Couples facing infertility, unable to have children, go through all sorts of hassles and problems as there is an acute lack of treatment for this in Bangladesh. Physicians dealing with the issue in both the public and private sector say that the government has failed to pay due attention to medical treatment for infertility.
When a couple fails to have children after a year of sexual relations without the use of any form of contraception or if the child is aborted repeatedly after conception or if there is more than one still-born delivery, then this is diagnosed as infertility.
There are no statistics in the country as to how many couples are faced with infertility. According to the Mohammedpur Fertility Services and Training Centre of the Family Planning Directorate, around 10 to 14 per cent of the married couples in the country suffer from infertility. The government offers no services to couples who have to resort to the test tube method to conceive. Test tube babies are the universally recognised medical method of conception. One of the methods under this treatment is In Vitro Fertilisation or IVF. The services offered by the government outside of IVF are also hardly publicised.
Speaking to a woman in front of the infertility unit of the Mohammedpur Fertility Services and Training Centre on Saturday, it was learnt that she had been to several places all over the country over the past four years and had finally come to this centre. She herself was a resident of Mohammedpur but only recently learnt about the place. However, according to her medical reports, she would need to undergo the test tube method, but that was not offered at the centre.
This centre at Mohammedpur offered infertile couples diagnosis of their problems and primary treatment, counselling, motivation and assistance, ultra-sonogram, hormonal treatment of ovulation induction and intrauterine insemination for sperm related problems.
Engineer Jahangir Alam and Munira Parveen were at the Mohammedpur Fertility Services and Training Centre. They became parents are 10 years of marriage. They had come with their three-month-old son Al-Mueed with sweets for the physicians at the centre, in gratitude. They said they had spent thousands of taka on treatment in Pabna, Rajshahi and other places before finally coming to this centre. Yet they underwent 17 tests at this centre for very nominal charges. Munira Parveen had been given certain advice, including losing weight. Jahangir Alam said, “People like us would not face so much suffering in good treatment was available at all government hospitals in the country.”
A couple, on condition of anonymity, said that only the sufferers knew what treatment the private sector fertility centres actually provided. They said that they had conceived twice but both times the child was aborted. During 16 years of their marriage the couple had visited at least 6 centres and physicians’ chambers in the country and abroad and have spent about one million taka. They have given up hope and no longer seek treatment.
The couple said when they had entered a certain fertility centre in Mohammedpur, they protested loudly at the condition of the equipment. The sufferers were emotionally blackmailed at these centres, they said. Couples were encouraged to go for test tube babies and often were given wrong treatment. The husband said that as if it wasn’t enough that they were sad about not having children, they had to face all sorts of harassment and suffering.
Another couple said that over the past six there they had to from doctor to doctor and now the wife was suffering from mental distress. She had to undergo treatment for this too. They hardly could enjoy a family life with the huge expenses as well as family and social pressure. They even were on the verge of divorce several times.
Secretary general of the Obstetrical and Gynaecological Society of Bangladesh (OGSB) Saleha Begum Chowdhury said, “Fertility treatment is expensive. The patients will continue to suffer unless treatment is provided at a government level.” She said that recommendations had been submitted for fertility treatment departments at eight of the old medical college hospitals in the country.
Director of Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) AKM Nasir Uddin said that a special course in infertility at the end of post-graduation had been started at DMCH. A specialised facility for IVF and other treatment was also nearing completion. Once this facility was completed, the patients’ sufferings would be assuaged to a great extent.