Health  

Ending stigma against infertility, IVF in Africa

Chairman, Kenya Fertility Society, Prof Koigi Kamau(Left); Kenya Fertility Society, Dr Wanjiru Ndegwa; Chief Executive Officer, MERCK Foundation, Rasha Kelej and President African Fertility Society Prof Oladapo Ashiru OFR at the Medical Education Workshop for Media Specialists on accurate media reporting on Infertility and de-stigmatization of infertility.

To break the stigma surrounding infertility and IVF in Africa, Merck Foundation and Africa Fertility Society (AFS) yesterday, in Nairobi, Kenya trained top science and health journalists from 15 Africa countries on infertility and Associated Reproductive Techniques (ART) including In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF).

According to the Foundation, the training programme is part of community awareness initiative organised to emphasize the important role media plays to influence the society, to create a cultural shift with the aim to break the stigma around infertility.

President, African Fertility Society (ASF), Prof. Oladapo Ashiru, at the programme tasked the media to help increase acceptability of ART among infertile couples, to eradicate stigmatization by dissemination of public information, new research findings and options for infertility management.

Ashiru, a joint pioneer of IVF research in West Africa, while delivering his lecture titled: ‘Medical Education and Media Partnership: The Positive Impact of Correct Information On Our Communities’ said the media should be voice of the public on the pros and cons of infertility on the role of male and female in fertility treatment.
  
Meanwhile, More than eight million people have been born from In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) since it was first used 40 years ago, according to research.Louise Brown, the world’s first test tube baby, was born on July 25 1978 at Oldham General Hospital in Greater Manchester, United Kingdom (UK).

Since then millions more families around the world have used IVF – in which a woman’s egg is fertilised in a lab instead of inside her body – to conceive children.
   
It is used as a method of conceiving for couples when the man or woman is infertile.
   
An estimated half a million babies are now born from IVF every year worldwide, and Spain and Russia have the highest rates of IVF in Europe.
   
About 36 per cent of women in Europe who have IVF or similar treatment fall pregnant, and around 14 per cent of those have twins.
   
Another advanced fertility treatment is intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), in which a sperm is injected directly into the egg, whereas in IVF they are mixed together.
   
Louise Brown’s in vitro conception was led by the Cambridge reproductive biologist Robert Edwards, a later founder of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE).
   
Now, 40 years on, an international committee reports the global total of babies born as a result of IVF and other advanced fertility treatments is ‘more than eight million’.
   
The figure, worked out from data collected between 1991 and 2014, represents a steep rise in the use of IVF in the treatment of infertility.
   
Estimates are that more than a half million babies are now born each year from IVF and ICSI – known together as assisted reproductive technology (ART) – and more than two million treatment cycles are attempted.
 
The figure was announced at a congress in Spain by the International Committee for Monitoring ART.
   
Dr. David Adamson said: “Based on [the] annual collection of global IVF data, it is estimated that since Louise Brown’s birth in 1978 over eight million babies have been born from IVF around the world.”
    
Meanwhile, scientists have concluded IVF and other assisted reproduction treatments do not make a woman more likely to develop ovarian cancer.
   
Researchers have branded the findings ‘reassuring’ as evidence has mounted that hormonal stimulation of the ovaries may boost the risk of the disease.
   
The two decade-long study, presented at a fertility conference in Barcelona, found no such link – and dismissed previous trials as statistical bias.
   
But female infertility, rather than ovarian stimulation from ART, is associated with an increased risk, according to the Danish researchers.
   
Scientists used data from around 610,000 women, of which a tenth had undergone IVF or ICSI – two common assisted reproduction treatments (ART).
   
Each volunteer was followed-up until their first-cancer diagnosis, death or the end of the 21-year study period in 2015.
   
Women who had received ART had a slightly higher risk of ovarian cancer (0.11 per cent), compared to those who hadn’t (0.06 per cent).
   
However, the marginally higher odds were only present among the women who had already been diagnosed with female infertility.
   
Copenhagen University researchers today said any increased risk for other women was actually a statistical bias.
   
Professor Anja Pinborg, a gynaecologist who led the study, described the results as ‘reassuring’.
   
She said: “I would advise infertile women contemplating ART treatment to go ahead.
   
“Ovarian stimulation itself is not introducing any excess risk of ovarian cancer.
   
“In a general population we saw that ovarian stimulation does not seem to increase the risk of ovarian cancer.”
   
Professor Pinborg also noted that, while the risks appear high among some groups of women, the risk of ovarian cancer remains small.
   
Any excess risk of ovarian cancer for the ART women was highest in the first two years after treatment – but it gradually declined.
   
This pattern, the researchers argued, ‘suggests an influence of detection bias while undergoing ART treatment’.

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