertile couples are socially isolated and emotionally very vulnerable. They need a forum where they can get together and talk to people in the same predicament as themselves, so as to help them tide over this crisis."

"We started Infertility Friends on an experimental basis in 1994 --- but it began functioning as a forum only in 1998, thanks to some dedicated and enthusiastic couples, "She adds. "We have not only our patients, but patients of other doctors too attending the meetings, and some of them are from other cities as well, and are in Mumbai for treatment."

Radhika T (name changed on request), a member of Infertility Friends and expecting her first baby after 12 years of marriage, says, "We discuss different treatments, expenses, and even doctors --- it helps to talk to others undergoing similar problems. We exchange our telephone numbers and often talk to each other.

Luckily I have a supportive family, but some couples have to deal with family and friends who do not understand their problems and this makes them angry and frustrated. Often mothers-in-law and sisters-in-law are invited to the meeting so that they too can be helpful in their own way."

Sandip Jhunjhunwala, co-ordinator of Infertility Friends says, "In a relaxed atmosphere the couple can get rid of negative feelings and by joining a support group you realise that you are not alone in your misery."

Says Anjali Malpani, "There is no membership fee, and we meet on the last Saturday of every month at Om chambers at Kemps Corner. The main goal of Infertility Friends is to provide in depth, reliable medical information, encourage self-education and offer emotional support services to reduce anxiety, and help restore feelings of self worth, optimism, positive attitude and control over one's life."

Says Jhunjhunwala, "Infertility Friends plans to actively lobby for recognition of infertility as a medical problem by insurance companies to enable members to benefit from Mediclaim and other medical insurance facilities". Adds Anjali Malpani, "We are also writing to various pharmaceutical companies to offer injections at subsidised rates to couples who cannot afford the high costs of such treatments."

Infertility Friends Voice Mail: 972 1834



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