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He delivers joy to the childless



G. A. Rama Raju. -- Photo: K.R. Deepak

He is a gynaecologist having no airs about himself and his humility and modesty do not display much about the person's skills and achievements. It is his affable and down-to-earth approach that gives one a sense of confidence.

Meet G.A. Rama Raju, who has the subject in his blood being the chip of the old block, Ramakrishnam Raju (one of the city's famous gynaecologists).

Endowed with this heritage, Dr. Rama Raju branched out to specialise in the study of in-vitro fertility and assisted reproduction, having undergone training at the prestigious Bielefield Institute of Reproduction (Germany) in intra cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) and testicular sperm aspiration (TESA). He has put this training to good use having become the first gynaec to achieve the ICSI and TESA babies in Andhra Pradesh in 1998.

He runs the Krishna In-Vitro Fertility Centre and holds the distinction of having delivered the first assisted hatching laser baby in South India in 2000.

``Infertility or subfertility is a tragic condition the agony of which is best felt and known to the infertile couples themselves having to bear the taunts of society and also to being unable to fulfil the biological role of parenthood for no fault of theirs,'' he says. ''In India a notable family structure and the drive for children are the norm but with the increasing infertility rate, coupled with the social stigma attached to infertility, there is an ever increasing demand for diagnostic and therapeutic interventions''.

According to Dr. Raju, for a normal couple unprotected intercourse results in a woman conceiving in the first six months or maximum another six months. If she fails to conceive, the male and female partners should go in for a clinical examination to determine the reasons. ''Infertility may lie either in the male or in the female partner or multiple defects in both the partners. The defect can be treatable or untreatable,'' he avers.

The options open to a childless couple vary with the type of infertility. In case of male factor infertility the therapeutic intervention would be ICSI and TESA and in case of female factor infertility, IVF is the best option.

The cost of treatment, he says, would be in the range of Rs.60,000 to Rs.95,000 per cycle, with a success rate of 30 per cent depending on the woman's age. If she is young the chances of conceiving may increase up to 40-50 per cent. The chances of multiple pregnancies are high as the number of eggs fertilised and the embryos transferred are more than one. In European countries as the medical expenses are met by the Government single embryo transfer is opted as the comparative health risks are less. In India couples go in for multiple embryo transfer and even do not mind twin pregnancy as the cost of bearing the treatment for a second time would be unaffordable, explains Dr. Raju.

Another important point to note is that it is the woman who undergoes the treatment in both the factors of infertility. The male ego does not accept male factor infertility and in some cases the in-laws are forced to shell out the expenses.

``Age plays an important factor and for women in the age 25-28 age group can afford to wait for a year or two and also pool up the treatment cost at the same time but in cases where the females are over 35 they cannot afford to wait and need to consult a specialist.''

In infertility treatment there is a lot of emotional bonding between the patients and the doctor as the latter would be the happiest person to see a childless couple have a baby and the couple also would be grateful to the doctor for his help.

Dr. Raju is also involved in infertility research at his centre where students from the Ramachandra Medical College (Chennai) are trained in the latest procedures.

Despite his busy schedule, he finds adequate time to spend with wife Annapoorna and son Akhil. He is connected with various charity works which include providing education to tribal girls.

His advice to childless couples is that they should be smart enough to detect a problem early and seek medical assistance. The selection of infertility clinic also plays a vital role as the patient should be able to communicate with the doctor freely and confide in him. The doctor on the other hand should also play a supportive role as this treatment is a joint exercise.

PUSHPA BHARGAVA

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