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Association launches affordable IVF fertility programme

BY: Doreen Andoh
Library photo

Getting married is such a great experience but becoming  parents is a much more delightful and wonderful moment in the life of a couple. In our society, marriage is not deemed successful till the couple become parents.

Childlessness is a big problem in our society and gives some couples an emotional blow, with the wife, sometimes enduring taunts and insults from in-laws and the society at large. 

Science has some hope in the form of infertility treatment for couples who have lost hope. They can be counselled or assisted to undergo treatment for any of the assisted reproductive technology or to consider the option of adoption as an alternative. 

Launch of affordable IVF

Speaking at the launch of the affordable In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) fertility treatment at the second edition of the national infertility and childlessness conference in Accra at the weekend, the Chairman of the Church of Pentecost, Apostle Dr Opoku Onyinah, advised childless couples to not give up as they could have their own children through various assisted reproductive technologies or legal adoption.

The affordable IVF fertility treatment, also known as “the walking egg” technology, was discovered by a team of Belgian fertility experts, led by one Professor Willem Ombelet.

It was introduced at the maiden edition of the affordable IVF fertility treatment conference held in 2014, and attended by over 1,500 childless couples. 

The ‘walking egg’ technology uses inexpensive citric acid and bicarbonate of soda to produce carbon dioxide as against the high levels of the gas carbon dioxide needed when growing embryos in an IVF clinic.

This year’s conference, held on the theme: “Hope for childless couples in Ghana,” was attended by mostly couples without children, women who have been trying for years to have babies,counsellors, legal advisors and health experts.

Association of Childless Couples

 It was organised by the Association of Childless Couples of Ghana with support from the Church of Pentecost.

Apostle Dr Onyinah used the occasion to call on the government to institute a regulatory mechanism to guide the practice where infertile women contracted surrogate mothers to carry pregnancies for them.

He has also called for the regulation of the assisted reproductive technology industry to safeguard the lives of patrons.

He expressed worry over how some practitioners in the industry applied the methods wrongly and also used fertility centres as baby factories because of lack of proper regulation.

“In January this year, news broke that a 23-year-old surrogate mother who was carrying quadruplets had been abandoned by the fertility centre and the hospital that started the process. This poor lady was left to cater for a pregnancy she did not plan for because the incentives promised her were not forthcoming,” he added.

At the launch of the technology, a Deputy Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Mrs Della Sowah, said the technology would bring relief to a number of childless couples who could not afford the expensive options available.

Mrs Sowah said the practice of surrogacy and other assisted reproductive technologies were becoming very prevalent in Ghana owing to the high number of childless couples.

She said the absence of a law to regulate the industry had resulted in many problems between the surrogate mothers and intended parents.

Effectiveness of walking egg

Prof Ombelet explained that the new method, which was introduced in 2012, had so far led to the successful delivery of 16 healthy children in Belgium. 

He said the technology was now available and accessible to all interested couples.

He, however, pointed out that the technology would not completely replace the conventional IVF technology.

Prof Ombelet said men with severe infertility problems that required more advanced treatment in which the sperm was injected into the egg, known as intra-cytoplasm sperm injection, could not benefit from the method either. 

He said more than five million babies had been born through IVF and that the new technology had been established by research to have a pregnancy rate of 30 per cent - approximately the same as IVF.

Currently the cost of the IVF,  excluding the necessary examinations, is over GH¢9,000 in Ghana but the new method found by some Belgium scientist and fertility experts sought to reduce the price to less than GH¢1,000.  

Stigma

The Chief Executive Officer of the Association of Childless Couples of Ghana, Mr Nana Yaw Osei, said the  non-governmental and non-faith-based associations, which started work in 2012, sought to support childless couples and eliminate the stigma associated with childlessness.

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