On Friday the 3rd of April 2015 in LIFE SPECIALIST HOSPITAL LTD Nnewi Anambra State a major medical breakthrough occurred. The South East of Nigeria took delivery of its FIRST SURROGATE IN-VITRO FERTILIZATION (IVF) BABY. This feat was achieved by a doctor who has achieved so much in this area over the past few years, Professor Joseph Ikechebelu. Facebook doctors spoke with him but before you read the interview, what is IN-VITRO FERTILIZATION INTRACYTOPLASMIC SPERM INJECTION (ICSI)
IN-VITRO FERTILIZATION (IVF) is a series of complex procedures and the most
effective form of assisted reproductive technology (ART) used in the treatment
of fertility and some genetic problems. It has offered hope and put smiles on
the faces of couples who for reason or the other have not been able to achieve
pregnancy and have a child of their own. fertility-image
IVF entails collecting/ harvesting mature eggs from the ovaries and fertilizing
them in the laboratory using the sperm. When the egg and sperm fuse and form
the embryo, it is then transferred to the uterus for implantation and growth
into a baby (the so called test tube baby). The eggs and sperm can come from
known or unknown donors, fused and transferred to a recipient (mother) who will
then carry it to term and own the baby. Sometimes, a man whose partner can not
carry a pregnancy but can produce eggs, can have the eggs harvested, fertilized
by the partner’s sperm and transferred to another woman’s womb (surrogate
mother), who will carry it to term, deliver the baby and hand it to the
parents. One cycle of IVF can take about two weeks and can be time
consuming,expensive, minimally invasive but it is worth the try. It can also
produce twins or triplets (multiple pregnancy) of desired sexes. You are a
candidate of IVF if you have the following:
a) Damaged or blocked fallopian tubes
b) Ovarian failure
c) Malignant diseases of the uterus or other parts of the reproductive system
d) Tubal removal or sterilization
e) Unexplained infertility
INTERVIEW WITH PROF. JOSEPH IKECHEBELU
Anambra state is proud to record the birth of the first surrogate baby girl,
born on friday the 3rd of April 2015 at 6.35am at the fertility centre of LIFE
SPECIALIST HOSPITAL Nnewi in Anambra state.
In an interview with the Medical director and owner of the hospital,
Professor Joseph Ikechebelu, (a professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology) Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital, he told us
that choosing fertility (which is a branch of Obstetrics and Gynaecology) to
him, is like a calling from God. Hear him….
FBD: We are members of the team of Facebook doctors, an online
health magazine or blog. We logged on to facebook yesterday and saw you in a
picture with a newborn baby who you described as the first surrogate child from
IVF in your clinic, so we decided to come and find out more about it and the
IVF. Prof how did you get into IVF/fertility and why did you choose this area?
Prof: (laughs) Let me say that I actually chose fertility as a calling. Some
people may have it as a place where they like to be but as for me, it is like a
directive from God to move into fertility and help people achieve their life
ambition of becoming pregnant and having a baby.
FBD: You must be very good at it because we have heard reports and when we got
here we were like “is this the humble place where these things happen?”
Prof: (laughs heartily)
FBD: It is something to celebrate really but what exactly is in-vitro
Prof: IVF is a special reproductive technique for achieving a pregnancy where
you harvest the egg from the woman and sperm from the partner and fuse the two
in the laboratory, when the embryo is formed, you put it back in the womb to
grow. In-vitro means outside the body, so it is a fertilization that is taking
place outside the body but you have to return it into the womb for it to start
FBD: And now we have a surrogate baby, that means somebody else carried the
baby? PROF AND BABY Prof Ikechebelu and the new surrogate baby
Prof: (nods) Beautiful! In surrogacy as it is called, for one reason or the
other the womb of the woman can not carry the pregnancy but she still has
ovaries and can generate her own eggs. So in this particular woman we had, she
has an absent uterus, a kind of malformation she was born with. But she has her
ovaries and eggs, so all we did was harvest her eggs and the husband’s sperm,
fertilize it in the laboratory. When it formed an embryo, we transferred it
into a 3rd party, the surrogate mother.
FBD: How did you get the 3rd party?
Prof: The 3rd party is usually a person who is willing for a fee to give the
service. All they need to do is write an agreement and carry the pregnancy,
deliver and hand it over to the couple because the genetic material is from the
couple. This is where you want to have a baby of your own…because when we talk
about the levels of parenting or what makes a child your own, the genetic material
must come from you. All you lack is the suitable environment to grow the embryo
and that’s what is ‘hired’…we hired a womb to carry the pregnancy.
