Prof. Abdulwaheed Olatinwo, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Ilorin, on Tuesday, said that over 30 per cent of Nigerians had fertility problems.
Mr Olatinwo said this in a research paper, he made available to newsmen which he had earlier presented at an inaugural lecture of the university entitled: “Help for the helpless and hope for the hopeless: the medicine of productive possibility”.
He observed that “about 180 million couples are infertile globally and majority of these are from developing countries. Infertility is a global problem with a general prevalence rate of about 10 to 15 per cent.
“Reports from sub-Saharan Africa ranges from 20 to 46 per cent, depending on the population, while up to 20 to 30 per cent have been reported in Nigeria.
Mr Olatinwo, who is also a lecturer, Faculty of Clinical Science, at the university, said that for fertility to occur, there were basic anatomic and physiologic requirements that must be fulfilled in both partners.
“An impairment of any of these requirements could lead to infertility, such as infections, tumour, hyperplasia insufficiency, cryptorchidism and atrophy of seminiferous tubules, among others,’’ he said.
The expert stated that the challenge of infertility was viewed as a purely medical problem just like any other medical illnesses.
“Many times, we limit our perception of the magnitude of it to what we see of the patient within the health facility, forgetting that infertility is a hydra-headed monster with many tentacles.
“The medical aspects are just one of these many facets. The medicalisation of infertility has caused the disregard for the social psychological, emotional and financial dimensions of the problem,” he said.
According to him, the response of individuals, couples and families to infertility varied, as some indulged in an endless watchful waiting.
He pointed out that restoring hope for these hopeless individuals and ending their helplessness was not through a trial-by-error approach; rather, it involves intentional evidence-based scientific methods to restore any hope.
Mr Olatinwo said that in spite of their best effort, several couples with infertility find no respite as the problem persisted, adding that some give up and accept that perhaps they were not destined to have children.
“There are several means of assisting beyond the dead end which include Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART),’’ he said.
He said that ART refers to all treatments or procedures that include in-vitro handling of the human oocyte and spermatozoa or embryo for the purpose of establishing pregnancy.
“This includes, but not limited to InVitro Fertilisation (IVF) and trans-cervical embryo transfer, gamete intra-fallopian transfer, zygote intra-fallopian transfer, gamete and embryo cryo-preservation, oocyte and embryo donation and gestational surrogacy,” he said.
The Gynecologist said that infertility should be made a public health issue because it was socially constricted and existing at the crossroads of medical and social realms.
He said that the management of infertility should, therefore, be given special consideration under the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) in order to ease the burden of the affected individuals.
He advised the Nigerian government to make efforts to also improve infrastructures particularly in the area of stable power supply.
Mr Olatinwo also solicited public financing of IVF because infertility was a disability of the reproductive system, just as diseases of other body systems.
“This can be done by integrating the investigation and treatment of infertility into existing reproductive health services.
“Government can support private sector firms, which are currently the main providers of IVF services, by way of reducing or even waiving taxes on equipment for IVF, drugs, and consumables.
“As this could significantly reduce the cost of treatment, thereby making IVF services more affordable,” he said.