By Sola Ogundipe
Science is succeeding where nature fails in human reproduction, thanks to modern reproductive technology. It is therefore not surprising that a group of fertility specialists in Lagos is teaching other medical doctors how to assist couples who have failed to make babies in the bedroom to succeed in the laboratory.
The medical specialists have set up an IVF Academy specifically for the learning, practice and research of Assisted Reproductive Technique, ART, courtesy of Androcare Fertility Centre, located in Shasha, in the heart of Akowonjo, a Lagos suburb.
During a week-long maiden edition of basic fertility specialist training, five “trainee” doctors were put through several aspects of the ART procedure. During the course, designed to impart advanced knowledge in IVF and bring participants up to date about the latest technologies in ART, participants enhanced their technique in the diagnosis and treatment of infertility.
The adopted techniques for the training were multimedia, observation, and hands-on. The participants went through real-time hands-on procedural training on a specially constructed simulator at the facility’s training lab.
Among others, they monitored procedures by a simulated Transvaginal Echographic monitor with real-time stimulation under the watchful eyes of the experienced facilitators.
The essence of the training, according to the Clinical Director, Dr Daramola Adeleke, is to empower doctors that are interested in reproductive medicine to perform the act of assisted reproduction technique that include IVF and Intra Uterine Insemination, IUI.
Describing the experience as fascinating, Daramola said: “As a participant, you all know the burden of women with difficult conception is very large in the country, but this Centre, while still young in this environment is like a light in the darkness.
“I am sorry for women who are struggling to experience the joy of pregnancy or motherhood which is what they ought to enjoy as women. Androcare Invitro Fertilization Academy is a blessing to the people of Agege and Alimosho first and then to Nigeria generally because we have the best hands.
“That is why doctors come around to pick that information and knowledge that we need to also improve our professionalism. Daramola said the innovation is something that the world should know about and women that have challenge in fertility can come out and obtain help.
“From the records so far, the Centre has not done badly. Though I don’t have the data but I know from what we have seen so far, many women have been blessed and it has improved their lives and brought joy to their families.
Daramola was convinced that the initiative has touched lives. “The impact has been tremendous. We are spreading the news and expanding the ben fits by reaching out to more women that are challenged. So our coming is like coming to light the candle and then go to our environment to spread the light so is going to bring about expansion is going to reach out to so many women.
In Nigeria, doctors who wish to further their career in the fertility field, need to travel to the USA, of UK, most times India and they pay a lot of money for such training yet they don’t usually get trained, rather, are only allowed to observe how it’s being done.
“There is no direct practical guidance to the art of IVF and when they come back they will still need to be grounded in this procedure. But this place is located in Nigeria and also gives opportunity to the doctors to be able to learn the procedure in a much more conducive environment.
So the doctors are being encouraged to go to Androcare Fertility Clinic for such training, so that they too can start making babies for their patients.
For the trainees who are gynaecologists and doctors that are involved, age is not a factor as long as the person has MBBS degree or is a gynaecologist with National or West African accreditation. Those with Masters in anything related to reproductive medicine are also qualified.
It has been of success because they have learned things that looked so difficult for them and they have seen how easy it could be and they have understood how and everything that is being run and they know how to tell their patients and to carry out proper management.
Most doctors don’t have the skill of managing fertility and prescribe based on their instinct but having proper knowledge of a woman’s reproductive cycle and a man’s reproductive status can help us to proffer the proper management.
The training has helped a lot and more doctors are being encouraged to get empowered in this field.
“We have 10 percent of Nigeria population suffering from infertility but yet we have few doctors who are there to treat, so I believe the more doctors we have the more we use to tackle infertility in Nigeria.”
Daramola said there are currently no certified universities in Nigeria for such training. “That’s why people go abroad. If a doctor goes for Obstetrics & Gynaecology, becoming a gynaecologist is the closest that they can get to practice infertility treatment, but actually ART is a soft specialty of gynaecology even abroad but because we lack such expertise here in Nigeria, we just tend to be a gynecologist and that’s all, whereas abroad you could either be a gynecologist or go for a Masters
“There are several with Masters in reproductive medicine that would train doctors on how to do IVF but we don’t have such here in Nigeria, so the Academy will be a stepping stone to others. The government should also look into this too on how to create maybe a body or an organsation or college where doctors can be trained because this infertility challenge in Nigeria is still so high and the level of mismanagement is so high.
“Infertility patients are attended to differently from the way you attend to regular patients. Confidentiality, empathy, assurance and the rest are essential.
“Some doctors have mismanaged some cases that they shouldn’t even spend much, they’ve destroyed some women’s wombs, some people apply stuff to their vaginas that destroy them totally. Some do tell the husband to take a form of herb that would cause another problem to him, so, there is a lot of mismanagement. In Nigeria when people have issues of infertility, they see it as a spiritual problem and end up spending millions on herbs and all sorts.
And it is because we doctors are not looking to the field of fertility but this Academy will be a stepping stone to empower doctors.
In the views of Dr Charles Kolade: “Teaching a doctor how to make babies in the laboratory is a specialised vocation. It simply means to takes sperm from the man, and an egg from the woman to form an embryo. All that is needed for us to extract eggs from the woman and all that is needed to get sperm from the man is what we teach the doctors.
Kolade, who is a Subspecialist in ART/Endoscopy, and Lead Gynaecologist, Vine Brand Fertility Centre, Ibadan, said: “For a woman, for us to get eggs, she has to be placed on some form of stimulants to multiply eggs in her body, so once those eggs are mature we suck them out, so the process by which we administer drugs is part of the training for doctors.
“Although, they may not really develop the skill of sucking the eggs because it takes time, we encourage them to bring their patients so that we guide them. We believe that over the months they will become highly skilled but we will still be assisting them”.
“The sucking of the eggs is a specialised skill that involves the use of a needle and an ultrasound scan but it is a skill that needs to be acquired, so we train them on how to do such and also when we are transferring the baby back to the womb to grow, it is also a skill that we teach.
“That is all about IVF—the formation of the baby and returning the baby into the womb. So each of the processes is explained to detail within the two weeks training. We teach them how to wash the sperm for fertilisation, we teach how to stimulate a woman to grow eggs, and how to suck out eggs from the woman.
“We also teach them the complications, side effects and challenges that could come when you are setting up an IVF centre.”