40 years of IVF: See how fertility tech has changed the world, and India

It’s a remarkable thing — two people struggling to have a child start a family in a petri dish, implant the embryo in the mother-to-be, and have a baby. But many couples opting for IVF in India don’t know that success rates range from 30% to 35%.

Since the birth of the world’s first ‘test tube baby’, Louise Brown, 40 years ago, 6 million babies have been conceived worldwide through assisted techniques. But in the absence of regulation, clinics in India are still able to claim far higher success rates than they actually have, and the results of this can be devastating.

“As it is, there is the physiological stress of conception, and the harrowing wait,” says Dr Smita Deshpande, head of the department of psychiatry at Delhi’s Ram Manohar Lohia hospital. “The trauma of conception failure can be immense. And because a lot of couples are led to believe there is a 50% chance of success, disappointing outcomes can lead to anxiety and depression.”

A 34-year-old art teacher from Gurugram says she suffered an ‘emotional breakdown’ after each of her two failed IVF cycles. She was 32 when she and her husband decided to start a family.

A year later, she still hadn’t conceived. “But I wasn’t too worried because I had friends who had conceived in their 30s and it had taken time. I had also been on medication for my irregular menstrual cycle, so I knew it wouldn’t be easy,” she says.

Then tests revealed a block in one fallopian tube, and the couple decided to opt for IVF. “The doctor had told us we had a 50% chance. We were hopeful and fairly confident of success, because I was young. But the implantation didn’t work, and I was devastated.”

Two months later, they decided to try again. “This time, my test showed that I was pregnant and we were overjoyed. We told our friends and family. But the first ultrasound scan showed the embryo had implanted in my fallopian tube, so I was advised to terminate the pregnancy. It was the worst day of my life,” she says.

A biopsy of her uterine lining revealed that she had tuberculosis. “Finally we knew the reason.” After her TB had been cured, she did a third cycle of IVF and conceived in January. “This time, we were very cautious. We told our parents only after the first ultrasound scan was done.”

With each IVF cycle costing between Rs 60,000 and Rs 2 lakh, the financial loss compounds the trauma and distress. “More often than not, women either blame themselves or are criticised for not doing things right,” says Dr Deshpande.

Updated: July 22, 2018 — 4:00 am