No one knows this better than Dr. Shruti Gandhi, a medical biochemistry specialist who has devoted her career to treating infertility in people who move here from India, Pakistan and some other Asian countries. Their attitudes about sex and procreation present special challenges when it comes to fertility treatment.

Cultural barrier on conversations of infertility

Many of these people come from patriarchal cultures. In their communities, a woman’s value stems from her role as mother, Gandhi explains, so there is great stigma attached to infertility. In some cases, its diagnosis results in a woman being shunned by her husband and ostracized by her extended family. Women can be so averse to discussing infertility, Gandhi has a hard time getting the information needed to treat it — information about their sexual history, menstrual cycles and miscarriages.

“In many patriarchal cultures, a woman’s value stems from her role as mother, so there is great stigma attached to infertility.”

Gandhi adds that when a couple has trouble conceiving, the woman is sometimes assumed to be the one with the medical problem even though male infertility (e.g.: low sperm count) can be a factor. This assumption can be so entrenched that some men refuse to undergo testing.

Gandhi, who went to school in her native India and worked in the U.K. before moving to Canada in 1987, reports that couples that start treatment don’t always complete it. She says that while some couples give up on their dream of starting a family altogether, others turn to natural healers or even astrologists for help.

“Dealing with all these things can be very emotionally draining for me,” says Gandhi, a married mother of two. “But this job is very rewarding in many ways. It is hard to describe what it feels like to cradle in my arms a baby that I helped bring into the world. It is such a joyful experience.”

Working towards a greater good

Gandhi keeps in touch with many of the people she has treated at her Etobicoke clinic, called We CARe. One of them, a Punjabi woman who gave birth to twins after undergoing treatment for Polycystic ovary Syndrome, invited Gandhi to her children’s sixteenth birthday party.

“We bring nothing into this world and we leave with nothing,” Gandhi says, explaining why she doesn’t place much value on wealth or material possessions. “The one thing that matters are the good deeds you do while you’re on this Earth, and this is what keeps me going.”