Terror takes its toll on J&K’s birth rate
Stress, Tension Due To Decades-Old Militancy Increase Cases Of Infertility
Meenakshi Sinha | TNN
Beyond the body count, the toll terrorism is taking on Jammu and Kashmir is immeasurable. Yet, there are a few pointers to the extent of the tragedy, including one that has recently come to the fore: a depleting birth rate due to a steep rise in premature menopause among women in their mid-20s and early-30s.
A growing number of young women, particularly in the 18-35 age group, in the Kashmir Valley are turning infertile primarily because of premature ovarian failure. Some menstruated for a couple of years and many stopped after their first child. There are also those who have never menstruated. These are the findings of Dr Abdul Hamid Zargar, professor and head of the department of endocrinology, Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences, Srinagar, and infertility expert Dr Firuza Parikh.
According to Parikh, a condition for premature ovarian failure occurs when a woman stops menstruating before 40.
In a study published in the American journal, Fertility & Sterility, Dr Zargar and his team have documented the high prevalence of premature ovarian failure in the state. Zargar maintains that out of the 2,000 women examined between 2004 and 2006 in J&K, 11% suffered from premature menopause—a rise of 2% from the late 90s. This July, when approximately 150 patients were screened over a weekend, 18 turned out to be suffering from it.
Among several factors is the socio-political turmoil since the days of Partition that has peaked with the last decade and more of terrorism. With young men dying in the violence, there are few left to marry, says Zargar.
Kashmiri girls usually married early at the age of 20-23 and had their first child by 25. Now they are finding it difficult to get married. Some are deprived of a family of their own, while the others are tying the knot much later, in their late 20s or early 30s.
The stress and tension is reducing the J&K women’s reproductive age by a decade or cutting it down by half.
Studies show some patients have underlying genetic abnormalities. Also, immunity against their own body tissues, auto-immune diseases of the ovaries, chronic stress and the consanguinity of their society—Kashmiris are known to be a closedknit in-bred society—are listed as some of the other key causes.
There are socio-medical situations too. Incidences of insomnia, depression, hypertension and decreased sexual performance of women in the age group of 35 have increased, also leading to premature menopause and, thereby, a low birth rate.
Those coming for treatment of infertility trek from all over the Kashmir Valley, sometimes as far as 300-400 km and some even from as far as the Line of Control. So, the abnormality does not show any regional bias.
The situation is not seen in the other states, says Parikh. The cost of medical therapy may not be high, but in terms of social and psychological burden the cost is colossal, she adds.