It was both an edifying and emotional experience for some couples who attended last weekend’s fertility seminar, hosted by the local arm of the Barbados Fertility Centre, (BFC).
Some couples interviewed by the Sunday Guardian who had been trying in excess of ten years to become pregnant, received a fresh hope as they learned of procedures and techniques that could improve their chances of becoming pregnant and starting their own families.
Shelly-Ann Maharaj-Mahabir shared a beautiful story of her three IVF miracle babies. The 38-year-old engineer by profession, who had been diagnosed with endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome, causing her to have a low ovarian reserve battled for years with conceiving.
After the many failed attempts and heart-rending disappointments, she decided to quit trying until her husband, Guarav, stumbled across a BFC ad and they agreed to do a consultation. Today they have six-year-old Divya and her three-year-old twin brothers, Karan and Kiran, thanks to the team at BFC and its medical director, Juliet Skinner.
The seminar, which was held at the Centre of Excellence in Macoya, aimed at two things—making people aware of BFC, Trinidad and providing educational material to attendees on in-vitro fertilisation.
With the help of Skinner and Dr Roberta Corona, whom both presented at the seminar, couples got a step-by-step guide to the in-vitro fertilisation process and its success rates. They were also taught about some contributing factors to infertility, approaches to individualised care, complementary medicine and techniques as well as therapy, all working towards achieving a successful pregnancy.
BFC, accredited by the Joint Commission International (JCI)—the US health facility accreditation programme that sets international healthcare industry standards, has been operating for the past 18 years beginning with its headquarters in Barbados. It then opened in Antigua and came to T&T shores, in 2009, where it has been functioning for the past nine years.
In an interview with Skinner, she reiterated T&T and the Caribbean had high rates of infertility with statistics showing one in every four couples suffer infertility problems.
In 2012 research found infertility in both men and women was on the rise globally, with statistics showing one in every six couples will have difficulty conceiving.
Skinner also reiterated, in the Caribbean, there was also a much higher male infertility rate.
According to Skinner, statistics show that in couples where a cause can be identified, female factors account for approximately 40 per cent of all infertility cases, male factors account for a further 40 per cent, and in the remaining 20 per cent of cases, there is a combination of female and male factors. Other reasons in women may be because of infections, endometriosis, polycystic ovaries, scarring of the uterus, uterine and cervical complications, blocked tubes, or advanced maternal age. In men, a low sperm count, genetic issues, infection or injury may cause it.
Since setting up the clinic in T&T, Skinner said they have seen more and more couples or individuals coming in for consultation and treatment.
The obstetrician/gynaecologist, trained at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, pointed out infertility was more common than uncommon in the Caribbean, but the main challenge was a taboo aspect, which she hopes is near its death with seminars like what was hosted a week ago and with information that is now more easily accessible online.
“When you think back to our grandmother’s era, if they weren’t getting pregnant, there was so little information that they could access oppose to what’s available now, which is genuine and good factual information that can help someone. The greatest reason why we do this is about information. It’s about educating people,” she noted.
“You don’t have to sit there and keep and let time pass you by; there are things that can be done and solutions to the problem. This is also common, you’re not the only person in the world dealing with infertility problems and there are lots of things we can do about it.”
BFC has two satellite offices, one in Trinidad, at the St Augustine Private Hospital, 4 Austin Street, St Augustine, and the other at Mansoor Medical Clinic, St John’s, Antigua.