Obstetrician and gynaecology doctor Dr Pallavi Mishra, fondly Known as just Pallavi, is a remarkable woman. She has dedicated her life to unravelling the mysteries of infertility.
Dr Mishra has chosen a field in which she is equally yoked in stature as an OBGYN and lecturer at Moi University and is a founding member of Mediheal Hospitals where she shares her expertise on infertility.
In a world where dreams and hopes fail, Dr Mishra understands the needs of countless couples who seek her when all else fails and rely on her to be spirited and compassionate. They need the touch of her healing hands and her relentless pursuit of their quest for parenthood.
She began her journey in India, where she saw the opportunity as shaping her family to be better as they had no doctors in the family.
“As a child, I did not have a dream of becoming a doctor, but my father pushed me to be more than a housewife, which is what is common in Indian households. I was selected for medicine after I passed my entrance exams.
“The reason I chose infertility is that it is extremely satisfying. Unlike some other fields of medicine where the patients get sicker and sicker, the smile that a new mum gives to her child, especially after many years of trying is very filling. The mothers get so excited when they see their newborns. That one smile is worth millions.”
She speaks about the foundation of childbearing being basic family planning. She called it an important tool in fertility.
“One has to prioritise everything. As much as you prioritise your career you should also be aware of your biological clock. Infertility is a big problem that needs to be more accepted.
“I have seen more and more couples come in earlier and earlier, which I encourage. When they come in later into their journey of infertility there is this rush to get a good result, which will not happen as everything takes time. The earlier you come, the more comprehensive of an investigation into the problem we can do.”
Infertility is often described as a silent struggle that affects millions of couples worldwide. While it can be a challenging and emotionally draining journey, Dr Mishra’s expertise is a shining example of hope amidst the storm.
Armed with a wealth of statistical insights, this extraordinary surgeon weaves together the art and science of fertility treatments.
She says that, statistically, infertility affects approximately 30 per cent of women due to reproductive organ-related issues. Similarly, about 30 per cent of men face infertility challenges stemming from their reproductive organs. An additional 30 per cent of couples experience infertility as a result of combined reproductive factors.
“Of course, there are problems that make up the other 10 per cent that need to be investigated to get to the root of the cause”.
“We wanted to start Mediheal as a fertility centre before we decided to specialise as an all-around hospital with all the facilities. I give infertility and high-risk pregnancies my all because it genuinely fulfils me. If a job does not fulfil you, you cannot do it to the best of your ability.”
She is married to a politician and doctor, Swarup Mishra, the proprietor of the Mediheal group of hospitals.
Drawing on her extensive knowledge and experiences, Dr Mishra brings to light the various causes of infertility.
From hormonal imbalances and structural abnormalities to genetic factors and lifestyle choices, she paints a comprehensive picture of the factors that can impact fertility. She adds that she does not like to use the term ‘infertile’ as it hints at the problem being ‘unfixable’; instead, she prefers to use the term “sub-fertile”.
“One in six couples in Kenya struggle with being sub-fertile. It is more common than we think, but it is not a permanent state. We have couples that have been trying to conceive for years and they finally conceive.
“We cannot call that couple infertile. However, the problem of not being able to conceive is getting more serious mostly due to lifestyle.”
Although she pushes for women to be both career-oriented as well as family-oriented, she notes that; “Women are focusing their attention on creating a life for themselves and pushing childbearing further into their years and this is mostly where the issues start. I support women who do both but if they want to have children they need to prioritise it.”
She understands the emotional roller coaster that accompanies fertility struggles as an African woman.
“We need to create awareness worldwide that infertility is not only caused by the woman. It is an issue that could be shared equally between a man and a woman. You might have a small issue in the woman and a small issue in the man and together it becomes a bigger issue where you can’t conceive. Which is why I say ‘come as a couple.’ The burden of infertility should rest on the couple not a person”
What about the issue of herbal medicine which is a part of the Kenyan community?
“I am sure back in the day herbal medicine was effective, I have nothing against herbal medicine, the main problem is that we do not know how it works, and for that reason, I do not use it. I believe in studies and we have not studied its side effects that may be dangerous in the long term, which is why we fear it.”
On the stigma that couples get when they have not conceived after marriage and the pressures they have in an African home, she says; “A couple must be informed. When they take fertility on as a couple’s issue they know when to come in.”
“If a couple is trying for a year with no results they need to seek help. If you are of a certain older age you also need to seek help. If you have a preexisting condition you should also seek help.”
Her tireless efforts have paved the way for advancements in assisted reproductive technologies.
She opens up about the price of treating infertility and the overall consensus that treating it in the hospital is too expensive by saying, “Infertility is a health issue; you may not be conceiving due to sickness which must be taken seriously as any other condition. You may also be having a smaller issue such as hormonal imbalance which can be fixed. Insurances should treat it like a disease.”
Aside from being a doctor and lecturer, she is a politician’s wife. However, she chooses to do what she knows best and stay out of the political realm. Her most important role is one that she facilitates with other women as a mother.
“I have two children, a son and a daughter. My son works in finance in Nairobi and my daughter is pursuing law. None of them wanted to follow in our footsteps into medicine,” she says.
-Story transcribed from KTN Home’s Her Stardards show hosted by Queenter Mbori