•One in every four couples suffers infertility

 

By Doris Obinna

Infertility is a disease of the male or female reproductive system defined by the failure to achieve a pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse.

 

•Thaddeus

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), infertility affects millions of people; and has an impact on their families and communities. “Estimates suggest that approximately one in every six people of reproductive age worldwide experience infertility in their lifetime.

“In the male reproductive system, infertility is most commonly caused by problems in the ejection of semen (one), absence or low levels of sperm, or abnormal shape (morphology) and movement (motility) of the sperm.

“In the female reproductive system, infertility may be caused by a range of abnormalities of the ovaries, uterus, fallopian tubes, and the endocrine system, among others. Infertility can be primary or secondary. Primary infertility is when a pregnancy has never been achieved by a person, and secondary infertility is when at least one prior pregnancy has been achieved.”

Speaking, founder, Meet Surrogate Mothers Agency and member of Association for Fertility Reproductive Health in Nigeria, Olaronke Thaddeus, disclosed that fertility clinic and surrogacy infertility is a global issue and one in every four couples suffers from it making the rate of infertility higher at this period.

She noted that most of the infertility issues that a lot of couples go through can be solved if they take proper medical actions. “If couples set out early to find out what the problem is then most of their fertility issues can be discovered and the wait can be greatly reduced for them to have the fruit of the womb.

“For a lot of women, in-vitro fertilization (IVF) is what would solve their fertility problem and this is an assisted reproductive technology where the eggs of the woman are retrieved, fertilized with the sperm of the husband to generate embryos in the IVF lab.

“These embryos are transferred back into the woman’s womb for implantation to take place. Lots of women especially those that have issues with their fallopian tubes e.g. when their two tubes are blocked, the only way for them to get pregnant is through IVF. If we count the number of women with fallopian tube blockage, the number is alarming and that would tell you that a lot of women truly need IVF.”

Explaining further, she said IVF is the only procedure that would by-pass the fallopian tube into the womb for implantation to take place if the couple can provide the eggs and sperm for embryos to be generated. “Then there are women who do not have good wombs or the womb has issues due to one reason or another and therefore cannot carry pregnancy for themselves.

“It could be as a result of a series of surgeries done in the past like fibroid surgeries; this could lead to difficulty getting pregnant even with IVF where chances of implantation for them could be very minimal.”

Surrogacy provides succour

She continued: “So these women might need to consider surrogacy like so many other women battling miscarriages, or those who had to remove their womb due to one medical complication or another and this is why surrogacy is an option for these women.”

These medical options according to her are what ‘Meet Surrogate Mothers’ advocate and recommend for couples to explore rather than waiting endlessly.

Thaddeus, who started her agency firstly as a donor agency in 2014 after she left her banking career included surrogacy a year after she saw that a lot still needed to be done in that regard.

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She continued: “I quite understand that these means of having babies are not very cheap and that is true because IVF is very expensive and now coupled with the present economic situation. It is even more expensive and this is why Meet Surrogate Mothers have decided to bless about 15 couples with free IVF during the upcoming conference holding on May 30, 2024 at Eko Hotel where they also plan on educating women about the different options available for exploration in their journey to conceive.

“It is evident that there is poverty in our country, a lot of people still find it difficult to feed and some of them are also finding it difficult to conceive and that means that IVF is not an option for them due to the cost and these are the women this agency wants to reach out to during the event.”

Thaddeus admonished that surrogacy should not be looked from a negative perspective. “Surrogacy is a topic a lot of media shy away from and whenever few media write about it, they write about it from a negative perspective so we feel that the positive influence of opting for surrogacy.”

No crime committed

Broking the culture of silence around surrogacy practice in Nigeria by publicly encouraging women who truly needs it to embrace it without any guilt or shame, Thaddeus, who is also a fertility counselor with over nine years experience, said surrogacy is not a crime.

“Surrogacy is not a crime for a woman who is having difficulty conceiving to seek help from another woman through surrogacy.  This is exactly what I channel my energy on to make women comfortable in order to speak up and ask for help from the agency.

“We facilitate the arrangements and help them out without issues. The media needs to start seeing these options as a ray of light and hope for couples and not something of ridicule because the world is evolving and we need to move with it otherwise, we will be left behind.

“In countries like USA, UK, these are options that are widely practiced and acceptable but in Nigeria, a lot of women still struggle with the idea because of societal beliefs, tradition, religions and so on but if proper awareness are made through the media enumerating the advantages of IVF and surrogacy, they would definitely be able to speak up and get the help they need.”

Women who need surrogacy

She said: “There are some categories of women that truly need surrogacy and not adoption; we know that not every woman wants to adopt a baby. A lot of women want children that they are genetically and biologically related to and surrogacy avails them with the option of using their eggs and their spouse’s sperm to generate embryos that would be transferred into the surrogate mother.

“The surrogate is thus helping the couple carry the baby the woman was meant to carry but couldn’t. This option would not change the feature of the baby neither would the baby share any genetic link with the carriers. So the number one set of women that truly needs surrogacy are women without womb and a lot of women are in this category; some are born that way, some got their womb damaged or removed during surgery.

“Another set of women who need surrogacy are women suffering from medical issues that pregnancy could complicate like women with kidney related issues, cancers and these are issues that when they get pregnant, can worsen their medical conditions and so they need to opt for surrogacy.

“In fact, most cancer patients before starting chemotherapy retrieve their eggs so that they can use these eggs later. Others who can opt for surrogacy are women who have done a series of fibroid surgeries. Sometimes when a woman undergoes fibroid surgeries, it has a way of creating scars on the lining of the uterus which could lead to difficulty getting pregnant. We also have women who are suffering from a series of miscarriages and a lot of women fall in this category.”

She disclosed that miscarriages can be traumatic and most times the cause unknown. “I know a particular lady that has had up to 10 miscarriages; for this set of women, changing the environment for the embryo by using a surrogate mother might just be the solution.”

Option for older women

She added: “Surrogacy is also an option for older women and in Lagos State, the antiretroviral therapy (ART) Law says that women from 52 and above should not receive IVF and so surrogacy can be a good option for them.

“Surrogacy is not illegal in Nigeria; there is no law for or against surrogacy. What we do when we have someone who wants to use our agency services is to draft a contract and let the person get familiar with the terms and conditions for the programme. The truth is that there is no payment.”

Aim of conference

“The main purpose of the conference holding May 30, 2024 is to educate women about various approaches to solving infertility issues which has now become a global issue affecting every one out of every couple. Again, 15 couples who meet up with our procedures would be selected to benefit from the free IVF.

“Also, speaking about fertility issues is a passion for me. Talking to women about fertility and how to go about solving them and gain reproductive knowledge and support when needed.”