Uganda's first test tube baby

Photo: Test Tube Baby's graphic

Source: Carol Natukunda, http://www.newvision.co.ug

Uganda's first test tube baby is four years old

UGANDA'S first test tube baby celebrated her fourth birthday on October 2, 2008. She has finished Middle Class at a nursery school in Kampala and is going on to Top Class.

She plays joyfully along with other children, laughs, talks and sings nursery rhymes, like any child her age.

Her parents had endured years of childlessness. They had consulted all major hospitals in vain. A miracle came their way when they eventually landed at the Bukoto based Women's Hospital International and Fertility Centre. Her mother conceived with the aid of in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment.

The IVF involved removing a ripe egg from a woman's ovary, fertilising it in a dish using the husband's sperm and then placing the embryo in the woman's womb. Thirty six weeks later, the baby girl was born.

Dr. Tamale Ssali, the director of the centre, says the scientific procedure has brought hope to hundreds of couples were hitherto unable to conceive.

He says at least 100 patients are able to conceive every year after receiving the treatment. So far, over 150 babies have been born through IVF in Uganda in 80 deliveries, implying that most of them were twins.

Uganda was the first country in east and central Africa to introduce the phenomenon.

The cost of the treatment depends on the cause of infertility but is between sh6m and sh12m.

Most couples who resort to IVF are those where the husband cannot produce sperm during sexual intercourse, Ssali says.

Prevalence of infertility is 15-20% here, says an expatriate doctor at the centre. My experience in Kampala is that most sperm problems arise from infections. Women may have problems with their uteruses or fallopian tubes. For others, it is age. It is estimated that beyond the age of 37, fertility goes down tremendously. There are also younger women who go for IVF to give part of their eggs to an older woman, for a fee.

And for some couples, it might be because one of them is HIV positive and does not want to infect the other during intercourse.

However, information about individuals involved in IVF is scanty because of the fear of stigma directed at the parents and their newborns. Others find it leaves them feeling inadequate.

One of the mothers, whom Saturday Vision met at the centre confided that she still wonders about her husband. Sometimes I think he will go for another woman. I keep on thinking that he will want a child through the natural process.

But she is happy that she has her baby. I breastfeed her, take her for immunisation, buy her a lot of all those little baby things you can think of. When she smiles at me, I feel so happy, the woman says with a broad smile.

Ssali agrees: Some people may think the child is some artificial thing. Yet, it is real.

He says some parents come out of it withdrawn.

There are some you meet in town and they look away. Maybe, they think that you are going to tell somebody else that this is the person who did this and that. Some leave as soon as they have had their baby and you never see or hear from them again, he adds.

Ssali stresses: God has helped us develop a technique that prevents childlessness, an issue that brings misery into many homes. Internationally, test tube babies have been appreciated as normal.

Louise Brown, the world's first test-tube baby, gave birth to a baby boy last year, ending fears that girls born through IVF treatment may not be able to have healthy children. Brown, 28, conceived naturally.

Source: Carol Natukunda, http://www.newvision.co.ug

Jean-Louis Kayitenkore
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