Infertility among Indian Women: Emerging Evidence and Need for Policy Measures
Population Association of America 2011
The problem of infertility has not given its due attention in India because it is not a lifethreatening condition. Infertility is a life crisis with invisible losses, and its consequences are manifold. WHO (1991) defines infertility as failure to conceive despite two years of cohabitation and exposure to pregnancy. If the couple has never conceived despite cohabitation and exposure to pregnancy (not contracepting) for a period of two years, it is called primary infertility; primary infertility is also referred to as primary sterility. If a couple fails to conceive following a previous pregnancy, despite cohabitation and exposure to pregnancy (in the absence of contraception, breastfeeding or postpartum amenorrhea) for a period of two years, it is secondary infertility; this is also known as secondary sterility. Infertility affects a relatively large number of couples at some point in their reproductive lives - globally, between 50 and 80 million couples (WHO, 1994). Moreover, in pronatalist cultures such as those of India, and South Asia more generally, the consequences of infertility for women can be devastating. One estimate of overall primary and secondary infertility in South Asia drawn on the basis of women at the end of their reproductive careers (aged 45-49) suggests a rate in the range of 10 percent: 8 percent in India, 10 percent in Pakistan, 11 percent in Sri Lanka, 12 percent in Nepal and 15 percent in Bangladesh. (Jejeebhoy, 1998).