Infertility Treatments In Developing Countries

It the past 30 years, since the first test-tube baby was born in that fateful July of 1978, fertility treatments have been the provenance of privileged citizens of developed countries. As a result of this wealth of treatments at the disposal of those in countries of means, some 3 million babies have been born with the help of IVF. An astonishing 4% of all babies born in some countries have been conceived using up-to-the-minute fertility techniques.

Only a Dream

Meantime, for couples in developing countries, such treatment is only a dream. There has been some talk about bringing ART to developing countries, but until now, this never translated into action. Now, the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) has created a pilot program to provide such treatment as a part of regular family health care in developing countries. As a result, two IVF clinics in Africa are already operational.

Ostracized and Abandoned

Professor Oluwole Akande from the University College Hospital in Ibadan, Nigeria spoke about the indigenous issues related to infertility of which outsiders may have little or no knowledge. “The inability to have children can create enormous problems, particularly for the woman. She might be disinherited, ostracized, accused of witchcraft, abused by local healers, separated from her spouse, or abandoned to a second-class life in a polygamous marriage.”

While it is obvious that infertility treatment has not been available in the poorer countries because of a lack of funds, it is also a fact that the cause is not so popular, considering the fact that in these areas, the population growth is out of control. This doesn’t make the pain of infertile women any less and probably makes it worse. These women deserve a chance for happiness, too.

Coordinator of the ESHRE task force Dr. Willem Ombelet, from the Genk Institute for Fertility Technology in Genk, Belgium says, “It is for these reasons that the ESHRE task force plans are to integrate infertility treatment within existing family planning and mother-care services. The most important goal is to provide treatment which is safe, affordable and culturally acceptable.”

The main goal of the ESHRE pilot program is to provide affordable IVF treatment. The current cost for one cycle of IVF in the U.S.A. or in Europe runs from $5000.00-$10,000. ESHRE is working to enable IVF treatments in Khartoum and Cape Town at a cost of less than $200.00 per cycle.

One of the innovators of the IVF at low cost scheme, Dr. Luca Gianaroli from the SISMER Reproductive Medicine Unit, in Bologna, Italy, comments, “It’s a different approach to IVF. We will not be able to treat every type of infertility, but many women with tubal damage as a result of infection can be helped.”

The difficulties in bringing these techniques to developing nations include the limitations imposed on medical staff to provide the incubation, selection, and freezing of embryos. There will be an especial need to avoid multiple births and to prevent high risk pregnancies which could bring even more difficulties to poverty stricken couples. Ombelet believes that the key to the successful implementation of the program lies in removing the complexities of the treatment, keeping down complications, providing health care professionals with training, and bringing fertility treatments into already existing health care facilities.

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