Women abusing fertility drugs risk ectopic pregnancy, gynaecologists warn

Citing severe side effects, maternal health specialists have warned that it is dangerous for women experiencing infertility to use fertility drugs without a doctor’s prescription and supervision.

The gynaecologists expressed concern that most of the drugs can be easily purchased or sold over the counter without any proper investigation or prescription by a qualified doctor, disclosing that many women do not understand the dangers of abusing fertility drugs.

According to the physicians who spoke exclusively to PUNCH Healthwise, it is so bad that women with blocked tubes still go to buy this type of fertility drug for ovulation induction, warning that abusing fertility drugs can damage the ovaries and also lead to ectopic pregnancy.

The maternal health experts advised women experiencing infertility to avoid self-medication, noting that proper medical tests have to be done to ascertain the problem first.

An ectopic pregnancy, Mayo Clinic says cannot proceed normally, stressing that the fertilised egg cannot survive, and the growing tissue may cause life-threatening bleeding if left untreated.

A professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Solomon Avidime, told our correspondent that women abusing ovulation induction drugs by engaging in self-medication unknowingly make conception more difficult.

Avidime said some of these drugs have severe side effects that may do more harm than good, warning that ovulation induction drugs cannot treat all causes of infertility.

The gynaecologist said, “It is not advisable for women to ordinarily commence taking ovulation drugs except on doctor’s prescription considering the attendant consequences.

“The drugs can cause Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome. OHSS when it occurs may be in its mild form or become a severe life-threatening condition.”

“Women that developed OHSS can have symptoms like fluid accumulation and tense abdominal distension, shortness of breath, abdominal discomfort, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea. They may also have rapid weight gain, body swelling, and low urinary output.”

Despite Nigeria’s high fertility rate, which is said to be 5.3 births per woman and also one of the highest in the world, experts say a lot of Nigerian couples are experiencing infertility.

The fertility rate is the number of children born alive to women during the year as a proportion of the average annual population of women of the same age.

Fertility specialists say lifestyle and environmental factors such as poor diet, smoking, and pollution are having severe impacts on fertility.

They noted that in recent years, the rate of infertility has increased drastically not only in Nigeria but worldwide.

According to the World Health  Organisation, infertility is a disease of the male or female reproductive system defined by the failure to achieve a pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse.

Speaking further on the side effects of abusing fertility drugs, Avidime noted that women who engage in self-medication by taking drugs for ovulation induction are at risk of side effects of the drugs, depending on the one they choose.

“Side effects they may suffer include headache, dizziness, abdominal discomfort, ovarian cyst formation and pelvic pain or discomfort, depression and mood swings.

“There are chances of multiple births as well as ectopic gestation. They may suffer hyperstimulation of the ovaries with the attendant consequences.”

Corroborating his statement, a fertility specialist and Managing Director of Nordica Fertility Centre, Lagos, Dr Abayomi Ajayi said, “One can’t treat what one does not know anything about. A proper medical test has to be done to ascertain the problem first.

“Fertility drugs should never be used without a doctor’s prescription and supervision. They should be properly monitored to see the effects.”

Abayomi stated that though fertility drugs have helped a lot of women to have their children, the drugs, however, must be administered by a physician based on individual needs.

“The major cause of infertility in most parts of the world is either the woman’s tubes are blocked or the man’s sperm count is bad. These two things are not amenable to drugs.

“But when the problem is one that the woman is not ovulating, which about 10 to 20 per cent of women in Nigeria might have, then such a case can be helped with fertility drugs.

“The important thing is that the person must have a good assessment before taking any kind of drug, including ovulation induction drugs.”

The gynaecologist counselled, “I would like to emphasise that the first thing is for them to have a proper assessment to know if they should be taking fertility drugs in the first place.

“I have seen many cases where the man is the problem. He has a low sperm count but the woman is still busy taking fertility drugs. For such women, they are not likely to get pregnant in that type of situation.”

According to an online portal, WebMD, infertility is a serious worry for many couples because it’s a diagnosis that has the potential to dramatically alter the life that you always imagined for yourself.

“But infertility is not as bleak as you might imagine. Although a person may be considered infertile after one full year of trying to conceive, 12 months may not mean that much.

“One recent study conducted by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences found that the majority of women up to age 39 who didn’t become pregnant in their first year did become pregnant in their second year — without any medical assistance.

“For women between ages 27 and 34, only six per cent were unable to conceive in their second year. And for 35- to 39-year-old women, only nine per cent were unable to conceive in their second year – provided their partner was under 40.

“So even if you’ve been trying to get pregnant for a year, this does not mean you are infertile. Resist the temptation to rush into expensive infertility treatments before you need to”, the online portal advised.

Credit Gist New Today News in Newspaper Nigeria Headlines

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