Dr. Omon Osiki and his wife who is her mid-40s got married 8 years ago. A year after, they welcomed their first child and after him, they had one or two miscarriages. Since then, they struggled to have another baby.
They went the spiritual way to get pregnant but proved abortive. They then tried the scientific method, IVF.
In a recent chat with PUNCH, Dr Osiki, who is a twin and a lecturer at the University of Lagos, speaks on the challenges he and his wife faced before the successful IVF birth that produced triplets.
Read excerpts below…
Can you share the early years of your marriage? How long have you been married?
I’ve been married since 2013. We had our first son in April 2014. He celebrated his seventh birthday on April 17. After that, we had one or two miscarriages. My wife is also not young; she should be in her mid-40s.
How old are you?
I’m 47 and was born in June 1974. I’m just a year older than my wife.
Why did you decide to go for IVF?
She had one or two miscarriages. Normally, a year or two after the first birth, you should expect to have another one. By 2014, she had our first child, then in 2016, after a month or two, she lost that pregnancy. She had a natural family planning method by which when she was breastfeeding her first child, her menstrual period ceased. For some women, they say that is not the case. In her case, it ceased and after two years of weaning the child, it came back but the flow reduced. I think that would have affected it but we struggled.
After two years, I think in 2016, she was able to conceive and she lost that. We struggled again in 2017/2018, she was using spiritual means, praying, people referred her to herbalists. She tried but for me, I preferred the scientific method; I told her that as a woman ages, it is most likely that the quality of her eggs reduces. Of course, women would not accept that and it is also good to listen to them. I told her that when she exhausts all her methods, then we would go for the scientific method.
When I was doing my first PhD in China between 2009 and 2013, I met a friend there, who was working on IVF. He did his Master’s in that area and he is a medical doctor; thereafter, he did his PhD in the same area of assisted reproduction. When I discovered that things were not going too well, he is a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army, then a Major, I said let’s go and see him. He then advised that this should be a better way for us instead of following the natural way of conception, it is not that anything was wrong.
Prior to that period, they discovered some problems with her fallopian tube; one of the tubes had an issue of smooth flow. Of course, the doctor said no, that it could be as a result of muscle contraction. We did a series of tests and they would normally say that the man is okay. What I usually tell her to do was to get the results; she would get the results and they would say we were both okay. But they would normally say the eggs were ageing just like chickens when they age, the quality of the eggs reduces.
After we had done that, we finally accepted that we should go for IVF. It was at a time that the UCH was launching its IVF centre in 2019, but as we were about to start, the COVID-19 started in March 2020, otherwise, the thing ought to have commenced in March. So, we went to the UCH in December 2019; they gave us the options of how to go about it and we said we were ready. They normally do it batch by batch. They group people into three to five groups, because it takes a lot of facilities to carry out the procedure.
So, we were part of the batch they planned for that time. As we were about to start, COVID-19 started, we delayed it until June/July when the lockdown was eased. It was that time we adopted the option. That is why we went for it because we believed it was a better way of doing it. If you meet scientists, they can tell you what it entails to have artificial reproduction. If what the man is giving is not too okay, he can borrow or buy from someone and the same applies to the woman.
In your own case, what was the problem?
There was no problem other than that her eggs were already weak. Fertilising them through natural means would be a problem. It is better to extract them and fertilise them externally, then transplant them back into her system and add someone’s own to it.
What I know is that to assist in the reproduction process, they have to fertilise externally the transplanted egg after four days or so. You do a series of tests prior to that period to know whether the womb would be suitable for whatever you want to put, whether the woman’s hormone is okay to accept whatever they are going to put in. Once they got that, they extracted my sperm and took it to the laboratory and it was met with eggs.
Were you expecting triplets?
Yes, I was expecting triplets.
How will one know the number?
Actually, they put four. After a week or two, they said one disappeared. They will tell you everything. It is so scientific that after two to four months, they will tell you the sex of the expected baby.
Did they deliberately put four?
Yes because three, two, or one of the eggs could survive depending on the position of the womb and the stability to receive. There are actually external forces. We knew they put four there.
After the transplant, was she put on bed rest?
A few hours after that, we went home.
Did she continue her normal lifestyle?
You continue your normal lifestyle but you need to be extra careful; you will be taking drugs. She was advised not to overstress herself. Once the four or five months are over, it means they have attained stability. At that time, the foetuses have gone beyond ordinary water to solid. We observed that by October/November.
The fourth egg that you didn’t see, what happened to it?
You know it escaped in the form of blood. We saw blood and we were scared. We went back to the same centre and they said that they would carry out a test and they saw three foetuses.
