Insights from the Frontline: A Conversation with Dr.Asha S Vijay

Dr Asha S Vijay

Dr. Asha S Vijay is the founder and medical director of GarbhaGudi IVF Centre. Garbhagudi, meaning sanctum sanctorum, spreads a ray of hope for couples who battle the heartbreak of infertility, and thankfully they meet a happy ending for a new beginning in their life with hope, love, and joy.

Dr. Asha is also the Dean and Scientific Director – of GGIRHR and Founder Trustee of the Garbha Gnan Foundation. Growing up, Dr. Asha always wanted to be a doctor and serve society and hers is a story of hard work, overcoming all the challenges and impediments while she was stubborn and consistent with a razor-sharp focus on what she wanted to achieve for the greater good of humanity.

Dr. Asha graduated in Medicine from the prestigious Bangalore Medical College and started her career with Kidwai Institute of Oncology, Bangalore as a senior resident doctor. She then completed her post-graduation in Obstetrics & Gynaecology in the year 1996 from Bangalore Medical College. Dr. Asha set up her practice with ‘Sannidhi Clinic & Multi-speciality Hospital and over time gained enormous experience in the field of Gynaecology & Infertility. Over the course of 15 years of dealing with gynecology, obstetrics, and fertility issues as part of her practice, she realized her mission, when her humanitarian vision expanded more into the horizons of selflessness empathy, and pure love. She knew that people with reproductive disorders were clueless as to where to approach and how to decide about the treatment they had to adopt. The causes of infertility often went undiagnosed and in most cases, the couples did not get the right treatment at the right time. Even if they did get it, the procedures were expensive with low success rates, and barely within the reach of a middle-class family. This was when Dr. Asha along with a team of first-generation entrepreneurs, decided to approach the problem holistically, to provide world-class treatment and services at affordable costs. Thus GarbhaGudi was born!

GarbhaGudi extends all its support through research-based, accessible fertility care for those who are facing fertility challenges while trying to conceive. She leaves no stone unturned to optimize the chance for the couples to achieve parenthood. She says, “If you cannot get pregnant easily, it is not that you are infertile as it is generally made to believe but there are myriad possibilities for you to begin that journey to motherhood, and we have to keep in mind that everyone’s journey to motherhood is personal and different and it is just finding out exactly where you are on the fertility spectrum”.

Dr Asha believes that it is not everything about the body only and that there is much more to it. The mind and its emotions play a very significant role in the well-being of the body. She has adopted an integral approach to health and wellness. According to her, we should be a ‘harmonious whole’ of the physical, emotional, mental, intellectual, and spiritual sheaths.

Dr. Asha looks at life with wonder and awe and she asks, “When we transfer the embryo it is not at all seen with the naked eye and when the baby is born it is 3.5 kg Isn’t it a miracle”.

We had a few questions for Dr Asha and she clarified the same with such expertise:

1. Dr. Asha, what do you think are the primary reasons for an increase in the infertility rate?

“The infertility rate has increased, when I joined the profession it was around ten percent and in 2020 it has doubled. One of the reasons is because of late marriages. The ovarian reserve of the lady and the sperm quality and quantity keep decreasing as age advances. The next is lifestyle diseases like diabetes, hypertension, or obesity and the other is addictions including alcohol and drugs”.

2. Earlier, all said and done, we had a traditional approach for women’s health care including a few days of rest during the menstrual days but now on the other hand our young girls have tough days during their cycles which include general stress, and emotional upheaval related to adolescence. Most of the time they carry heavy school bags on their back and participate in rigorous sports and other activities too. What is your take on this?

“Rest during the menstrual period is advised. It is not that you have to lock yourself in a room and sit, all those are taboos. They have to reduce their workload, try to be stress-free, take care of themselves, maintain hygiene, and have a nutritional diet. If you take care of that 3 or 4 days, the rest of the month you will be more energetic and active”.

