"Communication Is Key Between Doctors And Patients"

On the occasion of Doctors' Day, one of India's leading infertility experts, Dr Kamini Rao shares her views on infertility rates in India, women's health issues and the need to stay fit.

Are you aware that India is facing a fertility problem? A recent research by a medical technology company has indicated that 10 to 15 per cent of married couples in India face infertility issues. Surprising, isn't it? That the problem is not overpopulation but that of infertility. Well, this issue has led to many childless couples opting for IVF (in vitro fertilisation) treatment, in the hope of having a child. And, who better than Dr Kamini Rao, Founder and Director, Milann (Centre for Reproductive Medicine), to speak on the subject. A recipient of the prestigious Padma Shri and the Karnataka State Award, among many others, she is one of the pioneers in infertility medicine in India. In an exclusive chat with ParentCircle, Dr Rao speaks about infertility in India, health and fitness measures that every mother must take and how proper sanitation is the need of the hour.

As one of the pioneers in infertility treatment in India, what were the challenges you faced to popularise IVF here?

Yes, there were challenges, but I would like to mention that infertility medicine has now become more competitive. I have noticed that there are many who do not have the bandwidth nor the competence to handle IVF but are doing so nevertheless.

Today, common challenges revolve around the patients who come to the clinic with a fixed mindset that they will get a baby after undergoing the IVF treatment. However, they must realise that there are no guarantees. Clients find it hard to digest the fact that despite paying for the treatment, sometimes they may not be successful in having a baby.

To deal with this issue, there must be a good understanding between the doctors and the patients. The patients must be given the right information about their chances of having a baby. While undergoing an IVF treatment, patients must be physically fit, realistic, aware of the facts and of one’s capabilities. The whole process depends on a lot of factors.

Is infertility a growing cause for concern in India?
Infertility is a matter of concern not just in India, but all over the world. Around 10 to 15 per cent of the population worldwide, in the reproductive age group, are infertile. Many economic, social and psychological factors are contributing to this problem.

With people postponing marriage and deciding to have babies late in life, the incidence of infertility has also increased. All these factors, combined with illnesses such as diabetes and hypertension have made the problem worse.

Women in India, especially mothers, neglect their health and don’t take care of themselves. What is your advice for them?
It is vital that mothers look after themselves. If a mother is healthy, she can keep the whole family healthy, because I believe that a mother is the driving force behind each family. Often, mothers get so caught up in household duties that they neglect their own health, which is wrong. They should follow a proper diet and take adequate rest.

Here is how to take care of yourself and your baby during the first, second, and third trimester of pregnancy.

How can we educate young girls in India to manage their reproductive health better and become confident individuals?
In this context, the most important thing to do is improve the sanitary conditions for women. Most of the problems start with unhygienic conditions. Even if a minority of girls in India today are illiterate, they may not be ignorant of hygiene. Improper sanitation and lack of good toilets will lead to sick girls, who will grow up to become sick mothers and grandmothers – it is a vicious cycle.

Proper toilets and decent bathing areas will go a long way in improving the lives of young girls, especially in our villages. Add good food to this mix and good results will follow. In fact, 70 per cent of the problems can be reduced by doing this.

You are a doctor yourself. What measures do you take to avoid going to the doctor?
Doctors are human beings and we fall ill from time to time. However, I ensure that I go for regular medical check-ups – for teeth, eyes, blood levels, etc. This helps me maintain great health and avoid going to the doctor as much as possible.

Your message to all the doctors on National Doctors’ Day?
My message to all the fellow doctors would be to try and communicate more clearly with the patients. Today, due to commercialisation and other factors, the relationship between the doctor and the patient is not like before. It has become more formal.

Spending some quality time with the patient to understand the nature of the problem will help to build trust rather than just handing out a prescription immediately. Unnecessary tests should be avoided, and quality treatment should be provided.

How do you manage to keep fit at your age?
I believe in the saying, 'Age is only a number'. One can appear older than his age depending on his attitude to life and his way of thinking. However, the most important thing is stress management. When you learn to deal with stress in an effective manner, eat healthy, sleep well, and exercise regularly, you can remain fit at any age.

Your father was a noted gynaecologist himself. What values and lessons, especially about the medical profession, did you imbibe from him?
My father passed on a lot of values and gave me important lessons. Some of the ones worth mentioning are:

  • Be truthful to the patient.
  • Know your limitations as a doctor.
  • If you do not know something, go ahead and learn it.

He taught me the importance of family values – how we must devote time to our family, as they are the ones who are going to be with you in every sphere of your life. So, make time for your family members, and devote time to your profession as well.

Finally, what is your message for readers of ParentCircle?
To all the readers of ParentCircle – everyone needs to follow the right lifestyle. Avoid processed or leftover food. It is important to set aside quality time for yourself. Be smart and recognise opportunities as and when they arrive.