Ask Mrs. Precious Bassey, she will tell you that her greatest regret in life is wasting her reproductive years instead of settling down early for marriage.
Mrs Bassey said: “I was thirty-six, and was dating a lot. I was more interested in meeting up with groups of friends for after-work drinks and lingering over dinners at the latest hot spots than I was in nesting at home with one man or starting a family.
“Getting serious in a relationship that would lead to marriage was in the back of my mind, but I was in no rush,” she added.
Thank goodness, she finally tied the nuptial knot with Mr. Bassey, one of her numerous male admirers in October 2013. Formerly Miss Precious Obong, now became Mrs. Precious Bassey.
Now that she is in her early 40, she has another huddle to cross. Getting pregnant has become a herculean task to achieve.
“As I speak to you there is pressure on my husband to throw me out and get another wife. My husband’s people are all on my neck. All their eyes are on me to see me with a ‘protruding belly.’ Unfortunately, that hasn’t been possible.
But, I know there’s nothing God cannot do. Perhaps, if I had known about egg storing, I wouldn’t find myself in this mess. All the doctors who have handled our case came with one conclusion, ‘Woman you need help as your eggs were not as fertile as before,” Mrs. Bassey lamented to Independent.
She was told that the only option to get pregnant was through donor eggs.
Of course, this greatly reminded her mother’s words, which she often found disgusting then. “I never took my mother’s advice seriously as a young undergraduate. She always sang it like a song on my ears.
What is the song? You may ask – ‘Women have time, women are like flowers, it’s the person that has ears that would hear, there’s time for everything,” Mrs. Bassey regretfully recalls.
Unfortunately, many women are in the same shoes with Mrs. Bassey who could have saved their eggs at their youthful age, while they rock their lives until they are ready to start having babies.
Like the popular adage, make hay while the sun shines, Florence Anthony, has not forgiven herself for being blindfolded with ’America love.’
Many called her names, for being ‘stupid’ to waiting more than 10 years for a man when so many other well to do young men were coming for her hand in marriage.
“Before Chuka travelled to America, he promised doing everything for me, including dying for me. He told me it’s a matter of two years; he will come for me. Unfortunately, I am still here today, Chuka is no longer calling me on phone,” Florence told Independent, sobbing.
Now she is in the middle of her 40s full of regrets. “As a single mother I am trying to have at least one or two babies because I can take care of them. But, it has not been possible as I was told my eggs are no longer fertile.
Fortunately, respite has come the way of young men and women who are too busy to settle down for marriage due to one reason or the other, according to experts.
The rise in infertility and its attendant effects on marriages, including the psychological and emotional trauma couples go through when they have no child has become the bane of many societies, especially in Africa.
To tackle growing cases of infertility and increase the chances of individuals or couples having their own children, experts have introduced sperm and egg banks through the process of cryo preservation and vitrification to preserve fertility.
Cryopreservation or cryoconservation is a process where organelles, cells, tissues, extracellular matrix, organs or any other biological constructs susceptible to damage caused by unregulated chemical kinetics are preserved by cooling to very low temperatures.
Explaining, Monique Bonavita Bueno, a Brazilian Embrologist, said the fertility preservation technology involves sperm, egg and ovarian tissue preservation. The method can be used to store an egg or sperm for future use.
Giving details, Bueno said a sperm and egg bank, is a facility that collects and stores human sperms and eggs, from sperm and egg donors, used by women, men or couples who need them to achieve pregnancy.
Monique further explained that fertility preservation is a process of saving eggs, sperm or embryo or ovarian tissue before undergoing a fertility damaging treatment like cancer so the person can still use them later to achieve pregnancy in the future.
Women who want to postpone motherhood can preserve their eggs and still have their own biological child whenever they are ready.
Describing cryo preservation as the future of fertility all over the world, Monique said vitrification is the latest technology and it freezes eggs faster and quicker.
Vitrification, is a cutting edge technology for cryopreservation (freezing) of embryos and eggs. Patients who undergo In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) may have several eggs collected. The eggs are then fertilized with a sperm and checked for fertilization. Fertilized eggs are called embryos.
On how long the egg can last when kept, she said: “Survival rates of the eggs will be much higher than slow freezing that was done before.”
A senior embrologist at Nordica fertility centre, Adedamilola Atiba stressed there is a biological clock that ticks for a woman.
“Once it has passed, there is nothing anybody can do. Many people find it hard to take donor eggs,” she said,
Atiba identified many reasons why people delay having children, which she said includes, career, social, medical and other reasons.
Similarly, she explained that the process could be done because of a disease such as cancer and the person plans to take medications which could affect his or fertility. “So such a person could store his or her eggs or sperm in the bank, go for the treatment of whatever the medical condition is, and when the person is through, return to the bank for the stored egg/sperm.”
“As a woman, no one knows when menopause will set in, maybe earlier or later, it is better if the eggs are kept in the bank, just like we store our money in the bank. By the time she is 40 or 50, and she has banked her eggs in her 20s or 30s, she can still achieve pregnancy with her eggs,” Atiba added.
The Nigerian-based Embrologist, Atiba likened cryo preservation to a special food kept in a good deep freezer which can last for a long time as far as there is constant stable power supply, while giving assurance that whenever it is brought out, the quality is still the same.
Atiba stressed; “There are many women of advanced age who are still able to have children except if she has some underlying medical conditions such as fibroids. What matters in fertility for a woman is the egg quality. If we are able to preserve that, we are preserving a huge chunk of the fertility and every other thing can fall in place. If she is 40 or 50 years when she is ready for motherhood, she has no issues because her eggs are still young, maybe 20 or 30,” she said.
The Managing Director of Nordica Fertility Clinic, Dr Abayomi Ajayi also said whoever does not want to have a sexual relationship with the opposite sex can go to the bank to get a sperm for her eggs, if that is what the person wants.
On the need for assurance by some that it is the same eggs or sperm they are donating now that they get whenever they are ready, Ajayi said: “They can always verify with different technology including a DNA to ascertain if their own eggs were given to them.”
“If 100 eggs are frozen, we may not get the whole 100 in the best of conditions, but 80 to 90 percent of the eggs will still be in good condition and the quality will still be exactly the same,” he said.
Emphasising the need for an increase in awareness of this latest technology, Ajayi insisted it will be better for a woman to store her eggs when young.
“Eggs is something that if you don’t store it, it will waste every month. Whether you like it or not, as we grow older, our body is going to get rid of the eggs. Why not store them so they can be of use in the future, rather than wait till you are 40 or above and all that is available is a donor egg?” he queried rhetorically.