3. How do alcohol, smoking, and drugs affect the health of women? Unfortunately, these are seen as common nowadays.

“Alcohol, smoking, and drugs hurt the reproductive capacity of both men and women. Now women too, indulge in a lot of alcohol and smoking and it brings down the ovarian reserve drastically”.

4. In India, especially in Kerala, we have very systematic prenatal and post-natal care, which includes taking ayurvedic medicines and having complete rest. What is your opinion on this?

“Yes, enough rest is needed. And if it is a cesarean, the wound to get healed, itself takes 10 to 15 days. In the case of normal delivery though it’s a natural process, the uterus enlarges to 9-month size and it takes 6 weeks for it to come back to its natural size. There will be a lot of loss of blood so she requires a lot of iron and calcium. At least 6 weeks she has to take care of herself. She should never over-exert in these days and guard against infections, if not it will have a bearing on her future life”.

5. Due to the lifestyle, physical movements have become considerably low among young children and teens. Is this a matter of concern when it comes to the general well-being of girl children?

“Enough exercise is the basic foundation of health. If you walk a good distance and be active every day by moving the whole day it will prevent a lot of diseases. Nowadays they are saying sitting is the cause of all diseases. If you sit for long, your body will come up with many diseases in the long run. Children should get more physical activities, and they should learn yoga and pranayama”.

6. What about the male partner’s fertility, which accounts for one-third of all fertility issues but is rarely talked about?

“Yes, male infertility is rising alarmingly. The reasons are early diabetes and addictions like smoking and drinking. The use of laptops and mobiles too are a threat to the fertility of men as the electromagnetic frequencies have a bearing on the reproductive capacity of both men and women”.

7. Unlike in the old days, young girls are facing the problems of excess hair on the face and body which accounts for the imbalance of hormones and other gynecological disorders. Can this condition be reversed? Does this affect the overall health of a woman?

“Hirsutism happens because of hormonal derailment. Parents neglect the physical health of their children and concentrate only on their academics, so children become obese. From a very young age children should start some sort of physical exertion. Once the body fat increases all problems start. Unlike earlier times menstruation starts at an early age and in the same way menopause also happens very early. We have observed in Garbha Gudi that for many the ovarian reserve is decreasing very fast. Research is being conducted to understand whether genetics, environment, or lifestyle causes this change. At present what we can do is to make children active from a younger age”.

8. We would like to hear more about your family and the support they extend to you.

“My husband was very supportive, he resigned his job and supported me. Because managing staff is a crucial aspect in hospitals, as I am busy I cannot look into that part like recruiting and training the staff etc. My brother and his wife are there with full support. My in-laws assisted me in every possible way they could, in every stage of my life like during my delivery period, taking care of my kids, supporting me when I had exams and in those days when I had to attend a night delivery “.

9. When many are perceiving infertility as the end of their hopes of becoming a parent, you made it a point that it’s an inflection point where the treatment and advice of a reproductive specialist can bring new knowledge and possibilities. And also you are trying to make the treatment affordable to every stratum of society. This is a great service to humanity as well. What was the inspiration and motivation behind this dedication and hard work?

“When I saw these infertile ladies and their despair, though their medical condition was very minor, the treatment cost was very high which made them give up on their dream of having a kid. And as a result, they had to suffer the social stigma that is prevalent in India. I felt that we had to do something for them. We supplied a lot of medicines in the rural area, we did free check-ups and so many of them conceived, and seeing their joy is something which I cannot compare to anything. I want to do free infertility services and that is my dream”.

10. There are many infertility centers and how does GarbhaGudi Stand out from those IVF centers?

“We have huge success rates. We don’t focus only on the physical aspect of our health we always have a holistic approach. The mind, body, and, soul should be taken care-off to have good results. We make them do yoga and ensure that their diet is proper and nutritious. To make them stress-free we give counselling and we have psychologists to help and assist both wife and husband. We have the best embryologists in the clinicians’ team we have the state-of-the-art embryology lab, and we employ the best of science and technology, so the success rate is very high in Garbhagudi”.

We thank Dr.Asha for taking her precious time to be with us and we wish her all the best in all her endeavors.

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