On March 17, 1989 history was made at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital when the first test tube Baby in Black Africa (comprising of West, East and Central Africa), conceived through the delicate In-Vitro Fertilisation and Embryo Transfer (IVF-ET) method was born. The bouncing baby boy named, Olushina, Eghosa, Oluwaremilekun, is nature’s gift to the family of Mr & Mrs Pius Oni and the crowning glory of five years of painstaking research endeavours of Professors Osato Giwa-Osagie, an Obstetrician and Gynecologist and Oladapo Ashiru, an Endocrinologist, both of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH Idiaraba, Surulere, Lagos.The lad then, thus, became the First Tube Baby in East, West and Central Africa.
The epoch-making event had begun in 1986 when the young couple, Stella and Pius Oni, first made contact with Prof. Osato Giwa-Osagie, the Director of Human In-Vitro Fertilisation programme LUTH. The couple had been married in 1980 and had had several unsuccessful attempts at achieving pregnancy through normal biological process. Information obtained from Prof. Osato Giwa-Osagie a distinguished Professor of obstetrics and Gynaecology, College of Medicine, University of Lagos shows that Mrs. Stella Oni, aged 34 then, was admitted to the IVF-ET in LUTH on March 9, 1988. She had lost her two fallopian tubes due to bilateral ectopic pregnancies in Liverpool, England in 1981. She had had tubal surgery in 1982. A hysterosalpingogram done on her in 1982 showed bilateral blocked tubes. Mrs. Oni had attempted IVF-ET-twice, the first in Bourn Hall clinic the pioneer centre for IVF-ET made popular by Dr. Patrick Steptoe and Dr Richard Edwards following the birth of the world’s first Test Tube Baby. Louisa Brown. Her second attempt was at St. Mary’s Hospital in Manchester. Both attempts were unsuccessful.Mrs. Oni was a textile designer married to a Nigerian Marine Engineer. The nature of her husband’s duty necessitated the course which she had lived in Nigeria, Ghana, Togo, England and Canada.After baseline pre-IVR evaluation, Mrs. Oni was accepted for IVF in LUTH and registered in the Gynecology I.V.F. Clinic of March 30, 1988. In the In-Vitro Fertilisation treatment in May/June 1988, her Last Menstrual Period (L.M.P.) was May 25th 1988. She was started on Clomiphene Pergonal injection to stimulate her ovaries and then HCG. Follicular development was monitored using serial hormone assays performed by Mr. Ayo Sanyaolu, a Chief Technologist in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology laboratories, and serial cervical mucus assessment by Prof. Giwa-Osagie. Semen samples from the husband, Mr. Oni were evaluated by Prof. Oladapo Shiru
Prof. Giwa-Osagie saw her a few days later and arranged for her to be admitted to the hospital for rest at the expense of LUTH but she did not come for admission because she was afraid that there would be too much publicity about her pregnancy. She travelled abroad again to meet her husband in November 1988. Mrs. Oni delivered abroad on March 17, 1989, a baby boy weighing 2.5kg at birth. Mrs. Oni came to show her baby in LUTH for the first time on March 26, 1989. Her husband who is now based in Amsterdam, Netherlands, arrived in Lagos and came to LUTH with his wife and baby to show their appreciation to the Hospital and Professors Ashiru and Giwa-Osagie.
