Team TGC interviewed Gitanjali Banerjee, founder of the self-help initiative Infertility Dost. A medium she describes that helps both genders openly discuss a topic that has carried unnecessary stigma for years and gain valuable information related to infertility treatments and dealing with stress. Let’s learn what she has to share.
Q. What inspired you to start Infertility Dost?
Firstly, infertility is a disease like any other. When a couple seeks medical intervention to assist them with conception it is called infertility treatments. It can be resolved simply by procedures like IUI, IVF, ICSI etc and when nothing works a couple can consider surrogacy, adoption or even staying child free.
But, it is shocking that there is no neutral platform to seek guidance, no woman comes up and says, “Yes, I have gone through it (infertility), I know it is not easy but got to keep going.” I felt there was a need to come out of the infertility closet. Thus, I overcame my personal fears and started Infertility Dost to reach out to women who suffer in silence, bring real stories, make the society aware and acknowledge the pain, and most importantly to help patients find the right doctor, that’s important.
My own tryst with motherhood was a patient struggle of 10 long and gruelling years fighting infertility. Post 5 miscarriages, 3 molar pregnancies, 1 failed IVF, a brush with ovarian cancer; I finally succeeded with a second IVF attempt.
Infertility Dost, officially started in September, 2016. Apart from being a support group, it facilitates correct guidance so that couples can take good decisions and stay away from misleading advertisements and fraud clinics, people get their queries answered by connecting with experts and most importantly the group offers people strength and hope.
Q. Talking about personal hygiene even mentioning periods or menstrual cramps is quite a taboo in our country, how is talking about infertility in that regard?
Extremely tough, close to impossible! Infertility is also a question about your being, as a woman or a man, for that matter. It is a huge taboo, socially. People judge you, taunt you and stereotype you into a box.
Infertility, which otherwise should be discussed and understood simply as a physical disease, in India, takes the shape of a social stigma. 1 out of every 4 couples in India undergo some form of infertility, yet no one is ready to openly discuss it.
So many women suffer in silence, go into depression and lose their self-esteem during their infertility journey. Moreover, they are scared to talk to anyone and even ostracize themselves from the society for the fear of being judged. Calling such women Banjh, not letting them be a part of pujas or happy occasions like godhbharai is quite a common way for the society to demean them.
Nearly 15% of the Indian population suffers from some form of infertility. Research in fact indicates that India has witnessed a 20-30% surge in infertility cases in the past 5 years. The volume of people affected by it sums up to be more than 150 million.
Every year 10 million new cases are added in India.
It is high time that we start speaking about this issue and make our society more sensitive towards the pain caused by infertility and let couples deal with their pain with dignity.
Q) The advent of technology seems to have given hope to many families, especially IVF; do people talk about these comfortably?
Yes, IVF and advanced ART processes are giving a lot of hope to couples who struggle with parenthood.
There are lot of myths perpetuating in society owing to the lack of open dialogue on this subject.
Just because someone’s far-off relative got successful IVF from a certain clinic doesn’t necessarily mean that you will too.
But people don’t understand this. They fall for, “suni-sunai batein” (hearsay) rather than logic. This leads to complications in a lot of cases. Only knowledge can help us fight it and knowledge will come when you are ready to seek help and talk about it openly.
Q) What about regressive practices like visiting sages, and other priests. How do these measure-up in adding to the chaos and stress levels of men and women facing infertility issues?
You are absolutely right. As desperation is high and the mind is clouded with myths, a lot of people resort to such practices. People are known to get trapped in a problematic situation, and duped of wealth owing to blind faith. These so called ‘babas’, astrologers and even quack doctors are known to complicate cases, give false hopes and keep the couple from gaining any sort of sanity.
This definitely adds to stress levels and leads to marital discord, even domestic violence, like, the wife being thrown out of the house or sent to her parent’s home, mental harassment etc.
One has to be very careful and stay away from such malpractices. It is good to have faith on the almighty but not on these fake propagandists.
Q) Given that procreating receives so much attention and scientific temper is devoted to it, do you reckon it is doing enough to look at the problem more holistically?
In cases of infertility, allopathy definitely has a very critical and constructive role to play. However, allopathy has its side effects. It treats the ailment but doesn’t go deep within. Thus, I strongly suggest looking at alternative treatments like homeopathy, ayurveda, naturopathy, acupuncture, yoga and meditation. In IVF and infertility cases, acupuncture has proven records of credibility. Again, it is important to find the right practitioner. Also, one should be patient, for these alternative treatments work on a deeper level and take time to show visible results.
Alternative treatments balanced along with allopathic treatment is sure to show miraculous results in cases of infertility. Especially in cases of hormonal disturbances, PCOD and male infertility accentuated by stress, holistic treatments work better.
Live a conscious and sattvic life to get optimum health benefits.
Q) Is adopting something you prescribe to? Or speak about as well? If not, why?
Yes, I am a strong advocate of adoption. One should know when to STOP during infertility treatment. I know women who go for 9 cycles of IVF. It is completely insane! Indian society hasn’t yet warmed up to adoption – “pata nahi kiska baccha hoga” – is the initial response. Under this pressure, a lot of woman keep physically harassing themselves trying to get a baby by hook or by crook even when they know their body is unable to cope up or isn’t responding to the treatment.
Women should be empowered enough to take a decision on their own without thinking much about how the society will perceive their decision. They should decide on whatever makes them happy, adoption or even staying child-free.
It is important to lead a healthy, happy and full life. Motherhood doesn’t define you. It is a part of life, not life in itself.
Q) How can people add Infertility Dost to their friend list?
InfertilityDost is India’s first website that facilitates couples to brave infertility with support and knowledge. We hold hands, and disseminate the right kind of guidance so that couples can take good decisions and stay away from misleading advertisements and fraud clinics.
We answer their queries by connecting them to experts, keep them motivated throughout this tough phase of their respective lives, reinforcing their strength and hope, and helping them stand up and fight the society’s stereotypes and prejudices, simply reassuring them that everything is going to be all right.
Couples can connect with us through our website, www.infertilitydost.com
We also have a Facebook Page and a Facebook closed group where people can connect with us and find support and knowledge.