*First in West Africa, 5,001st in the world
By Sola Ogundipe
LAGOS — Nigeria has recorded the first successful birth of a baby conceived from frozen egg of a 44-year-old woman, who had suffered infertility for eight years, making it the first in the country and West Africa.
The birth and conception of the baby, named Tiwatope, which is the 5001st in the world, were carried out by Nigerian fertility specialists at The Bridge Clinic, a Lagos-based fertility treatment centre, where the mother had her eggs frozen using the vitrification (flash-freezing) process.
Announcing the medical milestone, a fertility physician at the Bridge Clinic, Lagos, Dr Emmanuel Owie, said the birth of the baby on February 16, 2016, effectively puts Nigeria on the global map as regards the practice of oocyte (egg) freezing or cryopreservation, a new offering in the in-vitro fertilization (IVF) space.
He said prior to the birth of Tiwatope, the new practice seemed to be an exclusive preserve of the developed world of Europe and North America.
He said: “Tiwatope’s mother had her eggs frozen for two months, using the vitrification, also known as flash-freezing, process. This is the cutting edge technology in cryobiology, where the eggs or oocytes of a woman is dehydrated and the water content is replaced with ‘anti-freeze’ solution (cryoprotectants) before freezing. This will prevent the formation of ice crystals which could destroy the cell.”
On her readiness for pregnancy, Owie noted: “We fertilized the eggs using a standard technique known as intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) to overcome the egg shell which normally gets hardened with freezing.
“The fertilized egg was subsequently transferred into her womb, resulting in the pregnancy with Tiwa. She had her antenatal care in her family hospital and delivered the baby boy through Caesarian Section.
“At The Bridge Clinic, we celebrate Tiwa’s birth as it is a further demonstration of our coming of age in the practice of assisted reproductive technology. It is a show of the sum of our strengths — our people, our process and our infrastructure. It demonstrates our commitment to global best practices which ensures that our offerings are in tandem with what is obtainable in the developed world, both in variety and in quality.”
Noting that the baby and his mother are in good health, Owie said egg freezing was particularly recommended for women diagnosed with cancer, who may lose their fertility during chemotherapy; women with a family history of early menopause; women with objections to storing frozen embryos for religious and/or moral reasons; and women who want to delay child-bearing in order to pursue some personal goals.
He said: “This offering is being delivered to many women in the developed world and is now being offered in Nigeria at a cost more affordable than what is obtained abroad. We encourage women who need this service to come up and have their eggs cryopreserved.”
Also speaking, Coordinator, Corporate Communications & Customer Client Relations, The Bridge Clinic, Dr Dayo Omogbehin, stated: “We are the first in-vitro fertilization (IVF) centre in Nigeria to achieve this success. It is great news for the family and fertility health research in the country and world at large.”
How it works
On how egg freezing works, Omogbehin said although sperm and embryos had proved easy to freeze, the egg was the largest cell in the human body and contains a large amount of water.
He said: “When frozen, ice crystals form that can destroy the cell. We must dehydrate the egg and replace the water with an ‘anti-freeze’ prior to freezing in order to prevent ice crystal formation.
“We also learned that because the shell of the egg hardens when frozen, sperm must be injected with a needle to fertilize the egg using a standard technique known as Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection.”