9 December 2016

Nigeria: Infertility - Why You Must Never Give Up

Ronke Odoh looked at the face of her new baby boy and could not contain her joy. It had been 15 long years of waiting and hoping, filled with disappointment and pain, but now the family can celebrate, because they have been blessed.

"I still cannot believe I am now a mother and not barren like I was labeled by my in-laws, God has finally heard my cry and answered my prayers," she exclaimed.

Sitting on her hospital bed, in one of the private hospitals in the FCT, Mrs Odoh holds her bundle of joy in her arms and listens to the nurse tell her how to breast fed her baby, but her tears just keep falling, and she quickly says, "I am just happy, these are tears of joy."

Her husband was just beaming with smiles, his eyes never leaving his wife and the new baby.

"We got married in 2000. We never knew we would wait this long. It was not easy, every month when her menses comes, our hope crashes and then we had to start the whole process all over again.

"When she finally took in after a successful fertility treatment - one out of the many we went through - we had to change everything during her pregnancy, but the joy of seeing her swelling tummy as our baby grew was a miracle, a true gift,"he said.

Like many couples waiting for the miracle of the fruit of the womb, the delay is usually unbearable and with each passing year, anxiety, sadness and despair takes centre stage in their lives.

"Many couples go through this stage, but some are just lucky and blessed, once they get married the kids just start coming immediately without delay, but others like myself are not so fortunate", said Mrs Ekeh, (not real name) who is presently undergoing fertility treatment at a private hospital in the FCT.

Dr Abayomi Ajayi, a Vitro Fertilisation specialist and Managing Director of Nordica Fertility Centre, in a recent interview with journalists said the major causes of infertility in most parts of the world are either the woman's tubes are blocked or the man's sperm count is low and bad.

His words: "These two things are not amenable to drugs. But when the problem is one that the woman is not ovulating, which about 10 to 20 per cent of women in Nigeria might have, then such a case can be helped with fertility drugs. The important thing is that the person must have a thorough medical assessment before taking any kind of drug, including ovulation induction drugs.

"About one in five couples in Nigeria have infertility problem. There is no stigma to it. It's not because of anything they might have done. It's a medical condition and therefore, they should seek help."

According to Dr Ajayi, once a couple has stayed for over a year and has had active intercourse for that length of time without any conception then they need to seek medical care.

"I hear a lot of people complaining that the fertility treatment is quite expensive, but think of the joy of parenthood, it cannot be measured in kobos and nairas.

"But the truth is that there are different procedures in fertility, if someone can buy a tokunbo car then the person can successfully commence fertility treatment.

"Some of these treatments are quite affordable and now some hospitals have crashed the prices as one of their social responsibility programmes to the society to enable couples that cannot afford the treatment get a chance to fulfill their dreams,"he said.

Malam Hassan Dogo, a civil servant in the FCT, who spoke of his experience in fertility treatment, had this to say: "Yes a doctor will definitely tell you to seek medical care, but it's no child's play, it's quite expensive and a venture one must prepare for.

"I have been married for five years now without any success in that area. We have run a lot of tests and fortunately we are both healthy and fit to have children, but none yet, so we keep trying but it is not easy.

"Is it the demeaning process of checking one's sperm count or the various medical checkups, treatment, scans or the painful injections my wife has taken on her belly.

"My dear it is easier said than done."

But for many, the tedious and rigorous treatment is worth it if it's successful.

Lami Bello, who gave birth to two beautiful daughters through IVF, told Homefront that she is set to undergo another treatment for another baby but this time around she will pick the sex of the child because she wants to have a boy to please her husband.

Lami, who said she waited only three years, added that she was quite lucky because at least they have the means to pay for all the treatment and also afford any other arrangement needed to make the treatment successful.

Dr Henry Osazuwa, who is the chief medical director of Wellspring Hospital in Abuja and a renowned gynecologist, said the issue is not to give up too soon but to keep trying until the miracle happens.

He said, "The process is not easy on couples, but with the advancement in technology, the success rate of fertility treatment has greatly improved. A study which was just released has revealed that the more trials a couple have, the better their chances of succeeding in getting pregnant.

"Look now older women in their late forties and even fifties are experiencing the joy of motherhood, because now the technology, treatment procedures are better than they used to be years ago," he said.

According to him, couples that want to be parents must never give up their dream or stop the treatment, because despite all treatment, babies come on their own.

" A doctor can do all he can in the lab or all the treatment but the truth is that it takes God and a miracle for a baby to develop.

"A lot of couples start the treatment then stop but because of the amount of treatment they have undergone, they take in, but the truth is that, the trick is to keep trying until you hold your bundle of joy in your arms," he said.

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