In their one-room kitchen space in Worli chawl, paan-wala Sunny Gupta gingerly lays two-month-old daughter Suhani in his lap, playing with her finger at all times. “We have a baby in our family after 16 years,” he said. The couple had tried different low-cost treatments in vain to have a baby, until they came across in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) at subsidised rates in a Parel hospital.
At least 250 couples, diagnosed with infertility, have successfully undergone IVF treatment in Wadia hospital since January 2016 when the hospital started its IVF department. “We get 50-60 patients every day for consultation on infertility treatment,” said a doctor from the department. Wadia is the city’s first hospital to offer low-cost IVF and intra-uterine insemination (IUI), starting from Rs 60,000 for IVF and Rs 1,300 per cycle for IUI.
In 1986, KEM became the first government hospital to conduct IVF in the state. The hospital soon stopped the facility citing high expenditure, bringing to an end several lower income couples’ dream to have their own child.
In the last four years, the Guptas had visited two private hospitals but never attempted IVF that costs upwards of Rs 1.5 lakh. Savita, 28, married Sunny, 29, in 2013. Sunny’s sperm count was low following which he even underwent a surgery of varicocele at KEM in 2015. “But it didn’t help,” he says.
Last year, they came to know about IVF for the first time from a doctor in Wadia hospital. “We didn’t know what IVF meant. We read a lot about it online and underwent first attempt in April 2016,” said Savita. The first attempt to fertilise sperm and eggs was unsuccessful. The cost ranges between Rs 60,000 and Rs 80,000 per cycle. “We took a loan of Rs 80,000 against gold then without telling our family. I hope to pay it in installment in the coming months,” said Sunny, who earns Rs 30,000 per month.
Savita got pregnant in the second attempt in August. On May 12 this year, Savita delivered Suhani, who weighed 2.7 kg at birth. The couple has now advised Sunny’s childless elder sister, married for 16 years, to try IVF.
The hospital’s IVF department is flooded with couples, from slums, chawls and middle-income groups, waiting to register themselves. According to the hospital administration, of over 50 patients visiting for infertility every day, 10 per cent require IVF. The success rate rises from 30 per cent in first attempt to 70 per cent by third attempt. IUI, requiring injection of sperms directly into the woman’s uterus, costs as low as Rs 1,300 per cycle, while the cost of freezing eggs is Rs 20,000.
“Some patients are uneducated and IVF has to be explained to them,” said an expert at the hospital.
In a Chembur chawl, Archana Soni, 34, was one such patient. In her 100 square feet room, a baby’s cries were heard after 15 years. In 2001, she had delivered a boy who passed away at the age of one. She had a baby girl later. “My daughter always wanted a sibling but I could never get pregnant again,” said Archana. Her husband Arun Soni, 40, who drives an autorickshaw for a living, took a loan of Rs 2.5 lakh to undergo IVF in a private hospital. It failed. After several years, the couple again took a loan of Rs 1 lakh to undergo two attempts at IVF in Wadia hospital.
“I must have referred 10 others to the hospital. This gives hope to poor people that having a child is possible,” said Archana. The couple is now shelling out Rs 5,000 per month to repay their loan. Their elder daughter Tulsi, said Archana, “takes more care of her younger sister than anybody else in the family”.
Arun’s friend Srinivas Gadkar, 45, an LIC agent, and his wife Gauri registered for IVF at the hospital six months ago. “I have been married for seven years. We tried IUI before, it didn’t work. This is first time I am trying IVF,” he said, hopeful they would finally have a child. They have undergone a first failed attempt and are now waiting to undergo a second attempt.