FBD: But in hiring a womb to carry the pregnancy, does it not affect the
baby..I mean the environment where the embryo grows?
Prof: No! Usually once there is fertilization and the embryo is formed, every
genetic material it needs to grow is there, all you need is the environment. It
is just like taking a newborn baby whose mother died after childbirth and give
it to a foster parent for them to bring him up.
FBD: That brings me to ethics and genetic engineering and mutation. What is
your take on this?
Prof: Genetic engineering…yes, it’s in progress now and they are even talking
about cloning, These are all new technologies and fal louts of IVF.
FBD: Is it right or wrong? What do you think about it?
Prof: Mmmm…aah..The question whether it is right or wrong is relative. Why I
said that is this; If it is used for the purpose of advancing knowledge and
science, it is right. But if it is used negatively to kill or produce a
technology that destroys life, then it is wrong. BABY1 The New Surrogate Baby
FBD: How far has IVF gone in helping those in the conditions you mentioned?
Prof: That’s a very good question. I will say that IVF is a God-given procedure
and has helped so many couples who for one reason or the other cannot have a
child. Some people because their fallopian tubes are blocked, they live a life
of condemnation, some people because of a surgery they did that destroyed some
parts of their reproductive system, it is not a fault of theirs. Some men whose
spermatic cord are mistakingly tied for instance, during herniorrhaphy but
still have sperm in their testes, are some of those cases that IVF has provided
an answer to. The sperm or eggs in these cases can be harvested and used to
achieve pregnancy and the couples will be satisfied. Remember that marriage in
an African setting is for child bearing. No matter how much love they confess
to each other other, once a child is not there, the love vanishes. (general
FBD: So sir, what are the dangers associated with IVF?
Prof: The dangers are minimal I will say but the one we really know of is
hyperstimulation syndrome. During the process of trying to get the eggs, if you
overstimulate the ovaries, they can develop hyperstimulation syndrome and if it
is severe, can lead to death. But every doctor who is using this technology
knows how to avoid that, using proper precautions. Once the syndrome is not there,
you can do IVF as many times as it is possible.
FBD: How far has IVF spread in Nigeria? Is it something we have cottoned on to?
Prof: IVF is all over the country and has come to stay, the challenge is that
it is still very expensive. In developed countries, people have health
insurance and can take care of about 6 cycles of IVF, but in Nigeria, people
pay from their pockets. PROF1 Professor Joseph Ikechebelu MD Life Specialist
FBD: Why is it so?
Prof: Because our health insurance scheme is still very young, so they start by
covering those basic ailments that affect more people- the masses. Fertility
affects just about 2-3% of the general population.
FBD: What is your advice to people out there who have fertility problems?
Prof: Well my advice is if you want to have a child of your own when natural
conception is impossible, IVF provides a solution to that so once you can
afford the money, go for it.
FBD: Are you also advising people all over the country who need IVF to come
down to Nnewi?
Prof: There are many fertility centres all over the country where IVF is done,
but if you feel that what we are doing is good enough for you and you have
faith, why not? I always tell people to have some faith in whatever they do.
This is science but we still need to have some faith.
FBD: I was going to ask what it is with doctors and faith because everywhere
you go, you hear them saying something like In God we trust….We treat but God
Prof: (smiles) Yes, faith is important because we still have some limitations
in IVF. There are some certain areas that are not within our control for
instance, the preparation, harvesting of the eggs and the fertilization can be
controlled, we can put it in the incubator, we can even do intracytoplasmic sperm
injection (ICSI) where we can select a single sperm cell and inject it into an
egg…yes we can do all that but once the embryo is formed, check it, select it
and put it inside the womb, at that stage of what we call embryo-endometrial
cross stuck, from there, we have no other control and that is where we apply
faith to get it to implant. We however, know that there are things that can be
done to increase the rate of implantation but they are still under research.
That is also the stage where most IVF procedures fail.
FBD: Alright prof, thanks for granting us an audience, we are most grateful.
Prof: Thank you.
FBD: uhm…, we also wish to talk to the surrogate mother and the biological
mother of the baby, is it possible?
Prof: Oh well, it is possible and i have spoken to them earlier about it but
high level of confidentiality should be maintained in this case…you
Written by Dr. JOY OKECHUKWU EBUSSON of facebookdoctor team