Medical: With the inaugural of the first fertility clinic at the national referral hospital in Thimphu yesterday, couples who want to become parents but cannot for medical reasons can now get treatment in the country.

Obstetrics and gynecology department’s head, Dr Phurb Dorji, said that the opening of the clinic is a milestone for the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital.

“Infertility starts from primary level and it can go up to very expensive level that is test tube baby,” he said.

The clinic in the country will start from the primary level, which means the couples will be screened to find out if the infertility problem is either with the male or the female, or if it is because of combined problems of the partners.

“Certain proportion of infertility problem comes from males because of low count of  sperm,” Dr Phurb Dorji said.

The clinic will offer intrauterine insemination (IUI) fertility treatment, which is a midway solution. It is a step before In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) or the test tube baby programme, Dr Phurb Dorji added.

“The couples will be referred to hospitals outside Bhutan for IVF, if IUI treatment provided at the clinic is unsuccessful,” he said.

Dr Phurb Dorji explained that cost of referring infertility patients outside Bhutan was quite expensive before. But now, with change in time and technologies, the overall treatment cost has reduced. IVF treatment in India costs about Nu 300,000.

The government has not been supporting the referral of infertility patients to hospitals outside Bhutan. “We are planning to include couples who genuinely require help in the referral programme.”

About five to ten percent of patients visiting the gynecology out patient department (OPD) have some kind of problem preventing pregnancy during the desired period.

“The number of infertility patients in the country is not alarming. However, records with the hospital show a significant number of infertility cases,” Dr Phurb Dorji said.

Dechen Tshomo