Concerns mount over poor regulation of IVF practice, success rate in Nigeria
*‘Why government should fund, establish centres in public hospitals’
*As National Hospital records 500 pregnancies from procedure
With over 40 units offering In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) services in the country, Nigeria is yet to have a clear-cut regulation for the practice.
This was the worry of practitioners in the area of assisted reproductive technology at an occasion to mark 10 years of IVF at the National Hospital in Abuja.
There are also concerns about the success rate of IVF in Nigeria, which stakeholders have put at 25 to 45 per cent.
But the authorities at the National Hospital, Abuja, say 500 pregnancies had been recorded from IVF at the hospital in the last 10 years.
Joint Pioneer of IVF in Nigeria and Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Benin, Osato Giwa-Osagie, who spoke at the event, stressed that there were more than 40 IVF units in Nigeria, stressing that this was more than three times the number of IVF centres in all other West African countries.
Giwa-Osagie stressed the need to improve the success rates, increase access for people and establish regulations and guidelines for IVF in Nigeria.
He recalled that owing to lack of government funding, IVF went into the private sector with what he described as spectacular expansion and results. He spoke further on the need for increased IVF services in public hospitals.
Giwa-Osagie explained: “This is because they have increased access to IVF for the majority of the people. Of the over 40 IVF centres in Nigeria, only five or so are in public health. The others are private IVF centres, which are far more expensive than IVF in public hospitals. The federal and state governments should encourage and fund the establishment of at least three IVF centres in public hospitals in each of the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria.
“This is a duty that should be done to help the people who suffer from stigma and costs of infertility treated through IVF and related procedures.
“IVF and Assisted Reproductive Techniques (ART) are cutting edge of scientific management of infertility. The technology opens doors to other aspects such as prenatal diagnosis of sickle cell disease, genetic abnormalities and gender diagnosis. The science continues to advance and easily leads to early treatment of some diseases.
These are the frontiers of scientific knowledge. Nigeria with its many IVF centres is part of this new frontier and we must not lose our advantage.”
He stressed that the Association for Fertility and Reproductive Health (AFRH) was already assisting government do regulations and guidelines correctly, noting that consultants and embryologists from the National Hospital were part of the process.
Another medical expert, Dr. Ogunwale Adegboye, stressed that though the National Health Act had some guidelines on IVF, it did not give clear regulations for the practice.
He hammered on why IVF should be regulated in Nigeria. “While some countries have developed policies to regulate IVF, Nigeria have lagged behind. IVF has been practiced in Nigeria for over 20 years, yet it has not been regulated. This should change,” he posited.
IVF is generally described as the process of fertilization by manually combining an egg and sperm in a laboratory dish, and then transferring the embryo to the uterus.
Chief Medical Director of the National Hospital, Abuja, Dr. Jaf Momoh, explained that the hospital had recorded remarkable success rates.
His words: “Today’s events marks 10 years since IVF services started at the national hospital. This service has been running consistently for 10 years uninterrupted and it is worth celebrating because National hospital is the first hospital to do so in the West African sub region, that is, to run an IVF programme for 10 years uninterrupted in a government hospital, it is a feat and I think we should celebrate the pioneers, the staff and our patients and thank God for the achievement we have recorded over the years.”
On what has been produced since then, Momoh explained that the hospital had recorded over 500 pregnancies.
He added: “Of course you know that IVF is what you commonly referred to as Test tube baby. People should not mistake it to mean that we grow babies in test tubes. It is the natural process of giving birth that has been replicated at the laboratory at a very early stage and the baby is transferred within 48 hours, immediately it fertilizes, to the mother’s womb to carry the pregnancy.
“Therefore, there should be no stigma, people should be proud to say technology gave humans, which knowledge is given by God. We want to collaborate with other hospitals that cannot do this, particularly, government hospitals. Refer your patients. It is also possible to replicate this in sister hospitals. We are also ready to collaborate in training and this is the reason why we are celebrating so that people will know that indeed. More than 350 families have rejoiced as a result of delivering babies through this programme here.”
On cost and affordability, he noted that the bottom line of access in Nigeria was affordability.