Infertility is a global health challenge with distressing psychological and social consequences. Women in Africa pay a heavy social price including stigma and depression, for not having children. Sadly, infertility in Africa is mostly blamed on the woman like in other third world nations.

Infertility is defined as the failure to conceive after one year or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse. Globally it affects about 70 million to 80 million couples. In Africa, about 50 to 60% of all the reproductive health clinic visits are related to infertility. In Kenya, estimates show that infertility could be between 2 and 20%.

However, since 1978 advances in reproductive medicine have made it possible for men and women with infertility problems to get children through in vitro fertilisation (IVF).

There’s no registry of IVF Treatment in Africa. But the available data shows that acceptability of fertility treatment has been growing in the society in Africa.

Though IVF Treatment is growing in Africa but since 2002 there have been some growing concerns in a number of countries about some infants being born with genetic disorders, because some cases of genetic disorder were registered

Studies have shown that children who are conceived through IVF are more likely to have genetic anomalies. Infants conceived through IVF have a significantly elevated risk of birth defects of about 30% to 40%, though it’s important to emphasise that the risk of bearing a child with an abnormality in IFV still remains extremely low.

One of the rare conditions that’s been identified is Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome, which results in babies being born with some body parts that are larger than normal. Studies have shown that babies conceived through IVF are at 10 times greater risk of having Beckwith-Weidmann syndrome than the expected frequency from normal pregnancies.

As per a a case study on a fetus that had been fertilised by IVF, and that was later aborted because it had multiple genetic disorders. The purpose of the study was to establish whether the fetus had Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome. It was concluded that, that was indeed the case.

The rarity of this genetic condition does not warrant discontinuing IVF for infertile couples. One possible solution to mitigating the risk would be to do a genetic test to identify defects in embryos before they are transferred to the uterus. Though this has been done successfully elsewhere, the procedure isn’t yet available in Africa.

Studies have shown that there is a link between IVF and the occurrence of some congenital malformations.

These genetic disorders include;

-Beckwith-Wieldemann syndrome- causes large body size and enlarged organs

-Angelman Syndrome- affects the nervous system and causes severe physical and intellectual disability.

-Russel-Silver Syndrome- the infants have poor growth both before and after birth

-Maternal Hypomethylation Syndrome- the infants are born with diabetes mellitus


News Resource – All Africa, 15 August, 2017

Image from – IVF Babble and Igenomix