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Afternoon Despatch & Courier,
By PRIYA PARIKH TANNA
For every problem, there is help just around the corner.
Example: Infertility Friends. All you have to do is talk it out.
Infertility is not just a biological condition. For a couple gripped by this complication, it is an unsettling period of affliction and turmoil. A time when psychological support is as imperative as medication.
Recognising this need led to the inception of Infertility Friends, the city's very first support group for infertility patients. The group was first started in 1992-1993 by fertility experts Dr. Aniruddha and Dr. Anjali Malpani, but didn't manage to gather much momentum then.
It restarted in July 98, when the Malpanis approached their patient Sandeep Jhunjhunwala and his wife to join them.
Says Sandeep, "My wife and I were inflicted with the infertility problem for 14 long years, and we've gone through hell and back. Fortunately, after successful completion of the treatment, we now have a daughter, so we felt it was our responsibility to help others who are going through the trials and tribulations we did.
And even the Malpanis, who have been with us through our problem, felt that we would be the right people to get involved in this project. So we decided to get serious and hold these meetings on a regular basis."
"Our first step was to chalk out our strategies, objectives and style of operations," he continues, "so what we did first was to print pamphlets and catalogues explaining our project and intentions, and circulated it. We then decided upon the frequency of the meeting and put it down to once a month, to start with."
Once word got around, the group started to receive instant feedback from couples expressing interest (through their voice mail service).
Sudha (name changed on request) undergoing treatment for infertility, is also a part of Infertility Friends. Speaking on its behalf, she says, "When you are on infertility treatment, you are called in for daily scans. The stress is so much that it is unimaginable.
Not to mention that treatment is very expensive. I've seen women coming in for the meetings with their husbands. Their faces always wear an unhappy look and most of the time they have no one to talk to, as many of them come from conservative families. And that is where a system like Infertility Friends helps."
How stress impacts fertility
A media person, Sudha's problem found its origin in her work, "The kind of job that I have brings with it a great deal of stress and that led to polycystic ovaries (small cysts on the ovaries), which in turn interfered with my ovulation. I treated this with cauterisation, a small operation, and all seemed fine. Now what has happened is that my stress levels are still high, so my eggs are forming but not rupturing. In short, I am back to square one."
Recalling his trauma, Sandeep says, "Mine was a case of male infertility, where the sperm count was absolutely zero. In 1984, when the problem was diagnosed, there was no real treatment available, so we spent a lot of time on a wild goose chase, going to quacks and Ayurvedic doctors. Even with the foreign doctors we went through many cycles of treatment, of six months each.
And between each cycle there was an interval of six months each. And each time there would be an unsuccessful cycle, there would be a lot of depression. It taxed us physically, financially and mentally. There were times when we almost gave up and in fact, my wife even contemplated suicide.
With the help of the Malpanis --- it was during our sixth such cycle --- that my wife got pregnant. The first thing I would say to couples having this problem is to stick together through it, and not to alienate the other person. This is not an 'his or her' problem but 'our' problem."
The meetings of Infertility Friends are now held on the last Saturday of every month at 4 p.m. at the HELP library, Om Chambers, Kemps Corner. "Through out voicemail service, we get regular feedback. A week prior to our meetings, we call up all those listed with us and invite them to join us.
On an average, we have been attracting 10-15 couples for every meeting; this is a free service that we are providing." The meetings are treated as a ground for all present to discuss their problems openly and speak about their personal traumas. The Malpanis disseminate information on the issue and counsellor Dr. Mehta gives psychological support.
"There is no fixed agenda," says Sudha, "we are just getting people to speak openly about themselves, and believe me, it is a very cathartic experience. We have had people breaking down at the meetings. And many a time, people who come to us don't have access to much information, so we guide them how to go about solving their problem.
We give them the basic facts, tell them of the costs and risks involved. Those at an advanced stage in their treatment, by sharing their experiences, are indirectly telling the newcomers what they will go through and how they can deal with it better. We have a lost of fertility clinics and give it to all our patients, so they know where to go.
In short, we are the emotional support. When a couple going through this problem realizes that there are many more sailing in the same boat, it eases their suffering. We want them to know that they are not alone."
Read more- Infertility Friends Support Group
Infertility Friends can be contacted at 266 4412, 265 9835, 495 4644 or 497 6493.