Mrs. Ifeyinwa Kpaje, a mother of five, who had her first four children through IVF, except the last child that came naturally, noted that the problem of infertility in Africa can drive couples and families involved to the edge that at some point they will not care about the ‘how’ of the conception of the children they so desperately want.
Kpaje said that “at a point, the mothers-in-law want to see children and not how you got them. I had 4 children through ART, and the last one came naturally. I have 5 children now. My first son looks like my husband. They resemble us because the sperm they used are from my husband and the eggs are from me, only that it was assisted conception.”
On the resemblance of IVF children to their parents, Mrs. Ifeoluwa Okusanya, a beneficiary of IVF, said “… the genetic identities are so strong.”
Mrs. Titilayo Aketi, another beneficiary of assisted reproductive technology said, “ After some period of childlessness, when I took in, people were like ‘are you sure?’ After I put to bed, my son is not only like the father in appearance, he (also) walks like his father.”
However, experts agree that if the sperm and eggs used for the IVF are not from the couple, there may be no genetic resemblance. Experts also maintain that children from IVF are normal children.
Today, Ifeoma Emekwue, who is Brand Ambassador of Association for the Prevention of Infertility and Promotion of Reproduction Health and Rights (ASPIRE) has challenged the stigma associated with IVF treatments to give it a human face, and is encouraging women with fertility problems to consider IVF. She is not in this alone. Ifeoluwa Okusanya, Ifeyinwa Kpaje, Titilayo Aketi, Lanre Kazeem-Abimbola, Patricia Jibor, all wives, mothers and beneficiaries of IVF are members of the group.
In-Vitro Fertilization, commonly known as Assisted Reproductive Technology, is the process of fertilization by manually combining an egg and sperm in a laboratory dish, and then transferring the embryo to the uterus. Other forms of ART include Gamete Intra-Fallopian Transfer (GIFT) and Zygote Intra-Fallopian Transfer (ZIFT).
Experts say that IVF is used to treat infertility in patients with blocked or damaged fallopian tubes, male factor infertility including decreased sperm count or sperm motility, women with ovulation disorders, premature ovarian failure, uterine fibroids. Also, women who have had their fallopian tubes removed, individuals with a genetic disorder and unexplained infertility.
According to a fertility expert “there are five basic steps involved in the IVF and embryo transfer process. Monitor and stimulate the development of healthy egg(s) in the ovaries. Collect the eggs and secure the sperm.
“Then, combine the eggs and sperm together in the laboratory and provide the appropriate environment for fertilization and early embryo growth.
“In transferring embryos into the uterus, the following steps are taken: Fertility medications are prescribed to stimulate egg production. Multiple eggs are desired because some eggs will not develop or fertilize after retrieval. Transvaginal ultrasound is used to examine the ovaries, and blood test samples are taken to check hormone levels.
Eggs are retrieved through a minor surgical procedure that uses ultrasound imaging to guide a hollow needle through the pelvic cavity to remove the eggs. Medication is provided to reduce and remove potential discomfort. The male is asked to produce a sample of sperm, which is prepared for combining with the eggs.
“In a process called insemination, the sperm and eggs are mixed together and stored in a laboratory to encourage fertilization. In some cases where there is a lower probability of fertilization, Intra Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) may be used. Through this procedure, a single sperm is injected directly into the egg in an attempt to achieve fertilization. The eggs are monitored to confirm that fertilization and cell division are taking place. Once this occurs, the fertilized eggs are considered embryos.
“The embryos are usually transferred into the woman’s uterus three to five days following egg retrieval and fertilization. A catheter or small tube is inserted into the uterus to transfer the embryos. This procedure is painless for most women, although some may experience mild cramping. If the procedure is successful, implantation typically occurs around six to ten days following egg retrieval.”
Meanwhile, ASPIRE, primarily aimed at tackling the silence and social stigma associated with infertility, seek to lend a helping hand in partnering with individuals who may not necessarily have had IVF treatment but wish to support the cause of shattering the silence of couples with such challenges.
The group, courtesy of the quality treatment received from the foremost fertility center in Nigeria, The Bridge Clinic, also seeks to encourage couples going through such challenges to move above the prevalent prejudices and seek for quality treatment of their health conditions.
In the recent re-lunch of ASPIRE, Brand Ambassador Emekwue said the advocacy group seeks to redress the challenges of development, which almost all groups of this nature experienced in their early days. The advocacy group is made up predominantly by people who have overcome the challenges of infertility at some point in their lives. However, as part of it’s success, the group seeks to deploy their experience in assisting couples going through infertility challenges.
Emekwue said: “The association, which started as group of people who overcame the challenges of infertility, targets to extend to other regions as well, although not in the same magnitude as the Lagos region, and expects to scale up their reach in many other cities.
“It’s objectives include shattering the social stigma associated with IVF (and dispelling the rumours that IVF children have challenges.) Also, fostering and encouraging open dialogue about causes of infertility and its prevalence in sub-Saharan Africa.
“The group also seeks to mentor couples about to undertake or currently undertaking the journey.”
She said: “Against the backdrop of proliferation of Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) centres in Nigeria, ART is unregulated in Nigeria and that is one of the causes we are fighting. The government should move into the sub-sector, and put order to its practices to save Nigerians from the many fraudsters parading themselves as fertility experts.
“It is for this reason that we work with The Bridge Clinic, the foremost ART center in Nigeria, as our technical partners due to their experience (16 years), high success rate, the quality management system and their international affiliation with IVF Professor Zech (who ensures they are at the cutting edge of ART services both in delivery and outcome).”