- Through In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)
- LAGOS Fertility Doctor, TUNDE OKEWALE Explains
When news broke a few weeks back that Mrs Ajibola Otubusin, a 67-year woman had delivered a baby in Abeokuta via IVF, many were pleasantly surprised at how an elderly woman could conceive and have a baby at such an advanced age.
Last week, popular Lagos Fertility Doctor, Tunde Okewale told City People that over the years, through IVF, many elderly women have been delivering babies. Okewale is a Consultant Gynaecologist. He is also a fertility expert. He is also the head of the IVF & Fertility Unit at St. Ives Specialist Hospital, Lagos. St. Ives also has an outlet in Abeokuta at 3, Olatunde Abudu Close, Ibara Housing Estate and they can be reached on 07060738423 or 07083021823. It is a fertility clinic.
Over the last few years, St. Ives Hospital in Lagos has recorded major successes and breakthroughs in their IVF procedure.
In June 2008, for example, the St. Ives IVF & Fertility Unit successfully delivered its first Test Tube baby, 11 months after the Ikeja based fertility clinic was set up. The baby boy called Christian was delivered on June 7, 2008, after 37 weeks of pregnancy. The Ikeja hospital is at 12 Salvation Road, Opebi, Ikeja, Lagos. It also has a branch at 6 Maitama Sule Street, Off Awolowo Road, Ikoyi in Lagos.
In April 2009 another woman, Felicia gave birth to a set of twins through an In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), the assisted fertility means of getting pregnant. Before her delivery, she had spent 2 decades in agony looking for a child, not withstanding the embarrassments from her husband relations.
It was the same thing with Mrs Adeyemi Taiwo in May 2010. Her strong resolution to have children, having lost her 2 children 7 years ago, took her to St. Ives Specialist Hospitals.
Despite the skepticism expressed by doctors at the hospital on the possibility of her getting pregnant through IVF method, which she requested for, she insisted on going through the procedure. Today, she is a proud mother of an 8-year-old son. She was 57 when she delivered her baby. The incidence was seen as a Miracle from God.
In July 2013, a 53-year-old woman gave birth to twins, 2 bouncing baby boys) at the same St. Ives Hospital, in Lagos, via IVF.
And in June 2014, the oldest IVF mum in Africa delivered a baby through In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF). She was 60 at the time she delivered. For 31 years, Mrs Christie Omolara Irurhe travelled round the world in search of a child. She visited many hospitals within and outside the country with several failed attempts. Her search ended at St. Ives where she commenced her IVF treatment in June 2014 she delivered a child at age 60. Her claim to being the oldest IVF mum in Africa ended a few days back when in October 2018 another 67-year-old woman delivered a baby in Abeokuta.
She got pregnant through IVF method. Despite her age, she insisted on going through the procedure.
City People asked Dr Tunde Okewale last week to talk about the “IVF technique. He explained that it is a fertility process in which egg cells are fertilized by sperm outside the woman’s womb (in-vitro). It is a major treatment in infertility when other methods of assisted reproductive technology fail. The process involves hormonally controlling the ovulation process, removing ova (eggs) from the woman’s ovaries and letting sperm fertilize them in a fluid medium. The fertilised egg is then transferred into the patients’ uterus (womb) after 3 to 5 days of being in the incubator with the intent to establish a successful pregnancy.
How did the 67-year-old woman get pregnant? “Actually we didn’t particularly think the news would go that viral. About 4 years now, in 2014 we treated an elderly lady, she was 60 years old then. And the gave birth as the oldest woman in Africa. That was before Instagram and social media got to this level.
Even at that time, the BBC heard about her story and they came over, even CNN also. They interviewed her. I think this encouraged other elderly women to come. So we have had many in their 50s and 60s come in. And when Mrs Otugbusin and her husband, the Professor phoned early in the year and told us they wanted to do IVF, we asked them to come. It was during the discussion when realised that she is already 67. We went through all the checks. We checked her health status. We made her realise the implications of getting pregnant at that age and the possible problems that might arise during the pregnancy.
