Religion has a stronghold on many people. It influences almost all the decisions they take in life including childbearing. Last week Sunday, many people were mandated to sit at home to reduce the risk of being infected with coronavirus pandemic but thousands of people in Lagos still trooped to different worship centres across Nigeria. Many people who could have lost the hope of becoming parents gave IVF a chance and today they are happier for those decisions. But over the years, there has been a major argument as to whether religion or technological advancement has more influence on humans.
Most major religions have indeed come to tolerate — and even embrace — IVF, which was originally viewed with equal alarm. But the increasingly commonplace procedure is still condemned at the highest levels of the Catholic Church. “Technology is a great thing, but technology does change us,” said the Rev. Michael J.K. Fuller, Executive Director of the Secretariat of Doctrine and Canonical Affairs for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “At some point, we need to ask — how much is it changing us, and is that a good thing?” Washington Post reported in 2018.
In the interview below, City People’s DAMILARE SALAMI (08155134152) took on renowned fertility expert, Dr Abayomi Ajayi, the MD, Nordica Fertility Centre who spoke about how religion is denying many people their children. Below are excerpts from the interview, enjoy
I understand that so many women that are seeking the fruit of the womb don’t get to know much about recipient circle. What are the fertility centres in the country doing about to aid its awareness?
Well, I think we should give them all the options. You know Nigeria is peculiar; to quote Obasanjo “Nigeria is the only country where thieves dethrone kings.” Religion has turned Nigeria around so it is sometimes very difficult for these women to make some of these decisions. Because someone somewhere said go get your own baby. Whether he’s a pastor or an Imam, the person is definitely not a doctor. I’ve had so many experiences and if you ask me whether I believe in prophecies, yes I do. But sometimes you don’t know how that prophecy is going to be fulfilled because God’s ways are different from your ways, that’s what the bible says. So the fact that somebody has said he sees a 55-year-old woman carrying her baby, you now come to the fertility centre and say that it is your own eggs you want to use; you don miss road now. You have to combine the two together. The man of God probably saw that you are pregnant; it’s possible but how are you going to achieve that pregnancy? It’s like the man of God said you are going to London and you want to trek from here to London. Won’t you die on the way? So we need wisdom and that’s one of the problems we have now. Some people are now 50 and they come and tell me the word of God for me says I’m going to have my own baby. Nobody is denying that but the truth is ‘madam you have run out of eggs;’ also we cannot run away from that. But also sometimes, they go to people who don’t even know anything about reproduction. They are doctors but they don’t know anything about reproduction. Some of them are not even gynaecologists and some don’t even know more than the basic gynaecology because I’ve heard also that some people will say you don’t need donor eggs, we can make you bleed. And I say, hey, wait a minute, bleeding is different from having eggs. I can make a 70-year-old woman bleed, it does not matter but does that mean she can use her eggs? No, but we need to differentiate between having a uterus and having an ovary because where you bleed from is your uterus. I can give you a hormonal drug that will take away the functions of your ovary and give you hormones that can make you bleed but does that mean you have ovaries? No. so sometimes people get confused about all these issues and unfortunately also, we don’t read much in Nigeria because all these things are possible to read up online. And then when we decide to read, it is gossips we are always looking for.
Are there age limits to using donor eggs?
Fantastic question. There are no age limits for the technology but ethically, there are age limits. What I say to people is that the fact that you can do something does not mean that you have to do it. In some countries where there are legislations, they attach laws to it. But in a blessed country like Nigeria where we don’t have laws… we are not the only ones. The oldest mother in the world is an Indian and she had her baby at 71 or 72 and two weeks after that, she ended up in an intensive care unit and finally died. So, is that the kind of thing you want to do? That’s why I said that the fact that you can do something does not mean you have to do it. Because we know that what you want to bring into the world is a life, we also want to ensure that that life can enjoy some parental care. Because we all know how important our parents are to us, some people have put limits. For example, some clinics will say if you are over 55, we are not doing it; some will say if you are over 70, we are not touching you. Why? Because we know that if you are 70 years old and you have a 10-year-old child; it’s either you kill the child or the child kills you because you don’t have the energy to stand a 10-year-old child. So it’s possible to do it for an 80-year-old but is it ethical to do it for such a person? So many clinics have set their own standards while for some, as much as you are ready, they are also willing. So the question is basically on ethics and not because the technology cannot work. So when I see you news people splashing 69 or 70 years old has delivered I say what are they talking about? The technology is the same either you are doing it on a 30-year-old or a 70-year-old but why do it on a 70-year-old, that is the big question.
