For the women who live in the Kashmir Valley, a territory that has been disputed between India and Pakistan, the decades of war has taken an unexpected toll: infertility.
Poor ovarian reserve, polycystic ovarian syndrome and other infertility-causing diseases have been on the rise in Kashmir, promoting endocrinologist Dr. Ashraf Ganaie to launch a study to determine exactly why these women are suffering from these illnesses.
According to Ganaie’s unpublished study over 90% of the cases of infertility in Kashmir are due to PCOS – a disease which is aggravated by stress and disrupts the normal function of the ovaries. The other 10% of cases are due to poor low ovarian reserve (premature ovarian failure) and life stressors.
“Due to the decreased insulin sensitivity after any bad experience, there is a rise in the glucose level in the body,” explains clinical psychologist Dr. Iram Nazir. High levels of glucose in the body impair normal hormonal function, interferes with regular menstruation and can lead to PCOS, poor ovarian reserve and other infertility-causing conditions.
“In the last few years, we have received more than 150 women who suffer from premature ovarian failure,” Nazir told Forbes Magazine. Nazir believes that this increase is due to the stress of life in Kashmir.
Ganaie and Nazir are not the first to notice how the war between these countries have impacted the reproduction of the women living there. In 2006 Doctors Without Boarders conducted a study which linked the high rate of miscarriages among the women in Kashmir to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a psychiatric disorder common for those who have experienced war.
Currently there are no known programs to address this problem within Kashmir. While the option to go to an infertility and IVF center is available to the women in the area, they are often stigmatized and under-used.