Last week, we ran the first part of this interview in which, the Medical Director of Bridge Clinic Fertility Centre, Dr. Toyin Ajayi talked about the 3 fertility problems facing women. In this second part, she talks about how men now suffer low sperm count. The Interview was conducted by City People’s Contributing Editor, IYABO OYAWALE (08033564055).
What are the fertility problems our men face? Earlier you said 30% of all fertility problems are caused by women. Same with the men. But women are often blamed for infertility problems; kindly throw light on how a man can be responsible for infertility?
The reality is, a lot of times, our men have problems with their Sperm. You need to have good sperm to be able to fertilize an egg. If you compare one hundred years ago and look at today, you’ll actually see that the quality of sperm worldwide is just reducing.
And, we think a lot of that is due to the environment, the toxins, and all that kind of stuff which weren’t there one hundred years ago, is impacting on our men. We just have much worse sperm generally. But the good thing is, you only need one sperm to fertilize one egg, so even if you have a reduced number of sperm (oligospermia) or they’re not moving as they should (motility), we can work with one quality sperm that can give conception a shot. And, we have a very specific IVF procedure for men who have sperm issues, where you select one good sperm under the microscope and inject it directly into the egg. In conventional IVF, you get sperm, get the eggs, put them together in a dish in the lab, and wait for them to join and form an embryo. But, some sperm are not good enough. They can’t swim or move. With that class of men, you pick this one sperm with a special process called ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection). It’s basically picking the sperm and injecting it directly into the egg. You’re guaranteeing that the sperm will get into the egg and hopefully fertilize the egg.
For over 2 decades, Bridge Clinic has been a trusted brand for couples seeking to complete their families, how did you gain that trust?
That’s a very good question and I think what’s important is that we know that in our environment ‘Trust’ and ‘Healthcare’ are not something you really hear going together because people are suspicious. There’s a lot of quackery, anybody can come up and say, “oh! I have a clinic” without any kind of regulation. It’s the regulation that’s the real problem. But, with Bridge Clinic, we understand fundamentally that quality management foundation is really what is key, so, we put that in place. We also have our core values that drive everything we do. With honesty and transparency, we tell you everything.
Some clinics may hide things from you. They’ll compromise on their integrity but at the Bridge Clinic, we uphold the principle of earning people’s trust. Our clients share their amazement with us when they say, “wow, they actually told us when something didn’t go so well.”That’s a testament to how high we value honesty. Also by being ethical. Ethics is a massive pillar for us at the Bridge Clinic that makes us stand out from other clinics, and what makes people trust us. Firstly, we do no harm. That means that we always put you as a priority. We’re not going to do anything that would cause you to harm regardless of the consequence to us.
We’d rather treat you in an ethical way so that we can stand by our recommendations and say,” this is the best thing for you.” We stand by our beliefs too. For instance, when it comes to how many embryos to transfer back into the womb, at Bridge Clinic, we don’t put more than two. Some people say “why don’t you put back 4 or 5 to increase my chances?” The reason we don’t do that is having triplets or quadruplets might seem like a blessing in our culture, but in reality, it’s a very risky pregnancy for the mother and a highly risky pregnancy for the babies as well. In most cases, the births will be premature which could impact the babies’ quality of life.Worst case, they might not even survive it. Twins are more manageable; high risk as well, but manageable. So, for us at Bridge, two is the maximum.We want you to go home happy and healthy with your children – well mum, well baby.
How many children have you birthed at the Bridge Clinic? Do you care to share the numbers?
Absolutely! We’re approaching 3000 babies! We’re 2962 at the moment in just a little over 20 years of practice. That’s about one baby every three days. It’s amazing and as you said, people trust us and that is why they come to us.
What is Bridge Clinic’s success rate?
For our gold standard clients (clients aged 35 and below, healthy BMI, with no history of medical issues), the success rate at Bridge Clinic as at our last external audit is 50%.
Bridge Clinic is Nigeria’s first dedicated IVF clinic with internationally-accredited ISO certification, the question on my mind, as a lay man is, is IVF the only solution to fertility problems?
The answer is no because, like I said earlier on, you can have different levels of infertility. It also depends on what the cause of the problem is. Remember when I talked about the people with irregular periods (PCOS), people who’re not having periods every month and are struggling to get pregnant, I mentioned that all they might need is prescribed medication to regulate their periods so they can get pregnant. They do not always need IVF. IVF is a specialized technique that you need for issues like bad sperm or blocked tubes.
How do manage to run the fertility centre based on the fact that you have locations in Ikeja, Victoria Island, Abuja, and Port Harcourt? How do you juggle your responsibilities as the MD of the fertility centre?
We look at all our locations through a hub and spoke model. All our locations have a head of clinic. The head of the clinic is responsible for his or her location. He or she makes sure the clinic runs effectively. I don’t need to go to every single place to make sure things work. We’ve empowered our people. We’ve trained our staff to be able to effectively run things themselves.That is also the joy of having a quality management system in place…it guarantees that Dr. A in Lagos will treat you the same as Dr. B in Abuja or Port Harcourt-based on the clear guidelines in place. That reassures our clients and earns trust. And as the Medical Director, my job is just to ensure that they’re all doing what they should be doing and putting sustainable systems in place.
You have over 20 years work experience because I went to your LinkedIn and I read your post on how you got back to Nigeria, found yourself at an interview and finally got this job. How have you managed to cope because you’ve never lived here, you’ve never worked here?
That’s a nice question to ask. Nobody asked me how I’m coping before (laughs). Honestly, I’m a Nigerian and even though I’ve lived abroad most of my life, my parents were very good at showing me our culture. Every holiday,I’d come to Nigeria. I speak Yoruba and I can integrate myself very well. Living and working here is very different but I found a clinic that is comparable to what I’m used to. Bridge Clinic is comparable to international standards. So, I’m not coming to a place where I’d say “this is very different.” It’s very comparable so I felt very comfortable. I think that definitely helped a lot. Having a support network has also helped me.
So, why did you decide to relocate in 2018?
(Laughs)That’s a loaded question. There are multiple reasons. Bottom-line, I realized at the end of the day, I need to come back home and contribute and make an impact. All that experience, all that exposure, let me bring it back and try to impact my country.
It seems you’re really passionate about women healthcare. I saw that on your LinkedIn bio. Absolutely! Otherwise, I won’t be here
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