As a renowned practitioner, what age limit would you recommend?
I can’t recommend because I don’t have the power to do so. Every clinic should use their church mind since Nigeria has not set the regulation for it. I know FRH is trying to do some things. We are trying to bring some sanity into the practice. But it is one thing for you to be able to make laws and another thing for you to be able to police it because any law that cannot be policed is as useless as not being made.
Sir, has there ever be failed cases and what could be the possible causes?
Of course, that’s why I said that the success rate of recipient cycle should be compared to those less than 35 years. And people less than 35 don’t have a 100 per cent success rate. Their success rate is about 55 per cent because IVF is not that we placed a baby somewhere and we’re just going there to pick it up. IVF involves an embryo which is an egg at this point attaching to an individual which is the mother. So, in other words, there are two people involved and attached to one person. So, definitely, the immune system is called into action and what the immune system does is that it recognizes a foreigner and tries to destroy it. So pregnancy is not 100 per cent in IVF because the quality control system of the body is still preserved. Whether it is IVF of on the bed, that’s what happens in pregnancy because two people have now come together to stay in one person, so the immune system is involved in this. And just as I said earlier, the immune system is the quality control system of the body, so if there is an error in the embryo, it mops it off, if there is a genetic problem it mops it off. That is why we as much as possible say that IVF babies are normal babies because they go through the same quality control system of the body.
Finally sir, I would like to take you-on on that religious point of view; I have a big challenge with that. People believe that the easiest way or the only way to get a child is going to a spiritual leader or spiritual person to pray for them and give them a child either by hooks or crooks. Now, how do we convince such people that there are technologies in place to solve some of these problems?
Chairman Mao will say that religion is the opium of the people. The less educated the people are, the more religious they become. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a religious person but I put on my thinking cap also when I go to church and that’s what God expects us to do also. God is not expecting us to suspend our intelligence because we are going to church. That’s why I said the other time that when you are 50 and there is a prophecy that you are going to have a baby, you have to take that fact into cognizance in your decision making that you no longer have eggs. Because many of our people are not very well educated, so many churches and mosques don’t know their limits. I say that the bible is the final authority on anything that concerns religion and faith, it is not a science book. And the bible says secret things belong to God, the ones that are revealed belong to the son of men; so why are you going back to God for the things that he has already revealed. He has already made man to discover IVF, all the discoveries are inspirations from God so why do you want to go back to him again about IVF? Even the religion itself, some people say it is mile wild and inch deep but what God wants himself is the depth. So some people feed on other people’s ignorance and it makes life more complex. Some of them go to hospitals themselves and they preach that people should not go to hospitals or they are neutral about it. If you cannot use your own head to know that this is the one for hospital and this is the one for religion, then you are in for it. But don’t forget why we are where we are, it is because of our background of witchcraft and ignorance. Things that we cannot explain, we put into mystics i.e. experience from the mystical realm. It is getting less common now but still in practice that people will go to church for child delivery, you go and have your baby in the church, why? Is the church a hospital? So the same way when they don’t have a child, they don’t see infertility as a medical problem. They believe that it is one mama that is after them or one person that gave them a wedding present so, they take it also to the church. I’m I against the church? No. because I know that there is nothing anybody can do if the Lord does not build the house, those who labour do so in vain. Unless God says amen to anything we are doing, it can’t work but you have to do your own part before God blesses it. So I think we need to just borrow ourselves brain.