HealthInnovationMAY 19 EDITION

Quest for Motherhood: IVF to the rescue

By: Bose Alonge

The joy of motherhood knows no bound. Hence, being a mother and having to call a baby by name is the greatest wish of every woman. For those who are yet to have this dream fulfilled, it can really be a source of worry and anxiety. But sometimes, the longer one waits the better the happiness that follows when it finally happens.

Ajibola Otunbusin, the oldest IVF Mother in Africa

“This might be hard to believe but I am 67 years old and I have been married for 40 years. I have done several IVF both in India and in Nigeria that failed. At several points, I had said to myself: So I will die without a child of my own? But I never gave up on God. I held on to the belief that at the appointed time, God will remember me. And my husband kept encouraging me. In 2018, I was directed to St. Ives Fertility Centre Lagos by the Holy Spirit. I started the procedure and ended it with joy from above”. These were the words of the oldest woman to give birth in Africa. Many were agog with the news the 67 years old Nigerian woman named Ajibola Otunbusin who became the oldest IVF mother in Africa gave birth to a baby boy. Her lifelong dream of motherhood was fulfilled in October, 2018, making her the second oldest person in the world to have achieved the feat.

More intriguing was the story of Daljinder Kaur, an Indian woman who had her baby at the age of 72 in 2017, making her the oldest woman alive to give birth. Ms Kaur and her 80 years old husband conceive their son through IVF after trying unsuccessfully for 46 years without medical help.

Daljinder Kaur and her husband hold their new born with passion

Just like Ajibola, Doris (45) and her husband Tunde (52) were frustrated and exhausted as a result of money spent on procedures that never worked for them. Doris bemoaned her status. She feared that she never have children, never create a family. She dreaded never watching her children grow, celebrate children’s birthday parties, never take that ‘first day at school’ photo. She though she will never get to see them graduate, never see them get married and have children of their own. She feared never having an opportunity to heal the wounds of her childhood by doing things differently with her own children. She will never be a grandmother and will never give the ‘gift of grandchildren’ to her parents. She will never stand shoulder to shoulder with her siblings and watch their children play together will she never be part of a community of mothers, never to beconsidered a “real woman”.

An expectant mother

Encapsulating all these in a dose is, the testimony of strength of a childless woman. But for the advancement in ART that has brought hope and help to this hopeless narratives. Today, after 20 years of expecting, Doris and her husband are parents to “Ifeoluwa” a miracle that was made possible through the IVF intervention. For these women and millions around the world who have battled with infertility and have to depend on Technology to achieve their dreams. They all will agree that ART is the answer to man’s prayer.

In a society such as ours, where pronatalist culture is given precedence, childlessness evokes very strong negative feeling, regardless of the reason for it, be it voluntary or involuntary. Childlessness has major psychological and social implications for affected persons, especially in climes where premium is placed on fertility. In Nigeria for instance, a childless woman is perceived to have been wayward or have lived her youthful life recklessly, little or no aspersion at all is been cast on the man for the reason of a woman’s childlessness. The leading cause of childlessness is infertility.

Infertility could simply mean a medically proven case of inability to conceive. A normal couple have only 20 -25% chance of conceiving on any given cycle, with infertile couple the chances are far lower making them a victim. Research has shown that woman dealing with infertility experience much stress as woman dealing with cancer. This is true perhaps, because of the stress and grief of cancer is about a recognised terrible diagnosis and that of infertility is of lack or inadequacy. The experience of infertility cannot be encapsulated in a single word as the despair interferes with almost every aspect of lives and relationship; home, marriage, sex, family, friends, food, parent and in­laws.

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In the world of infertility, IVF also called a ‘Test Tube Baby’ because the procedure is the first most successful treatment option for many couple who battle childlessness or for those who traditional conception and pregnancy aren’t an option like same-sex couples or men and women with infertility diagnoses. It is often viewed as “the last stop” on the infertility track. It was like a mirage in 1998, when the news of the first Nigerian Test Tube Baby broke. HannatuKupchi, now a University undergraduate is studying Medicine in Ukraine. She hopes to contribute her quota to the world that gave her life. The first IVF baby was born in 1978, now 40 years old and mother of two children. One is safe to say that the IVF is not a new phenomenon as the signs of achieving the IVF treatment was first reported in 1953.Since the first conception in the United Kingdom, millions of healthy babies have been delivered through IVF.

Young couple in dilemma over child birth

Known to be more effective in younger women, the IVF Technology has continued to expand the coast of its wonder with the recently recorded world oldest births by women in their late 60’s and 70’s. Assisted Reproductive Technology has enabled million of infertile couples all over the world to have their own children. ART is the manipulation of eggs, sperm, and embryos outside the body in other to get pregnant. There are different types of Assisted Reproductive Technologies that have continued to aid infertile couples to realize their dreams of parenthood.

Although, the procedure was first developed to help women with missing or damaged fallopian tubes, it is now routinely used to treat infertility caused by various challenges such as endometriosis, low sperm count, issues with sperm motility and poor egg quality among others. . In Vitro Fertilization is not restricted to the mother of the baby alone, it can also be used by surrogate or gestational carriers helping those incapacitated to become parents.

More to the benefit of the IVF is that it avails the prospecting parent the opportunity to choose healthier embryos. For couples who are concerned about passing a genetic disorder or chromosomal abnormalities to their children, IVF allows pre-implantation genetic screening that can detect the presence of an abnormal chromosome. The procedure ensures that the embryos used during IVF are free from known genetic makers linked to conditions such as cystic fibrosis, Down syndrome, sickle cell anemia and Tay Sachs. The technology permits the use of donated eggs and sperms. To be manually fertilized in the clinic and a resulting viable embryo can be used for IVF, thereby increasing the chances of getting pregnant at first trial.

It is safe to say that with IVF, prospective parents have control over time, demystifying the role of age in pregnancy. Parents who are focused on their carriers or with unique lifestyle would find IVF option appealing, as this technology provides opportunity for eggs or embryos to be cry preserved for future use. Since the technology helps in determining when a person would want to have a child, it can be use in spacing children in a way that works best for a family. IVF has a very high success rate of multiple births among other ART options as it decreases the chances of miscarriages while increasing the chances of conception.

It goes without saying that, as magical as the IVF may seem, it comes with its own baggage. The expensive and invasive nature of the procedure, leaves it’s beneficiaries to be financially, physically and emotionally drained. The cost has remained one of the reasons why this Technology has not been too accessible. The average cost of IVF cost between 1 – 2million naira in Nigeria and about 12-20 thousand dollars outside the country. More to this, is the success rate of life birth of the procedure which is pegged to at 40% for women under 35 years and 4% for women over the age of 42. In cases where successes have been recorded, research showed that the procedure was performed multiple times. This means that the cost of IVF baby is too expensive and perhaps only the very rich can shop in that domain.

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