We looked at their social status. They are well to do. They are intelligent. They wanted a child of their own. We weighed so many things together. We were also guided by the UN Charter on the fundamental rights of everyone to have a child in their lifestyle irrespective of their age.
When we put all those things together we decided to oblige them. And so, we went ahead with the IVF procedure in the 1st Quarter of the year. Luckily for them, she got pregnant at the very 1st attempt despite the fact that they had other attempts in India. They had about 4 attempts in India and at other fertility clinics in Nigeria.
They were lucky this time. They got pregnant after 1st attempt. The next challenge was how to look after the pregnancy because our Abeokuta branch is purely a fertility and IVF unit. We don’t operate for 24 hours. It’s purely a fertility clinic. So the challenge was to look for a suitable gynaecologist and a hospital that we can refer them to that will be able to take good care of them. That is basically what we did. And we were following them up. The doctor then informed us that he was going to deliver her that Saturday, October 20 in Abeokuta. We went there that day to give them moral support. It was a successful delivery and news went out, while we were still in Abeokuta and all her church members, their Pastors who have been following them up came.
Before we knew, the Commissioner for Health in Ogun State, who is a friend and colleague got to know and Ogun State got interested in her case. The Governor visited. She happens to be the oldest IVF mum in Africa at age 67 and the 2nd oldest in the whole world. And the news went viral from them onwards”.
How does this IVF process work? What are the truths and lies about IVF? “IVF, also known as Invitro Fertilisation or in the lay man’s term called Test Tube baby was the technology that first came to the fore in 1978 in the UK. The 1st baby was born that year.
It was very controversial in the early years at the initial stage. At that time a lot of people were against it, saying the doctors were trying to play God. There was a lot of uproar in the Press. But it is a technology that has come to stay.
Since 1978 over 5 million babies have been born worldwide through IVF. And as IVF was evolving over the years, people that you will never think will be able to get pregnant, get pregnant offer themselves for the services and they all getting pregnant, especially the elderly, even menopausal women.
Is it the case that doctors didn’t know before, that women in their 60s will get pregnant with IVF?
At the initial stage, all the doctors were interested in were women whose tubes were blocked. And every modern technology at that point in time could not help them. Once your tubes are blocked the best you can do is to go and adopt a baby and then some people came around and said look even if the tubes are blocked, there should be a way that the eggs and the sperm can meet. That is basically what IVF is all about. You bring out that egg in the woman and mix it with the sperm in the laboratory and once the embryo is formed they take it back inside the womb.
That was the initial reason. It solved the problem of people with blocked tubes but as time went on, we now realised that the technology could be useful in other people who have endometriosis, in elderly people or people with sperm problems. It’s a technology. It is expensive, not only here in Nigeria but abroad. A cycle of IVF in the US could cost like 10,000 dollars.
The truth of the matter is that the people that need it, need it. And it’s not the most expensive medical procedure that there is. It is less expensive than knee replacement or kidney transplant or heart surgery. But over the years again, as technology improves, the price has been steadily coming down and as more and more people are beginning to realise that Infertility is one of the only diseases that involve 2 people (a couple) sometimes more than 2. Sometimes it spills over the extended family as well. It’s a social issue. And as more and more governments came to the realisation of that, different types of subsidies came into play, to help infertile couples, especially the ones that need IVF.
In Nigeria, there are some NGOs that have come to help infertile couples and at regular intervals, they subsidise the price. The 67-year-old woman benefitted from that subsidy. It was like half price when they went through that process.
In fact, a sizeable number of our clients now wait for that time of the year when the subsidy comes into play to be able to afford IVF. But the price is gradually going down. Once you realise you need it, you need it. There is nothing voodoo about IVF.
It is a straightforward technology. All you just are doing is instead of the state of fertilisation occurring inside the woman’s body inside the tube, fertilisation is occurring in the laboratory, and the embryo is put back in the womb, and the pregnancy goes on the normal way. The success rate is dependent on the age of the woman.
–St. Ives Specialist Hospital can be reached on 08039494531, 07088727358