Access to fertility care in India has expanded dramatically since Bloom IVF, founded by Hrishikesh Pai, MD, and Nandita Palshetkar, MD, first opened its doors in 1991. Since then, Bloom IVF’s network of clinics has treated thousands of couples facing fertility issues. And while access to care has improved, there’s still a significant portion of the population that does not have financial or geographic access to high-quality fertility care. Hrishikesh Pai, MD, Founder & Medical Director of Bloom IVF Group, talked with us about how India’s new Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) Regulation Act will impact fertility care and his commitment to expanding healthcare access in the country.
How Carrot supports members in India:
- Discounted services through partners like Bloom IVF
- Care navigation from Carrot based on deep local expertise
- Employer-provided financial support for infertility treatments, fertility preservation, and more through Carrot-vetted providers
About Hrishikesh Pai, MD:
- Founder and Medical Director of Bloom IVF Group with seven in vitro fertilization (IVF) centers all over India including Mumbai, New Delhi, Gurugram, Chandigarh, Navi Mumbai, and Indore
- President-Elect of the Federation of Obstetric & Gynaecological Societies of India (FOGSI) 2022-23
- Awarded with esteemed Fellow ad eundem of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (FRCOG) in London in 2019
- Trained in IVF through a Clinical Fellowship in Reproductive Biology and Embryology at the Royal Women’s Hospital, Melbourne Australia
- Recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Indian Society for Study in Reproduction and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Indian Society for Assisted Reproduction in 2020
Tell us a little about Bloom IVF and what you specialize in.
We opened our first clinic in 1995. Today, we have five clinics in Northern India and five clinics in the West, including one specifically for low-income people. At that clinic, anyone with an annual income of less than 300,000 rupees ($4,000 US dollars) will receive a 50% discount. I believe that healthcare has to be professionally driven, not profit driven.
How has fertility care in India changed since you opened your first clinic?
When my first clinic was opened in 1990, we were one of only seven IVF clinics. Now there are 3,000+ clinics, and the industry is growing at a rapid pace. This may sound like a lot, but India has a population of 1.3 billion people. Most of these clinics are catering to 200 million people, while the remaining 800 to 900 million people still need more access to services. A huge part of the population still requires access to care.
Another significant change has been the ART Regulation Act that passed in December 2021 and has just become effective in late January 2022. The Act will establish a National ART and Surrogacy Board and National Registry which will serve as the central database for registered clinics. We believe that regulation is needed and will have a positive impact on the fertility field. The government is willing to listen to suggestions from fertility experts and will make changes to the Act, as needed. There is a fear that the cost of care may become higher because clinics will have to adhere to certain guidelines, certifications, and reporting structures, but I don’t predict that this will be an issue over the long term.
Are there any common misconceptions you hear from patients starting their fertility journey?
One misconception we see is that patients don’t realize that there is a failure rate when it comes to fertility treatments and fertility preservation. This can be very upsetting if someone has, for example, borrowed money to cover their treatments. That’s why it’s so important to provide education and set expectations.
We’ve also seen that awareness is limited around the need for fertility preservation (egg or semen freezing) for people facing a cancer or medical diagnosis requiring specific fertility-compromising treatment. We hear from single, independent, financially-secure women interested in fertility preservation for career-related reasons, but we hear less from people about preservation that’s related to a medical necessity. For example, people going through cancer treatment or endometriosis can also consider fertility preservation. These available options have become a question of awareness.
What are Bloom IVF’s plans for the future?
Ninety percent of our patients just need counseling, a health workup, perhaps an ultrasound, and medications. We have partnered with hospitals that already have the facilities for these services. For the 10 – 20% of patients who do need to pursue in vitro fertilization (IVF) or intrauterine insemination (IUI), we can direct them to our clinics that specialize in those services. In the future, we also want to incorporate an integrated women’s health clinic with a focus on fertility and fertility preservation, as well as issues such as contraception, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and menopause.
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