Infertility in Kenya is a death sentence for those who cannot have a child for whatever reason.
Since the society puts a lot of emphasis on having children by men and women when they hit a certain age, there is a lot of misunderstanding of the circumstances surrounding childlessness.
As is the norm, a couple is expected to have a child within the first year of marriage and for those who miss this target, pain and anguish become part of their married life.
It is expected that a couple that is living together should procreate but these expectations sometimes defy even biology. Some couples will delay getting children while others will just not meet that threshold.
Why infertility is classified as a disease
There are several causes of infertility and those who are able to pursue unconventional methods to have a child comes at a steep cost.
While some couples wait to have children conventionally due to financial constraints, those who take the less travelled road may end up with a child or a huge cost with nothing to show for the money they spend trying to get a child.
Infertility is the inability to become pregnant after 12 months of regular unprotected sex. The World Health Organisation (WHO) classifies this inability as a disease.
There are several reasons why a couple may have challenges conceiving including blocked fallopian tubes, the presence of fibroids, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, lack of ovulation, cancer treatments, sexually transmitted diseases, pelvic tuberculosis, nonsterile abortions or a ruptured appendix in women.
For men, a low sperm count, heavy alcohol consumption and smoking, blocked tubes, producing antibodies against their own sperm, a male with XX instead of XY sex chromosomes and having an extra X chromosome are some of the causes of male infertility.
In Kenya, interestingly, most infertility is caused by chlamydia, a sexually transmitted disease.
The disease is treatable but delaying in getting treatment can cause long term problems like infertility.
With multiple sexual partners among some Kenyans, chlamydia is spreading further making it a health crisis.
Fertility treatment costs
A growing demand for fertility treatment in Kenya has seen many clinics spring up to address the need.
While most couples used to travel outside the country for such treatments, they can now be offered in the country but the costs remain prohibitive to many.
Not less than two million couples in Kenya required assisted reproductive technology according to a 2011 study by the Aga Khan University Hospital.
However, the study showed that majority of these couples could not afford the services since even insurance companies do not cover in vitro fertilisation costs.
There are a few options for assisted conception with IVF topping the list as the most expensive costing around Ksh500,000. This is way out of the league of many couples who would need the services condemning them to a life of need despite the possibility of them getting a child.
The other options are medicated conception where women are prescribed Clomiphene citrate (Clomid). This treatment helps induce ovulation with a success rate of 5.6%.
It costs around Sh10,000 per cycle.
Intrauterine insemination involves giving medication to the woman and then placing the sperm in the uterus. It helps increase the chances of fertilization.
The sperms journey is shortened so they can easily reach the fallopian tubes.
Hostile cervical conditions that may hinder the sperms’ ability to enter the uterus necessitate this treatment. It is also used in cases where the man suffers from erectile dysfunction.
Depending on the clinic, the costs range anywhere between Ksh20,000 and Ksh70,000.
While the WHO recognizes infertility as a disease, the national insurer NHIF does not cover it. This makes an out of pocket spending for anyone seeking treatment.
First fertility cover in Kenya
To address the fertility treatment cost challenges, CIC Group has unveiled a scheme to cover insured persons against fertility challenges.
It is applicable for schemes with outpatient and maternity benefits.
CIC General Insurance Limited Managing Director Elijah Wachira says the cover will be applicable to a couple who have a history of medically tested fertility challenges.
Patients with a single ovary or a history of previous ovarian surgery are also eligible where CIC promises to finance the entire end-to-end process from testing, treatment and post treatment reviews up to the agreed benefit limit.
It will however take 15 months for those willing to use it before it becomes operational which may lock out those who have an urgent need.
The cover is available to principal member and spouse aged 35 – 45 years.
Infertility challenges in Kenya
While most of those who cannot afford fertility treatment in Kenya have no option but to wait for miracles, there are prominent personalities who have struggled to have a child.
Legislators Millie Odhiambo and her counterpart then Joyce have been pushing for the easing of the requirements for those willing to adopt children.
In 2015, Odhiambo sponsored the In-Vitro Fertilisation Bill. The two legislators shared their own troubles while trying to adopt children.
Last year, Odhiambo re-introduced the Assisted Reproductive Technology Bill 2016.
Her Bill seeks help for those unable to give birth naturally while also protecting those who chose surrogacy.
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