Lagos — If only Felicia knew she could be relieved of her infertility problem with money, she could not have spent two decades in agony looking for a child, notwithstanding the embarrassments from her husband's relations.
When she was married 20 years ago, she was full of expectation that after some months, she will have a baby but unfortunately, she was disappointed. She continued hoping that one day her desires shall be met. Even when she thought of adopting a child, she had probably thought of the implications.
But the joy is full when you have your own baby. This issue could have probably become the centre of discussion during her husband's family meeting, and the option of marrying another wife would have been the most desired solution.
But, her shame and agony became a thing of the past last year when she gave birth to a set of twins through In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF), an assisted fertility means of getting pregnant.
Only the environment could explain how joyful the entire family of Mrs. Felicia was as well as the management of St. Ives Hospital in Ikeja, Lagos State.
The babies were delivered through Caesarian Section, and were said to be doing well as they were now out of the incubator. The mother was not disposed due to some medications she is being placed on but it is gathered that she and her babies are doing well.
According to medical research, IVF has become the major treatment for infertility when other methods of assisted reproductive technology have failed. The process involves harmoniously controlling the ovulatory process, removing ova (eggs) from the woman's ovaries and letting sperm fertilise them in a fluid medium.
The fertilised egg (zygote) is then transferred to the patient's uterus with the intent to establish a successful pregnancy. This is used when parents are having infertility problems or they want to have multiple births. The first test tube baby, Louise Brown, was born in 1978.
In an attempt to put the woman on interview to share her experience during those years of looking for the fruit of the womb and how she felt now that she has seen her joy come to pass, the matron of the hospital, Mrs Kudirat Adetoun who happened to be on duty throughout her pregnancy period, spoke to Saturday Vanguard and revealed some of Felicia's expressions when she gave birth to her children.
Mrs. Kudirat Adetoun, told Saturday Vanguard that the first time, Felicia set her eyes on her babies, the first statement that came out of her mouth was, "So it was because of N500, 000 that I'd waited all this while.," "If I had known, I would have come to this hospital earlier," then she started crying, said Mrs. Adetoun.
"Then I answered and said, may be this is the right time that God has destined for you to see your children.
When God is ready to visit you, all that I know is that He will do it and nobody will share in His glory", she continued.
I remember, the first day, she came to this hospital and complained that she couldn't take in not even once. As one of the matrons, I was assigned to be her companion based on the test carried out on her. She had undergone series of tests and according to the doctor's findings, it was discovered that she wouldn't be able to conceive on her own except through assisted reproduction.
So, she was put on, IVF, and when the virginal scan was done, it became a multiple gestation and when she came after the procedure, she was put on pregnancy test and it was positive although, nobody knew, the result was going to be a set of twin.
My surprise is that, women who are in her category hardly come out positive because her case was a special one and that was why she was on a special payroll. Even if, she was going to conceive naturally, it has to be through counseling because of her age.
Secondly because she has been infertile for many years, there is a natural tendency that she is tensed up, the blood pressure might be on a high side, so there is need to check and balance, not forgetting that naturally there is pregnancy induced hypertension, so it has been counseling and placing her on drug before she was able to be monitored till date and today, she has her twin babies.
When asked to give account of her condition during the period of pregnancy and the delivery especially on her health, the matron confirmed that the condition was not different to a natural way of getting pregnant and there was no complication due to the fact that she had adhered to all medical instructions which is capable of keeping her fit for the condition.
"Her health was encouraging because, she had adhered to all medical instructions; her drugs, the salt- free diet, in fact, there is nothing she was told to do that she wouldn't do as a person. I remember that whenever she was told to do anything, she only replies and says, " I don't mind doing anything, if only I would see my child, I wouldn't mind".
No wonder people say, "Money answers all things, in fact, there is little that money cannot do. If she hadn't gotten any money, she wouldn't have been a mother now let alone coming to this hospital for IVF . She would rather remain in her formal position crying all the way.
Although there are so many rich women outside there who are not ready to use their money on such thing but she was different and we thank God that day, she has gotten her children. There is hope for the hopeless".
When asked to predict the joy of a woman who has been looking for a child for a long time and now has a set of twin, Mrs. Adetoun, said, "Even when she doses off, she still wants to remember those moment, the first time, she set her eyes on her children and when she carried them on her arms because it was like a dream that will never come through but now becoming reality. Truly, there is nothing like you having your own child.
However, she noted that, although, Felicia's case was the first of its like in the hospital but after hers, there have been lots of women with similar experience, but could now rejoice because they are now mothers. "Apart from Felicia, there are other women who have been placed on IVF in order to have their children; adding that there is no month that the hospital will not have an additional of one or two babies born through IVF.
The medical doctor, Tunde Okewale, Chief Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at the hospital who carried out the operation on Felicia also revealed the IVF unit was established at the hospital based on the findings that there had been an intense increase in infertility amongst couples in the country.
