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How costs, lack of insurance condemn couples to childlessness in Kenya

by kenya-tribune
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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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