According to Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Dr. Jean Nassar, lifestyle and environmental factors such as poor diet, smoking, and pollution are having severe impacts on fertility. In a recent interview, Nassar, who specializes in In- Vitro Fertilisation, stated that the rate of infertility has increased drastically not only in Nigeria but worldwide. Infertility is defined by the World Health Organisation as a disease of the male or female reproductive system characterized by the failure to achieve a pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse.
The gynaecologist, who is also the Head of the IVF unit at St. George's Hospital University Medical Center in Lebanon, explained that infertility rates might be increasing due to several factors, including delaying having a child for women pursuing their education, career, or due to economic reasons. He pointed out that environmental and lifestyle factors such as pollution, poor diet, smoking, obesity, and excessive alcohol intake all hurt fertility. Therefore, it is essential to focus on healthy habits such as eating a healthy diet to maintain a normal Body Mass Index, avoiding smoking, reducing alcohol consumption, exercising regularly, and managing stress.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help improve an individual' s fertility. However, Nassar believes that the best way to preserve fertility is cryopreservation, especially for women who want to preserve high-quality eggs before their reproductive clock starts ticking. Estimates by WHO suggest that between 48 million couples and 186 million individuals live with infertility globally, and addressing infertility could also mitigate gender inequality. Infertility has significant negative social impacts on the lives of infertile couples and particularly women, who frequently experience violence, divorce, social stigma, emotional stress, depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.
Although there is no official data on the number of Nigerians battling infertility, it is estimated that one in every four Nigerian couples (25%) will experience a problem making a baby and may require assisted reproductive techniques such as IVF. The maternal health expert, who also works at One Wellness Centre, Lagos, stated that besides eating a healthy diet, regular checkups could help identify the cause of infertility early, adding that early detection leads to better treatment outcomes.
Giving insight into treatments available for infertility, the gynaecologist said that in some cases, surgery may be required before starting infertility treatment. Infertility treatment should be different from one couple to another based on several criteria assessed during consultation. The results of the tests requested a tailored plan based on the needs of the couple and their medical conditions. As a fertility centre, Nassar's clinic offers all types of treatment such as programmed intercourse, intrauterine insemination, intracytoplasmic sperm injection, surrogacy, donation, and cryopreservation.
According to Nassar, all infertility treatments are safe procedures for the embryos and the women undergoing the procedure. The overall safety of these procedures depends on the experience of the physician, qualified medical team, and the laboratory. Some of the risks linked to IVF treatment could be multiple pregnancies due to the transfer of multiple embryos and Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome in rare cases that can be prevented by an expert physician.
While IVF is often a treatment for infertile couples, it could also be used for other situations. The most common one is for couples who have genetic disorders that could be passed to their children. In this case, IVF with preimplantation genetic testing is recommended to transfer only genetically normal embryos. Also, IVF with PGD is used for those who want a specific gender for the baby. In addition, IVF is advisable for couples who want to do surrogacy with their gametes.
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