"When this hospital was established 11 years ago, there was no plan for any IVF unit, but when it was discovered that there had been intense increase in infertility problem, research was carried out on how to curb or drastically reduce the number of people who are affected and that was why an IVF unit was established in July 2007. And by June 2008, we celebrated first IVF baby at the hospital.
Sharing his experience, the doctor said, "the operation has been fantastic and it has become an eye opener to infertile couples, some of whom have been relieved of their troubles.
"With IVF, those who are written off can have cause to rejoice. Felicia came to this hospital last year August, although she has lost hope that she was going to have a baby of her own due to her condition and on the condition that she has been barren for the past 20 years.
According to medical research, it was discovered that her tube had been blocked and secondly, the husband's sperm was low. Apparently, they have tried all the possible means of fertility prospect and management, but there was no result until they opted for IVF as the last resort.
"What makes her case special is that, apart from her 20 years of infertility, she has out-grown the age that she could probably conceive a child, she was 45 years, the less likely that a successful IVF will be carried out on her. The success rate at her age was 16 to 20 per cent, so she was really lucky, I believe that God was ready to favour her, he continued.
"Like other unit world wide, the spark of the IVF operation in any unit always call for celebration. The first one is always the biggest one and subsequently. Every IVF baby is always special because of the circumstances behind them. The price paid during the infertility period, the pain, the anger, the depression that the woman or the couple passes through is enough to tell the story.
The truth is that a child born through IVF cannot be differentiated from a natural born baby. Another thing is the IVF babies are always brilliant children. There was a case of a woman who after IVF gave birth to her children on her own without an intervention of IVF, so these children have no problem.
"The scope of IVF has been expanded as couples prefer to have their children through IVF. And the truth is that, the people might later be having their subsequent children without any assistance.
"At times, the effect of the injection given through IVF also helps in producing lots of eggs as the eggs produced are being fertilised during IVF operation. Another aspect is that when the eggs are matured, it is brought out from the woman which is called, retrieval of the egg from the woman. The third part has to do with the proper IVF, which involves mixing the eggs of the woman with the sperm of the man which is called the In Vitro Fertilisation, IVF.
"The last part is that the embryos that have grown will be put into the woman which is called embryo transplant. At this period, the process of IVF usually last for 21 days and the doctor will have to wait for another 14 days, before conducting the final pregnancy test.
Asked what the cost of an IVF service worth, he said, "IVF is not cheap anywhere in the world because the cost of setting up an IVF unit on its own, or employing dedicated professionals and the facilities to carry out the operation is very expensive".
Speaking on the present situation of infertility as a major problem amongst couples in the country, he said, a woman or man could become infertile after having unprotected sexual intercourse for a year on several occasions.
The problem of infertility is epidemic in Nigeria to the extent that there is an increase in the number of people who are infertile now unlike in the days of our parents, it was very rare to find two women out of 10 women still looking for the fruit of the womb.
But nowadays, there is an increase in the rate of sexually transmitted diseases STDs including gonorrhea which are poorly treated based on people's ignorance to go for proper medical check-up which apparently may result to infertility.
"Apart from this problem, the inability of the lady to get married on time has also contributed to the increase in infertility problem.
According to medical research, "The peak of a woman's fertility is between the age of 20 and 30. But, due to different career pursuits in life by people, some women prefer to marry at the age of 37 or 38 and at that time her fertility capacity tends to drop and that is another issue.
"Pollution and stress are other environmental problems that is contributing to infertility in the country today. About 25 per cent of newly married couples are infertile. 40 per cent of that 25 per cent would get pregnant on their own through some basic infertility investigations and counseling, using some fertility drugs, but 60 per cent of that 25 per cent will require some form of assisted conception which involves IVF.
"Obesity is another problem of infertility. For women, the hormone that controls fertility can get easily derailed by fat that is why it is very difficult to women who are above the required age to get pregnant, some women need to lose their weight before they can be pregnant.
"Before the invention of IVF, any woman or man diagnosed infertile is always advised to settle for adoption but since 1978,and there is a finality to that issue since 1978 when IVF was discovered, it was tested that a man's sperm which is mixed with the woman's sperm can fertilise outside and then placed into the woman's womb, then the embryo continues to grow without being disturbed.
Reiterating that IVF is carried out through an egg brought from the woman and the sperm of the man mixed together in the laboratory and after which it will be returned inside the woman. At that level, the woman, has no control again. It's either the womb accepts or rejects. "For IVF, it is not only one embryo that is used replaced, rather, it is replaced in two, three or four and that is why the babies come either in twice, triplets.
"The first result was was achieved in 1978 in United Kingdom by Edward one of the pioneers and at the same year, the first test-tube was born. And at the same year, Indian reported her own case in November, making the second IVF, by 1980.
Australia reported its own, in 1981, U.S. had its own IVF baby. Few years after that, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, reported a successful IVF baby. Then the news spread through worldwide and the people that had been written off, can have their babies. As the years went by the indications for IVF started expanding. And since then, millions of babies have been born through IVF, he added.