Despite the jittery that Nigeria is one of the eight countries that will account for half the projected growth in the global population by 2050, fertility experts are concerned that the needs of infertile couples could be overlooked in a world fixated on population growth.
Nigeria belongs to the infertility belt where at least 1 in 5 are infertile in Nigeria, according to Abayomi Ajayi, managing director and chief executive of Nordica Fertility Centre.
In a study conducted at the centre, 12 percent of men who presented at a particular point had no sperm at all. Another study done over a 10-year period revealed that the quality of the sperm seen 10 years earlier has reduced by about 30 percent.
“There is no doubt that infertility is getting worse, not only in Nigeria but all over the world,” he said during a virtual session on how lifestyle choices fuel infertility among Nigerians.
Some of the factors identified as a challenge are excess weight, lack of exercise, ageing, exposure to cell phone rays, and exposure to chemicals in paints and fuel, among others.
Ajayi explained that the sperm undergoes some changes in quality and quantity as DNA fragmentation also decreases with age.
Over-exposure to chemicals in paints and in fuel, especially for people who are exposed for a long term like fuel station attendants, also causes infertility, according to him.
Then substance and drug use and abuse, as well as overconsumption of caffeine, alcohol use, tobacco use, and some drugs for high blood pressure, can affect fertility, he said.
“We are beginning to see that our choices tend to affect our fertility, but some don’t. But they can be undone and some of these choices can be reversible, which is the highlight. For example, for women who smoke and you give them about three months to six, there is considerable change in the quality of their eggs,” Ajayi said.
According to data from Bridge Clinic, a fertility hospital, in about 40 percent of couples in Nigeria looking for assistance in conception, the cause is linked to issues with the man’s sperm.
Abnormalities with the sperm, issues with ovulation, or issues in the fallopian tubes or the uterus sometimes disrupt conception.
However, Khadijat Hassan, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at Maternal and Child Centre, Eti-Osa, told BusinessDay that more than 50 percent of the women seen at the clinic present with infertility issues, with 30 percent requiring in vitro fertilization services.
She explained that a silent and common cause among the poor is vagina infection, which is often treated at a suboptimal level without the intervention of a fertility specialist. This eventually leads to tube blockage, paring the chances of conception, she said.
“The majority of people who really need these are in poor communities and do not have access to the financing required. There has to be collaboration on financing. If it is in the range of N200,000, most of them can afford it even if it is to go the thrift way,” Hassan said.
“But when you tell them the treatment will be in millions, they leave you and go to herbalists who will continue to deceive them. Some of them sustain a lot of psychological and physical injuries in the course of getting pregnant.”