Investigation: The Booming Business Of Infertility Treatment In Nigeria
- Fertility crisis in Nigeria has led to a rise in fertility treatment across the country and a boom in the industry.
A palpable atmosphere of worry, anxiety and hope pervaded the Gynecology Unit of the Kubwa General Hospital, Abuja, last Tuesday. As early as 8 a.m, dozens of women of varying ages waited eagerly for the consultant to resume and attend to them.
Many of these women must have gotten married with dreams of blissful conjugal life, and children who would call them Mummy. But a new reality has brought them to the hospital. Some of them are finding out that, unlike other women, the fruit of the womb is taking “too long” to sprout in their own bellies after, perhaps, years of marriage. These are the women in crisis of infertility.
Infertility has become a common story in many marriages across Nigeria, straining relationships and stretching couple’s resilience to the limit. Yet, in a country still fed on its traditional values and expectations in marriages, it is a problem many are unwilling to share, except with close ones.
The society expects children from marriages and any hint of delay or lack of it puts pressure on the women. Although no official data is available yet on the issue, but statistics from medical institutions has shown that up to 45 percent of all female consultations at clinics in the country are regarding infertility treatment.
For this reason, investors searching for new ways to make money in medicine have hit upon the age-old problem of infertility. Medical investors have taken advantage of the infertility crisis in the country, pumping a lot of funds into building national chains of fertility clinics.
There are a now number of clinics offering fertility services in Abuja and in all major cities across the country. Experts say the industry will continue to grow for as long as couples love to have their own children. It is an industry where clients are willing to pay huge bills to get the right services.
According to a Medical expert Dr Daniel Mfon, treatment can be expensive, especially when both partners have problems. “In-Vitro fertilization is an intervention to help people conceive. It is usually done on single mothers who do not want to adopt but want to ‘carry’ their own pregnancy without meeting any man to do it or Married couples who have not been able to conceive,” he said.
Since the birth of IVF in Nigeria almost two decades ago, thousands of babies have been conceived through it. Though It increases the chances of pregnancy and also increases the chances of multiple pregnancies (twins, triplets etc.), it is very expensive because of the machines and skills needed for it.
The cost of a procedure ranges from N800, 000 to as high as N1, 900,000, which can be less or more depending on the clinic and treatment plan. Other factors that affect the cost of IVF treatment are: age, duration of treatment, number of cycles, cost of drugs, embryo freezing, and legal fees.
Infertility, according to Dr. Collins. A. Kalu, an obstetrician and gynaecologist at the General Hospital, kubwa Abuja is the inability of a couple to achieve pregnancy after 12 months of unprotected genital sex.
Speaking further Kalu disclosed an average of 300 couples visit the gynaecology clinic at the hospital every month and an estimated 2,700 couples in a year. In August for instance, 545 couples visited the clinic while 0nly 247 came for consultations in September.
“Out of the total number of gynae visits in a year around 80% of couples experience the heartbreak of being unable to conceive naturally (infertility),” he added.
Enumerating the causes of infertility the gynaecologist said it can relate to factors in both men and women with the men contributing about 30% while the remaining 70% may be attributable to women.
“Infertility in men (accounting for 30% of cases) usually relates to sperm production, but when it comes to women there are several causes like tubal factor, cervical factor, cervical factor, and uterine factor amongst others.
“But the most common cause of infertility in women (accounting for 70% of cases) relates to the tubal factor- the woman has a uterus and it has two tubes, where the egg after it has been released from the ovary enters to reach the woman.
“It is in the tube that fertilization of eggs takes place, so if for any reason infection or other mechanical situation causes blockages in the fallopian tubes that mean the sperm would not be able to meet the egg. Also, it can be caused by uterine abnormalities, endometriosis (growth of uterine wall tissue outside the uterus).”
For other causative factors of infertility drugs or surgery can be administered but majorly for the tubal factor that affects the two tubes the treatment given is In vitro fertilization (IVF)
“Out of the 80% of couples that have infertility issues close to 40% usually require IVF treatment,” he said.
