NAIROBI, KENYA - Millions of babies have been born via in-vitro fertilization since the method was first developed in Britain in 1978; but, IVF technology has been slow to catch on in sub-Saharan Africa.
The Nairobi IVF Center opened in 2004 and has since helped more than 2,000 infertile couples have biological children, said head of operations Joy Noreh.
“To be African does not mean you are primitive. It is just lack of knowledge in some people that they did not understand what IVF is but once you explain what the treatment protocol entails, they basically understand and embrace it,” said Noreh.
In-vitro fertilization, or IVF, involves extracting the egg and fertilizing it with the man’s sperm outside the body. The embryo is then inserted into the woman’s uterus.
Noreh said the clinic had a 55 percent success rate.
A single cycle costs the equivalent of $4,000.
“The treatment is for that specific couple that desperately desires to have a child and are determined at whatever cost to get that child. It is not classified for rich or poor. It is for the psychologically charged person that needs a baby," said Noreh.
It is not just the high cost keeping Kenyans away from IVF. Some people say scientists should not be “playing God.”
Less invasive medical treatments for infertility have become popular in Kenya, such as taking the prescription medicine Clomid to spur ovulation. Other women follow dietary recommendations and seek out traditional herbal treatments. Some couples turn to prayer.
Grace and Peter Maina live in a leafy suburb of Nairobi. Their nieces stayed with them over the Easter weekend. The couple have been trying to have a baby for five years.
“We have read about IVF and made a decision not to go the IVF way because we have always believed in the natural way of doing things. Being Christians and more so Africans, we believe that God is the giver of children,” he said.
He said they planned to adopt if they could not have children naturally.