Babatunde Wale Okewale, MBBS (IB); MRCOG (UK); MFFP (UK); FRCOG (UK) is a man of many parts. An Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, he is also a fertility expert, an author, a philanthropist and a broadcaster. He is a Fellow of the Royal College of obstetrician and gynaecologist UK (FRCOG), member of the Faculty of Family Planning and Reproductive Health (MFFP), UK, member of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryologist (ESHRE), member of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) and member of the Association for Fertility and Reproductive Health Nigeria (AFRH). Chairman of St. Ives Healthcare organization, owners of St. Ives Hospitals, Family, IVF & fertility clinics, Ives Medicare HMO and a member of Ives Medicare Foundation, an NGO helping to ease healthcare access to thousands of under- privileged Nigerians, he is a well known advocate of the total well being of women, women healthcare, health education and the empowerment of women in every sphere of the society and the author of the best selling book, “How to get pregnant and have a baby.” In this interview with TOBI AWODIPE, Okewale talks about their success with IVF so far, cost of IVF being a major drawback and the opening of a new IVF clinic in Abeokuta
Tell us about IVF in layman’s terms
Invitro fertilization is an assisted reproductive technology commonly referred to as IVF. IVF is the process of fertilization by extracting eggs, retrieving sperm sample and then manually combining an egg and sperm in a laboratory dish. The resulting embryos are then transferred to the uterus.
What is your success rate with IVF in Nigeria so far?
Our average success rate after taking into account the different ages of women we see is about 40% per one IVF cycle. Age is a critical factor in own egg IVF. Our success rate for women below 35yrs and for women irrespective of age using donor egg is above 60% per one IVF cycle.
Cost of IVF treatment is a major drawback for several couples. How are you intending to make this service affordable for everyone who desires it?
IVF cost is a major factor worldwide. Many countries in Europe that are socially responsive to the plight of infertile couples subsidise the cost for their citizens. We are proud to say that we are in the forefront and the pioneers of low cost IVF in Nigeria. Our aim from inception is to offer an affordable and success-oriented IVF service. We have consistently partnered over the last 10yrs with an NGO and together, we offer a heavily discounted IVF program twice a year to couples who need IVF but otherwise cannot afford the cost of IVF for various reasons. A sizeable number of our nearly 2000 IVF babies so far are from this discounted IVF program. In fact the oldest IVF mum in Africa, Omolara Irhue, at 60years, was a beneficiary of the program. I mentioned her name because she is proud for us to use her as an example to encourage others. Her interview with BBC has been a source of encouragement to many couples that heard it and had given up in their quest for conception.
Any plans to partner with health insurance schemes to make IVF more accessible and less expensive?
We have been partnering with Ives Medicare HMO, an NHIS registered Health Maintenance Organisation (HMO) for the past five years by giving generous discounts for clients who need IVF and who have health insurance with them. Our foundation also has various health schemes ranging from free health care services for thousands of under privileged Nigerians and it is well known for its yearly half price subsidized price cut for infertility and IVF services to couples that cannot otherwise afford the huge cost of IVF and fertility services.
At what point should couples seek IVF treatment?
IVF is not necessarily a last option for infertility treatment. It is sometimes the first option in some cases. For instance, in elderly couples that need donor eggs or in bilateral tubal blockage, IVF would be the first recourse. Having said this, the indications for IVF include patients with tubal blockage, premature menopause, endometriosis, severe low sperm count, advanced female age and unexplained infertility. Whatever the indications, it is important for couples that have been diagnosed with infertility to seek a fertility expert’s help in good time so that a diagnosis can be quickly reached and appropriate treatment commenced at an early age. Success from infertility treatment including IVF is better when the woman is younger. From 40 years and above, fertility starts to decline and the success rate start to reduce as well.
What is your health check program all about?
St. Ives HealthCare is much more than our IVF/ Fertility clinics. Apart from our new clinic, which we will be opening in Abeokuta tomorrow and will deliver all-inclusive services, we presently operate two specialist hospitals in Ikeja and Ikoyi, two IVF/Fertility clinics, a family clinic and an HMO. Different health check program packages are available in our specialists’ hospitals, family clinic and HMO.
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