In Nigeria, the average cost of IVF is 1.2million for one cycle and experts say the success rate is about (25-35)%, though some centers have up to 40% success rate, which is considered good because normal fecundity rate(the ability to get pregnant in one cycle) is about 25% . What it means is that the success rate in some centers is higher than the normal rate.
However questioned on why IVF treatment is so expensive, the doctor said “with more than 20 hospitals, National Hospital, Gariki Hospital, and Federal Medical Center Jabi inclusive offering IVF services in Abuja, it is expensive because it is a new technology and requires a lot of equipment and training. So setting up an IVF center with good procedures will need a lot of funds to be pushed in.”
Nonetheless, doctors expressed optimism that the cost of IVF treatment will likely drop when more money is invested and more fertility clinics are established.
On her own part, Dr Victoria John, a fertility expert revealed that her product has been able to successfully solve the infertility troubles of many ladies.
According to her, “the fertility kit is a natural solution to infertility. It comes as a kit which contains pills and fluid and the pills help to normalize the hormones of reproduction like LH FSH progesterone oestrogen and prolactin. In addition, the pills help to ensure that all cycles are ovulatory.
“On the other hand, the fluid stabilizes the pH of the genital tract for the survival of sperms and also keeps the fallopian tubes patent and maintains a normal endometrium.
It assists with opening up of the fallopian tubes thus assisting those with blocked tubes, and promotes a healthy environment for sperm to thrive in the genital tract by stabilizing the PH of Vagina
According to John, the kit helps to balance oestrogen, progesterone, LH (Luteinizing hormone) and FSH (Follicle stimulating hormone). It helps to boost up LH surge in mid-cycle which is important for ovulation to occur
The kit assists with enhancing production of progesterone necessary for implantation of fertilized egg, and contains vitamins vital for conception such as vitamins E and C, Folic acid, red raspberry leaf, nettle leaf, dandelion, alfalfa, red clover and Maca. Others are roots of some plants and berries Gingko Biloba and grape seed extract, Eleuthero root extract and Chaste Berry fruit extract.
She further revealed that the N109, 000 fertility kit has a success rate of 100 percent as they have celebrated over 100 thousand sales and they all tested positive by the next month of usage.
However, speaking from experience a civil servant resident in Abuja attested to the fact that most of the fertility solutions are very expensive and are not 100% successful, drawing emphasis especially to IVF.
“I went through five rounds of IVF and finally just had a baby. Initially, I started off hopefully. Then I would feel sad and feel angry due to endless drugs, injections, and too many medical procedures.
“I also felt like a total failure and would get really down on myself,” she said.
“Also know your limit mentally and financially. After my fifth round, I planned on it not working and I was ready to move on with my life knowing I tried everything.
“Finding out that I was pregnant felt like a gigantic relief after the disappointment and physical discomfort of trying other fertility treatments without success.”
A hair extension entrepreneur also sharing her experience said she had battled infertility for 7 years.
According to her, she saw hell “from two blocked Fallopian tubes, hormonal imbalance, several painful procedures, incompetent cervix, failed IVF and multiple fibroids. Losing a pregnancy at 22weeks+ in 2016 my water broke and had to be induced to bring out the baby in order to save my life.
“It was such a painful experience as I had to go through the pains of proper labour and then going through a major procedure last year to remove the multiple fibroids.
“Fast forward June 2017 I decided to give IVF another try hoping that God will come through. I was a bit reluctant because of the fear of being disappointed yet again. I went through it anyway. To the glory of God, I was confirmed pregnant July 2017. The pregnancy went so smoothly and February 26, 2018, our wonderful gift beautifully molded from heaven dropped down.”
Many of those interviewed said caution is necessary when seeking fertility treatment in an industry that may have been infiltrated by quacks whose only motivation is profit. Many of the fertility clinics make promises that are unrealistic, thereby entrapping desperate couples seeking the fruit of the womb.
Potential clients must know that fertility treatment has become a booming industry, where marketing is key.