Did the foetuses reach nine months and how was the delivery?
Yes, they reached nine months. Nobody would advise normal delivery. Our first son was delivered through CS because of her age; once a woman has passed 35 years, it won’t be easy. Going for surgery is not bad.
How are the babies doing and have they been discharged?
We were discharged recently. Normally, they say if there is no issue, they give a minimum of five days. They were meant to discharge us on Sunday. The UCH doesn’t really discharge on Sunday, so we waited till Monday, which makes it six days.
When were they born?
Wednesday, April 7, 2021.
Back to the spiritual aspect; you were saying that she went to herbalists and all that. So, what were the revelations or visions they saw that hindered her from having more children?
There was a day she brought herbs and was taking them once in a while. I told her this is not what you need. She told me that the baba is very strong and his herbs are very effective. I said okay just use them. For me, it is not an issue because they had already said there was no problem with me. She took it and I don’t think it resulted in anything.
I was not even going to listen to that anyway. I don’t believe in those things.
The birth of your babies is the first in the UCH IVF centre. Is that so?
Yes from conception to delivery. Not that they didn’t have other forms of conception. My own is from conception to delivery. You can’t do conception and delivery in different places. I told you that one of the eggs died. So mine is the first to survive in the centre. The centre is three years old. They were monitoring the others; in our set we were between three and five or more than that. Ours is the first to survive from conception to delivery.
Is it cost-effective?
It is a thing of joy and there is nothing to worry about. We are actually under the National Health Insurance Scheme; a lot of money went into buying drugs and the stress; at a time I was doing 35,000 steps every day and burning 420 calories for four to five days. It is only today that I’m able to sit at home since they have been discharged. The lift wasn’t working so you have to go from the fourth floor to the basement; you have to climb it every day. In an hour, they can call me 10 to 50 times to go up and down. The climbing was a lot of hell for me.
What advice do you have for waiting couples?
Some people have called and sent messages to me; since I’m a lecturer, they were able to get my contact online. I told them on the day of delivery that nobody was supposed to have any issue. If a woman’s eggs are not strong enough, she should be willing to accept donors to give her eggs and the same should apply to the man.
You can also have surrogacy if the woman’s eggs are good, but there are other issues with the womb or if the reproductive organs are not too good. She can give the eggs to her sister or any trusted person to help deliver the baby. The essence is to have a baby, I advise them to seek those options.
Some people have done it and didn’t get any results. It could be that they don’t know what they want. To know what you want, know the issue if the woman’s eggs are not okay let her get donors to give her; if it’s the man, it’s the same thing. Do you want your brother or any of your relatives to donate sperm? I will say, yes. That’s if the woman’s eggs are okay. It is the same family blood.
What if it’s another person that donates the egg, is the child yours?
Yes, why do you think women say that I carried this baby for nine months? The way they do it is anonymously; you won’t know the donor because you would pay for it. It is still your child as long as you carry the child in your womb.
What is the relationship between spirituality and science?
Science will always triumph. Spiritualism is a stage below science. Science is the ultimate for now because it is not everyone who did that procedure that succeeded. We prayed through that process, so I’m not ruling out the spiritual effects. Everybody should be humble to realise that the process to bring a child into this world is a complex one. If you know you have issues with your eggs and your husband’s sperm is not okay, get eggs and put them in your womb, if it can carry them; that’s what makes the children your own.
People donate body organs like kidneys. If you donate your kidney to someone, will you still say it is your kidney that this person is carrying about? What difference will it make? People should be ready to do that, there is no shame. A woman can also donate her egg to her sister assuming her womb is not okay. Her sister will help her to carry it; you sign an agreement before it gets to that stage. When the baby is delivered, it is your own.
I’m not saying adoption is bad, but if you can do this process it is okay to follow through. It makes the person closer to you than when you adopt; the issue will always be you’re the person who adopted a child and the adopted child can always trace his history somewhere. If it is through your eggs or another person’s eggs that you have in your womb, it remains yours forever.
People should do that instead of crying; a lot of people waste time visiting imams and pastors to pray for them; while the prayer is going on, also consider science. My immediate elder brother had triplets in 2017 after he and his wife had been married for eight years. They followed the same process in a private hospital. They have two boys and a girl. They didn’t have anyone before then. It takes a lot of money.
Will you like to tell us how much you spent on the process?
The one of the UCH might be less expensive compared to others. By the time you have N700,000, you can start the process; you might need N300,000 to N400,000 to buy drugs. That’s about N1.1m. As of then, that was what we spent. In the centre, they monitor you a lot. It is a fantastic one, it is fine. It is a modern one. I wish to tell intending couples who want to try it to do so.