Dr. Asima Ahmad Helps Women Conceive Our Future

2 years ago / by Adam Carpenter
Image courtesy of Fertility Centers of Illinois

In South Asia, as many as 10% of women experience infertility. And while some of the causes and tangential issues are mostly confined to southern Asia, much of the challenge travels across international borders affecting women living in cities in the U.S., including Chicago, where Dr. Asima K. Ahmad practices infertility medicine

Driven by Experience

Dr. Ahmad performs her life-changing work out of Fertility Centers of Illinois offering cutting-edge solutions grounded in 21st-century medicine — but her journey began years ago — with her aunt.

Dr. Ahmad’s aunt experienced multiple stillbirths and lost a newborn child but managed to have one of her children survive. Then she got pregnant again. She delivered the child at home, but experienced another stillbirth. Then she started hemorrhaging. As they scrambled to reach a hospital, the bleeding continued. Because they were unable to locate adequate medical care, Dr. Ahmad’s aunt passed away on the way to the hospital.

For Dr. Ahmad, this was a turning point. She felt compelled to prevent other women from undergoing similar experiences. Further, Dr. Ahmad herself has polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and although she was able to have a baby herself, PCOS can cause challenges. This, combined with her aunt’s experience, provides extra impetus to find solutions for other women.

Meeting Cultural Challenges

In South Asia, there are strong traditions supporting women giving birth to children, particularly if they’re married. Family is central to several South Asian cultures, so building one is almost an expectation for many women. But this can result in pressure, particularly from the would-be grandmothers and grandfathers. When a woman isn’t able to conceive — for whatever reason — there’s a tendency to avoid the topic, try to keep the issue private, to avoid or ease the pressure from others. At times, Dr. Ahmad explains, this may result in women and men hesitating to seek assistance in conceiving.

At times, when a woman or a couple does decide to get help, they’d rather default to homeopathic remedies instead of seeking clinical help. And if they do decide to accept the kind of aid provided by facilities like Fertility Centers of Illinois, they’d rather keep it quiet.

Unspoken Issues

The cultural mores of the South Asian population — both in southern Asia and throughout the diaspora — have led many couples to conceal some of the issues preventing them from conceiving. In many cases, these obstacles can be managed or completely removed with treatment or consultation with a fertility specialist like Dr. Ahmad.

Men may experience erectile or ejaculatory dysfunction, making it difficult to impregnate their wives. Also, a couple may have a hard time conceiving because the woman feels pain during intercourse, impacting the intimacy of the marriage.

However, some issues South Asian women deal with are a result of larger, systemic problems. For example, Dr. Ahmad explains, obesity can reduce the quality of a woman’s eggs and sometimes may impact ovulation. And while obesity can, in some cases, be avoided, it’s become more and more difficult as “advanced” countries make unhealthy and processed foods more and more readily available. Trends in unhealthy food production have had a similar effect on the rates of diabetes in developed countries. Diabetic women have a higher chance of having a miscarriage, giving birth to pre-term babies or those with birth defects, as well as have a baby that’s stillborn. Dr. Ahmad explains that the current food climate in many areas makes it more difficult for women to avoid both obesity and diabetes.

Finding Hope Through Solutions

Even though the challenges are considerable, there are several solutions, thanks to modern medicine, that make it easier to conceive or control when a couple has their baby.

Fertility Preservation

Egg Freezing

As women age, the quantity and quality of the eggs they have left decreases. Therefore, many women opt to have their eggs frozen. They can then focus on other things, such as their education, careers, or spending time with their mates, and fertilize the eggs when they’re ready to have children.

Embryo Freezing

A couple can also freeze embryos as a form of fertility preservation. Eggs can be fertilized by sperm then frozen until the couple is ready for a child. When the woman is ready to carry the baby, she can have the embryo transferred to her uterus and bring it to full term. As long as the freezing process is adequately executed, embryos can, technically, be frozen indefinitely with proper mechanisms in place. This gives women more freedom when it comes to deciding when they want to have their babies.

“Fertility: A Basic Human Right”

Dr. Ahmad views fertility as an unalienable right. Through her work at Fertility Centers of Illinois, she is fighting, every day, to enable women and families to enjoy this right. Inspired by the brave example of her aunt and other women, Dr. Ahmad is helping South Asian women of today conceive the future.

This article appears in the June issue of SEEMA Magazine, check the rest of it out here!