Many Kenyans in dire need of fertility treatment and associated services cannot access them, experts now say.
And the few who manage to find out where to get these services can hardly afford them.
This emerged at an annual awareness campaign held on Tuesday in Nairobi to mark the World Fertility Day 2021.
Dr Rajesh Chaudhary, the lead in vitro fertilisation (IVF) specialist at Fertility Point Kenya in Nairobi, explained that for most women, the problem is mainly blocked fallopian tubes.
He told the Nation that in 2020, the country’s fertility rate was 3.37 children per woman, in a gradual fall from 8.05 children in 1971.
He added that the country’s birth success rate is 60-70 per cent, though some studies indicate the success rate of IVF in African women is 20 per cent.
There are many causes of male infertility, according to Fertility Point Kenya.
“As a first step in your fertility investigation, you will be asked to undergo a physical examination and we will evaluate your medical history, taking into account your personal and family background, social and environmental factors that can influence your fertility. A semen analysis may be ordered to rule out abnormalities in the morphology and motility of the sperm.
Our infertility specialist will help you diagnose the issue and recommend treatments or procedures that will result in conception,” the firm explains.
IVF is recommended for women suffering from blocked fallopian tubes, endometriosis, ovulation disorders, premature ovarian failure, fibroids, male infertility factors, same-sex couples, single women and other unexplained infertility factors.
The main factors contributing to infertility in many women are age, blockage of the fallopian tube, infections in the fallopian tube or in the uterus.
The expert added that most of the infections are due to sexually transmitted diseases (STDS).
IVF entails fertilising an egg outside the woman’s body, then implanting the resultant embryo in the body, while intrauterine insemination (IUI) entails inserting purified sperm inside a woman’s uterus.
The expert further explained that most women get pregnant after three or four attempts and when all fails, he advises them to go for IVF.
In IVF, eggs meet sperm in a petri dish in a laboratory.
The resulting embryo, which has high implantation potential, is transferred back into a woman’s uterus for pregnancy to take its course.
According to Cecilia Wairimu Karanja, the founder of Fertility Kenya, an organisation dedicated to addressing the plight of men and women affected by infertility in the country, we still have a long way to go.
“We registered this non-governmental organisation in 2015 to help Kenyans who can conceive, but not naturally.
“We set aside this day to get people talking about infertility because this is a topic many ignore and don’t want to get involved in and so one of our main objectives is to demystify it because many feel they have been cursed when they can’t get a baby,” she said.
Ms Karanja added that many people in the rural areas believe there is no solution to their fertility problems.
“We just need people to go down there and tell them that there is a solution to infertility,” she offered.
She asked First Lady Margaret Kenyatta to intervene and help in the establishment of a public IVF centre.
“We have a living testimony among us. She has been struggling to get a baby for seven years and now in her second marriage she is expecting twins, thanks to IVF.
“This is an expensive procedure that is out of reach for many people and a public centre would go a long way in giving us hope, bringing life into our communities and uprooting stereotypes that keep many of our people in denial,” she explained.
Ms Beatrice Mativo, who is 13 weeks pregnant with twins after seven years of trying, could not hide her joy.
“I have suffered and I am here as a testimony that IVF works,” she said.
There are four main IVF treatment options, depending on a patient’s situation. They include IVF using own eggs and a partner’s sperm, IVF using own eggs and donor sperm, IVF with donor eggs and a partner’s sperm and IVF with donor eggs and donor sperm.
According to Dr Rajesh, the procedure is the most effective fertility treatment available and has high chances of success.
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Mr Gokul Prem Kumar, the vice president at Mediheal Hospital and Fertility Centre in Eldoret agrees with him.
“Fertility services should reach the most rural parts of Kenya. The few who attempted to look for treatment had lockdowns and curfews to deal with and this demoralised them,” the expert said.
“Millions of waiting wombs are in mourning as we commemorate this day because it reminds them of their suffering as others celebrate.
The plight of infertile women and men needs urgent attention from the government because infertility is a disease that eats away their mental health,” Mr Kumar observed.
Fertility Point officials disclosed to the Nation that they get 20 to 25 patients per day, which works out to 400 a month.
Dr Rajesh revealed that a couple has to part with a total of Sh450,000 for an IVF procedure.
“The injection costs between Sh100,000 and Sh150,000, depending on the ovary in reserve while pre-IVF assessment scans and blood tests can cost up to Sh100,000,” he said.