The birth of Olushina was a medical feat that brought with it a ray of hope. Hope for many a childless couple that theirs may not be a battle in futility; hope for aspiring researchers that there may yet be a ray of light at the end of the tunnel. The birth was the culmination of the expertise and perseverance of Professors Ashiru and Giwa-Osagie who pioneered research into In-Vitro Fertilisation in Black Africa, an endeavour once assessed as “the most credible effort” at achieving pregnancy through In-Vitro Fertilisation by a Federal Government study team.In 1984, the Research Team of Giwa-Osagie and Ashiru had reported successful development of the technique of Human Oocyte Recovery through Laparascopy, In-Vitro Fertilisation of the Human Oocyte and Embryo Development and Transfer leading to pregnancies that aborted.In 1985, following a controversial claim of an I.V.F delivery by a private hospital in Enugu hospital and efforts being made at LUTH, the Panel, headed by Prof. Osagie and Ashiru performed the technique on a patient from beginning to the end. It also interviewed a few patients who had gone through the technique previously. One of such patients was a Mrs. Ajose who was 10 weeks pregnant during the visitation but who aborted shortly after. Between 1986 and now, the team of researchers had been visited by organisation such as the W.H.O. and professional colleagues who witnessed their procedures in the theatre and the laboratory. Prof. Osagie’s personal Assistant, Mrs. Fumi Smith, who has been with him for over 25 years and when he performed the ground breaking IVF-ET research, commented that the Prof. Osagie team really produced the first test tube baby in Black Africa. Another ministerial panel headed by Prof. Adeleye visited the LUTH team in 1986.The birth of Oluwashina was one of academic and professional fulfilment for Professors Osato Giwa-Osagie and Oladapo Ashiru. It also marked the realisation of the dream of a childless couple and renewed the hope of thousands of others who have been itching to have the joy . The delivery of Nigeria’s authentic first Test Tube Baby by our Public Relations Unit was handled cautiously for several reasons. For one, the Hospital did not believe in the type of controversies that greeted such previous claims in two private hospitals in Enugu and Lagos where both the babies and their mothers remained faceless. For another, as a Teaching Hospital, we believe in verifiable claims. Above all, we have a duty and an obligation to respect the privacy of the couple who have proved most wonderfully co-operative. Nothing can beat their sense of appreciation than this letter from their Solicitor, Messrs Tinuade Oyekun & Co.“We write on behalf of our client Mrs Stella Oni one of your former patients.“We have the instruction of Mrs. Oni to express the heart-felt gratitude and sincere appreciation of both her husband and herself to you, Professor Giwa-Osagie in particular, and the entire I.V.F treatment carried out on her in June, 1988 at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, which resulted in her pregnancy and safe delivery of a bouncing baby boy on the March 17, 1989.
“In connection with granting of interviews to some Government officials and journalists, we have our client’s instructions to convey to you her willingness to grant the interviews mainly for the benefit of those women who might also have difficulties in getting pregnant and would require such medical assistance and also to appraise the public of your achievements which are available in the country without looking far away into distant lands.“Be that as it may, our client would like us to appeal to you for some degree of confidentiality which will protect their privacy”.
In separate letters of congratulation to both Professors Dapu Ashiru and Osato Giwa-Osagie, the Management Board of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital lauded the achievements of the two consultants, pointing out that the delivery of a baby within five years of painstaking research into In-Vitro Fertilisation was an indication of their degree of dedication. It noted that against the background of inadequate funding for the project, their perseverance in the face of daunting difficulties was very highly commendable. The Board praised the ability of the Consultants to have worked together for a common cause and expressed the hope that they will bring the benefits of their grand achievement to brighten the public image of the Hospital.The documentation of the birth of Olushina and other cases handled by the Research Team were accepted for presentation and subsequent publication at the XIII Federal International Congress of Anatomy held in Brazil in August.On how IVF is done, the distinguished Don who conducted the delivery of Maryam Babangida’s last child in Lagos said: “during the process, a man’s sperm is collected through masturbation and the woman’s egg by using ultrasound. The sperm is introduced into the woman’s egg with the help of a syringe and the occurrence of pregnancy is about 30 %. One attempt of IVF costs between N500, 000 and one million naira in Nigeria. Olushina is at present not in Nigeria. I saw him last about 4 years ago says the distinguished don.Prof. Giwa Osagie an Alumnus of the prestigious Cambridge University and the University of Leeds, has been championing the cause of fertility (family planning) for about 35 years.In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) which he championed at LUTH like a mustard seed in 1989 when the first test tube baby was born, has today produced 29 IVF clinics in Nigeria, 4 in Ghana, 3 in Cameroun, and also available in Togo, Senegal, Gambia, Benin Republic, Uganda, Kenya, South Africa just to mention but a few.