ivf babies in nigeria: the history, myths, stigma, & facts of test tube babies in Nigeria

How do you feel towards ivf babies in Nigeria? Love? hate? add yours. What is your attitude towards them? Positive, negative or indifferent? What is you opinion on test tube babies in Nigeria? a miracle? a taboo? add yours. What have you heard about them?

Let me take you through the world of ivf babies in Nigeria, their history, the statistics, the myths, the lies, the stigma, and my research findings from interviews on the knowledge, feelings, attitude and the opinions of 50 Nigerians on having a test tube baby.

History of ivf babies in Nigeria

Childless couples heaved a sigh of relief on the 17th of March, 1989 when the first test tube baby pioneered by Professors Osato Giwa Osagie and Oladapo Ashiru was conceived via in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer(IVF-ET) in the Lagos University Teaching Hospital(LUTH). This was the first successful ivf in sub-saharan Africa. The name of the baby was Olushina Eghosa Oluwaremilekun (names given to the baby depicts the name of the ivf pioneers in Nigeria; Benin and Yoruba names) and was born to Mr and Mrs Pius Oni on their third trial. They were childless for 9 years after marriage in 1980. The wife, Mrs Stella Oni lost her fallopian tubes from bilateral ectopic pregnancies in 1981.

This is contrary to the news that broke the internet in 2013 when it hit major newspaper headlines that “the first ivf baby in the name of Hannatu Kupchi had gained admission into a Hungarian University to study medicine” Hannatu Kupchi was conceived in 1998 via ivf @ Nisa Prime Fertility located in Abuja.

It was Prof Ashiru himself that granted an interview to the guardian newspaper to debunked the misleading information, set the record straight, and faulted Dr Ibrahim Wada(owner of Nisa Prime) for turning the country’s ivf history on its head. He maintained that Miss Kupchi can be said to be the first test tube baby in Northern Nigeria but NOT in Nigeria.

The statistics of babies born via ivf in Nigeria

Though statistics on the number of babies born via in vitro fertilization are sketchy due to poor or no record keeping, it is estimated that about 11,000 test tube babies have been delivered since inception (1989) with an average turn over rate of about 1000 babies yearly. This should not be surprising as we have 50 ivf clinics/fertility clinics in Nigeria right now and the list is growing.

the myths about ivf babies in Nigeria. Are ivf babies normal?

Myths are beliefs people on to strongly without proof.

Personally I interviewed 50 persons on what they think or know about test tube babies:

27 of them believe ivf babies are not normal and are prone to neurodevelopmental disorders like autism and mental retardation.

Now the facts: if true, then how come hannatu kupchi is studying Medicine in an Hungarian university? Is she not supposed to be mentally retarded?

17 are of the opinion that they lack emotions since they were man made and conceived in a bottle. They lack emotional bonding with their parents.

Now the facts: according to Wikipedia, studies have shown that ivf couples show greater emotional involvement with their child and they enjoy parenthood than parents by natural conception. Moreover, the first test tube baby in the person of Louis Brown is happily married to Wesley Mullinder (2004- till present) with 2 sons via natural conception.

While the remaining 6 claim test tube babies inherit infertility from their parents.

Now the facts: there is nothing new on this one. 90% of the causes of infertility are inherited. So also it applies to test tube babies. It further shows how normal ivf babies in Nigeria are. They have similar problems as children of natural conception. Louis Brown had her two son not through ivf but via natural conception.

The lies, silence and secrecy surrounding ivf babies in Nigeria

Fertility/ivf experts have expressed worries that most couples keep their ivf success stories a secret or tell outright lies when asked about the secret behind their having a baby after they must have waited for a long time.

Ivf babies in Nigeria
This is how what Nigerians think of ivf babies.  Image credit: Pixabay

It is no longer news to hear a 60 year old woman giving birth to 4-5 children at once through ivf but when asked how they went about it; you hear; “praaaaaaise thy Lord, Na God O, it is the Lord’s doing, it was a miracle” Won’t it be better if they come out clean to say: ” God used Dr A, B, or C to carryout an ivf procedure on me and my husband and it came out successful”? This statement will open up ivf treatment and help it gain more acceptance among childless couples in Nigeria.

Though some couples have given fear of stigmatization of their babies as the reason for not speaking up for they do really want to let the world know of their journey through childlessness to “fruitfulness.” Fertility experts are however encouraging couples to speak up and share their success stories as it is the best way to protect their babies from discrimination.

Stigmatization of ivf babies in Nigeria

The myths about ivf babies in Nigeria already tells you that ivf babies are stigmatized. Stigmatization of test tube babies is not only in Nigeria but all over the world. Some persons still do believe that babies born via ivf are not real/normal children but lab rats. Just like couples battling infertility are stigmatized in Nigeria, the stigmatization becomes worse if word goes out that they had a baby through ivf.

According to The Telegraph, Louis Brown the first ivf baby did reveal recently that her parents were issued death threats,  bombarded with blood stained and hate mails in the UK when they had her via invitro fertilization. I think the time is ripe enough for laws protecting and preserving the fundamental rights of ivf children in Nigeria to be enacted.

What does religion say about ivf babies?

As expected religious leaders and religious houses were the most vocal opponents of the the first ivf baby in the UK. Scientists were accused of playing God and creating “Frankenbabies.” Families of the baby were threatened and stigmatized by the church.

The Roman Catholic have outrightly rejected conception via ivf or any other assisted reproductive therapy. Sperm/egg donation, and surrogacy are strongly condemned by the church.

Most pentecostal churches openly and vehemently rejects the ivf idea as satanic and man playing God.

Surprising, Islam accepts and supports assisted reproductive therapy as a means of having children so long the couples are legally married. This is  according to a decision reached by the Islamic jurists.

Traditionalists, Buddhists, and hindus what is your take? Please do let me know. I need your opinion on this matter.

Click any of  these links if you want to have an ivf procedure in Lagos, Benin or Port Harcourt

READ ALSO: IVF COST IN NIGERIA

CONCLUSION

Ivf babies are normal babies and not a taboo. They do feel sad, happy, disappointed, love, hate, envy and fall sick just like every other kid in the block, they laugh and they cry. They are very intelligent human beings. Please help stop the discrimination and stigmatization of ivf babies in Nigeria.

Read more on ivf babies on WIKIPEDIA

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