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Fertility in developing countries: words into action
Date:3/12/2008

For almost 30 years - since the world's first "test-tube" baby was born in July 1978 - the benefits of modern infertility treatments have been largely confined to couples in developed countries. There, we have seen more than 3 million babies born as a result of IVF and, in some countries, as many as 4 per cent of all babies born conceived by modern fertility techniques.

The plight of couples in developing countries, especially women, has been acknowledged, but rarely advanced from words into action. Now, a task force of ESHRE (the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology), the world's leading professional organisation in reproductive medicine, has devised a programme of fertility treatment for developing countries which aims to integrate fertility clinics within broader family health services. Two pilot IVF services have already opened in Africa.

According to Professor Oluwole Akande from University College Hospital in Ibadan, Nigeria, infertility in developing countries raises complex problems beyond those known to developed nations. "In poor resource areas," he says, "the need for infertility treatment in general, and IVF in particular, is great. The inability to have children can create enormous problems, particularly for the woman. She might be disinherited, ostracised, accused of witchcraft, abused by local healers, separated from her spouse, or abandoned to a second-class life in a polygamous marriage."

There are many reasons why infertility treatment has not been widely introduced in developing countries. The main explanations are poverty and limited health resources, but there is also the paradox that most of the countries where needs are greatest are also the countries where population growth is running out of control.

Says Dr Willem Ombelet, from the Genk Institute for Fertility Technology in Genk, Belgium, and co-ordinator of the ESHRE task force: "It is for these reasons that the ESHRE task force
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Contact: Sarah De Potter
sarah@eshre.com
European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology
Source:Eurekalert

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