Posted in health talk, Opinions and Letters

INFERTILITY: Age Has Got Everything To Do With It 

​* In the days of our grandparents, a woman in her 20s would have given birth to  her second or third child. 

* It was quite common then for  women to have had all their children before age 30.

 But things have changed. Women are readily postponing marriage and by extension child bearing.

Sperms and egg
Sperms fertilising an egg during fertilisation process

There are several reasons for this development. Women are acquiring more educational qualifications in order to get better paying jobs before settling down to get married and start their families. Meanwhile, their biological clock is steadily ticking away.  By the time many achieve this goal, they are already well into their mid  or late-30s.
Even  men are not making matters easier.  In the face of the current economic situation, many eligible young men are reluctant to settle down in marriage until they are financially stable.

All these and more combined, today, many women are  having their first babies in their late 30s. It is therefore no surprise why the country is witnessing associated infertility problems.  Experts say a woman’s eggs are as old as the woman, unlike the man whose sperm  is  renewed every few weeks.

It’s a fact that age is the number one factor that determines fertility especially for the woman.  A woman does not only have to battle with age but the stressors in the environment:  Stress as a single mother, stress of coping with everyday life, being a bread winner, with addition to family’s income. And this stress multiplies  after marriage. The woman is under a lot of pressure from all angles.

This was exactly what happened to Ekaette John, a brilliant and pretty accountant. At 20, she had already graduated from the university. But for her, it was just the beginning of her career.  As the best graduating student that year, she was given scholarship for further study abroad.

Ekaette stayed abroad for another four years. Back to Nigeria, she became a  chartered accountant.  She was really engrossed in her academic pursuit.  As years passed, Ekaette never thought of marriage.  Her dream was to take a course in Harvard School of Business.  Ekaette could not make it to Harvard but made it to a prestigious university in the United Kingdom.

Despite the fact many men were seeking her hand in marriage , she put her educational  pursuit first.  Finally at 32, with series of degrees and as Managing Director of a big accounting firm, she was ready for marriage.

But it was not easy finding Mr Right. Two years into the search, no even looked her way or approached her for friendship not to talk of marriage.   Many of her contemporaries in the family were already married with children. Ekaette was now feeling too old.

At  36, she was under pressure to settle down with a widower, who showed interest in her.  But the problem was not over. One year into the marriage,  there was no pregnancy. They went from one hospital to another without  positive result. She was told they should keep trying.  Another year passed. She finally faced up to their childlessness.   Ekaette attended so many baby showers and naming ceremonies. This  added to her stress. She became a bit of an introvert. But she did not give up. The years passed and, in the process of searching for solution, she visited a fertility clinic in Lagos.  Ekaette was close to 40.  After series of tests, it was found that her eggs were  weak and no longer viable.  Her prolactin levels were sky-high. So she was put on  drugs to bring the levels  down.

The fertility experts recommended IVF with donor eggs.  They noted that it would have been more helpful if Ekaette had frozen some of her eggs when she was younger as such eggs could have been used in place of donor eggs.  Although  IVF is said to be expensive, anyone who can afford a secondhand (tokunbo) car, can afford it.

According to experts, IVF with donor eggs or embroyos  are usually for old women from age 40 or women unable to become pregnant with their own eggs like Ekaette.    It is also recommended for women and their partners that have fertility problems, or if the woman had repeated miscarriages because of embryo issues, donor embryos may be an option (two women, one baby).

Also, single women with fertility problems can  conceive using donor eggs or embryos, and men without a female partner can become fathers by using donor eggs or embryos and a gestational carrier.  However, there may be laws restricting unmarried people from using gestational carriers.

Although  IVF with egg donation is similar to standard IVF, there are  key differences. For instance, to synchronize the menstrual cycle of the donor with the recipient, a medication must be used to suppress the recipient’s natural cycle and prepare her uterus for implantation of the embryo. During this time, the donor receives fertility medications to stimulate the maturation of multiple eggs. Once the eggs have been collected from the donor, they undergo fertilisation with sperm from the recipient’s partner. Embryo transfer occurs several days later, once the new embryos have been examined and the healthiest ones are selected.

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