At a recently-held session in the city, gynaecologist and author Dr Tripti Sharan dwelt on the rise in teenage pregnancy and the stigma associated with infertility in Indian women, among other things
Dr Tripti Sharan, obstetrician and gynaecologist from Delhi, was recently in the city to talk about her book Chronicles of a Gynaecologist. She talks about her love for writing, the issues that women face in India and also shares stories of people she has come across in her journey.
About the book
Sharan, who believes that pregnancy is not only an altered physiology, but also has profound psychological and social implications, says, “Chronicles of a Gynaecologist is inspired by the stories of real women, explores issues ranging from the largely preventable complications experienced during pregnancies, the myths and superstitions surrounding them, to emotionally wrenching situations like postpartum depression. These compelling stories also touch upon topics that society tries to hide under the carpet, such as domestic violence, perversions, sexual orientation, rape and incest. I have tried to decipher the conundrum of women’s lives at every step. Every story raises a curtain and promises to be a revelation,” explains Sharan.
Stories of real women
Sharan says writing is a form of introspection for her. “As a doctor, when you see pain, ailment, suffering and grief everyday, writing becomes an outlet,” she adds. She insists that the book definitely is not her attempt to be known as an author but a tool to spread a message. “Everyday a new story walks into my clinic, sits on a chair, and pours her heart out to me. An empowered woman is the face of a healthy society and civilisation and I hope to empower women by promoting health and awareness. The biggest challenge has been getting past the stereotype in our society. The difficulty in combating these prejudices led me to pen down my thoughts and experiences,” she emphasises.
Emotions of a doctor
As a doctor, she often has to see her patients in the most vulnerable state. “I see patients in different situations — sometimes lying on the bed, crying in pain, sometimes breathless and sometimes hiding behind their husband’s shadow. Some of them are rape survivors, sexually and physically abused and they are all a part of my experience that has helped me rediscover myself. I learnt the harsh truth by meeting them in the unfamiliar world that breathes within the closed sanitised walls of a hospital. I discovered the different facets of a woman and the harsh realities — superstitions, female foeticide, incest, teenage pregnancy, phantom pregnancy and so on — that plague our society,” points out Sharan.
Wearing different hats
Sharan, who belives that being a doctor helps her bridge the gap between the medical and non-medical world, says that both female doctors and women suffer from stereotypes and are expected to conform to certain social standards. She adds, “I wear different garbs — sometimes I am a clinician, sometimes a friend, sometimes healer, occasionally a confidant and always an observer. I am a part of people’s happiness when a new life comes into this world, but my heart also breaks when a family curses a woman for giving birth to a baby girl and have to see the husband abandon her. I am often accused and threatened because they think it is me who couldn’t help their wives deliver a baby boy. I feel guilty and dejected when a newborn baby girl is strangled by her own mother moments after she is born, because she is the third girl born in the family.”
Pregnancy: Boon or bane?
We are conditioned and raised in a way that we feel that a woman is incomplete without experiencing motherhood which often has a devastating effect. “In India, infertility is not considered an ailment but a curse and a social stigma. Society starts calling women ‘barren’ followed by unjustified treatment of them. Therefore, for these women, motherhood becomes an obsession and a way to get acceptance in the family and society,” says Sharan, warning that these lead to extreme steps. “One common result of this is falling prey to babas leading to phantom pregnancy, where a woman’s abdomen bloats but she is actually not pregnant. She continues to have symptoms of a pregnant woman and after having carried the baby for nine months, when she walks into the labour room with labour pain, I am afraid to shatter her dreams and fancy and tell her that no life is living inside her but it is only gas? In such situations, I feel helpless,” says Sharan who reveals that in worse cases, the woman already knows the truth, fakes pregnancy and after nine months steals someone else’s baby in the hospital. “This is what motherhood does to us. My concern is why is motherhood so important?” she questions.
Teen pregnancy, sexuality, unsafe sex
While it is not an unknown fact that sex is considered a taboo in our society and all discourse related to sex is done in hushed tones, surprisingly there has been a steep rise in teenage pregnancy, illegal abortion and young women dying due to early pregnancy.
“I am baffled each time a school girl walks into my clinic, and very confidently talks about abortion and often seeks advice on contraception. In different parts of India, many young girls get an abortion done without the knowledge of their parents, posing a big threat to their own health — some of them even die and it is very sad. It is time that sex education and awareness about safe sex is made mandatory,” points out Sharan.