Delhi centre brings joy to Army homes: 500 test tube babies on way
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Infertility in the armed forces, often blamed on the stresses of military life but rarely discussed in the past, is no longer a taboo topic.
With more and more families stepping forward, the assisted reproductive technology (ART) centre at the Army Hospital (Research and Referral) in New Delhi has recorded 500 test tube pregnancies this year.
Set up in 2003 as a fertility treatment centre for armed forces personnel and their spouses, the ART centre has brought joy, among others, to a couple who lost their two children to the 2004 tsunami, another who lost their only son in a road accident, a young cancer patient who had her eggs preserved before chemotherapy, and a soldier who had semen samples stored before treatment for testicular cancer.
Doctors say while an estimated 10 per cent of couples in the general population need medical assistance for conception and 20 per cent need counselling and minor procedures, the incidence is "much higher" in the armed forces.
Lt Col Sandeep Karunakaran, who heads the ART centre team, told The Sunday Express: "The incidence of infertility in the armed forces is definitely higher due to a variety of possible reasons. Separation of families due to postings across the country, general exposure to hostile environment, high altitude areas and stress could be some of the reasons."
At the ART centre, where Lt Col Karunakaran is assisted by gynaecologist Lt Col Nikita Naredi and embryologist Maj VDS Jamwal,
patient strength has "more than doubled" in the last five years.
"Acceptance of infertility as a medical problem and support from the Army has helped. We have been issuing medical certificates to those who come to us. This helps them get Delhi postings for at least a year till the IVF cycles are completed," Lt Col Karunakaran said.