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IVF:Basic guidelines on how to have a baby by Prof Oladapo Ashiru 

After a New Year message, it is appropriate for me to focus again on the issue of conception, a subject that has gained my interest in both applied basic clinical research and clinical work for over 40 years.

The month of January is usually the period when most people think of New Year resolutions. And for others, having babies tops the list for man. My next series of articles would focus on ways to assist couples to achieve their dreams based on current understanding.

Last October 2019, I participated in a Global Summit by the World Health Organisation and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

The African data reviewed showed the presences of about 260 IVF centers in the region while other region have centers in the thousands. The overall summit concluded that we must do a lot to educate our population and we cannot do enough. For this reason I will continue to inform the readers on his important subject.

Also in March 2019,  at a World Health Organization conference of experts on infertility the following points were underscored.  Firstly, the United Nations General Assembly has concluded that wanting a baby is a human rights issue. Hence nations must do their best to provide access to infertility treatment to any deserving individual or couple.

Secondly, that individuals or couple desiring to have babies need to ensure that their body system is clean enough to go through conception. By this individuals that are obese or overweighed need to lose at least 5% of their body weight before attempting conception through the use of life style changes and dietary modifications. Also the use of available facilities that can help in this process and removal of body toxins have been advocated prior to conception. The second recommendation is based on several studies and research.

We now know that infertility is an alarming modern epidemic affecting more couples than ever. One out of Six couples today experience difficulty in getting pregnant. What was once seen as a woman’s problem is now known to affect men equally. The natural approach to treating infertility solves the root causes of infertility, by addressing all body systems, rather than just focusing solely on the reproductive system.

Many couples that can’t become pregnant suffer from a combination of sub-clinical conditions. These conditions can’t cause infertility on their own but – in combination – they can substantially reduce a    couple’s probability of conceiving.    For example; gluten intolerance alone cannot cause infertility; however, the resulting inflammation in the gut can minimize your nutrient absorption and lead to deficiencies in nutrients you need for optimal sperm, egg and hormone production and a healthy pregnancy.

Exposure to heavy metals, radiation, and toxic chemicals in some foods, drugs and other products can damage DNA. Recent nutrigenomic (a study of the effects of nutrients on gene expression) research suggests what we eat can influence our gene structure and expression.

Minimise your exposure to toxic chemicals

Exposure to environmental toxins (in the form of industrial chemicals) both in utero and in neonatal period may dramatically affect adult fertility. Most chemicals used in everyday life do not go through the same checks medicines do. Consequently, poisonous chemicals end up circulating in our environment, food supply, air and water.

The strongest evidence of heavy metals and environmental pollution adversely interfering with healthy reproductive function in women has been found for lead. Other compounds that can alter hormone function and result in adverse reproductive health effects include:

Ovotoxicants: can disrupt the process or even stop ovulation.

Endocrine disruptors: can interfere with hormone function and cause endometriosis and PCOS (polycystic ovarian disease). Some of these have been link to the presence of heavy metals in the body such as from consumption of large fish or stock fish.

Phthalates: in plastic food containers, cling wrap, IV bags, medical supplies, vinyl flooring and packaging at high levels have been associated with miscarriage and testicular toxicity. At low levels they disrupt hormonal balance.

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) chemicals: used in rubber tires, plastics and pesticides.

PAH (Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon): released from cigarettes, car fumes and road tar.

Men are not spared

Sperm seems to be more sensitive to heavy metals and industrial pollutants than eggs. Many sperm abnormalities have been linked to these toxins. The majority of these chemicals can be found in the atmosphere, on the ground in cities and in the waterways.

They have also been termed “reprotoxicants” for their negative effects on sperm development and maturation. Studies confirm male sperm counts are declining, and environmental factors, such as pesticides, exogenous estrogens (Xenoestrogens), and heavy metals may negatively impact spermatogenesis (formation of sperm).

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