The story

The IVF doctor

Dr Rokhaya Thiam Ba
"My name is Dr Rokhaya Thiam Ba, and I’m 56. I'm a gynaecologist and obstetrician working in Dakar, where I grew up. I studied in Paris until 2003, then returned to set myself up in Senegal, where I opened my surgery in 2003. Many patients come to see me when they find that they’re not falling pregnant after trying for a certain time, or they come to ask for medical help immediately, because they’re worried, or quite simply, they want to find out why the baby they’re hoping for doesn’t come along as soon as they wished. There is a need for this, here and elsewhere, because women are deferring their wish for motherhood, and it’s now a universal problem. Women want to have children later and later, and, once they decide to have a baby, this takes a long time, because fertility diminishes with age. Consequently, doctors are called upon more and more for help with conception. It’s a great achievement when IVF is carried out in Africa. Most of the time we can be dealing with people who cannot read or write, so it’s more complicated to explain the procedures, in order to avoid the risk of errors, or sometimes our patients don’t understand what we’re saying. Consequently, when we take up this challenge, and when, despite all this, we manage to obtain a pregnancy, follow it through to a positive conclusion and give the baby to its mother, it’s extraordinary."

The first wife

"My name is Ndim Mbengue, I’m 35 years old and I live in Dakar. I married Badera in 2006, then had three miscarriages. The doctors say I have fibroids, and so until now, I've been unable to have children. There you are...  Treatment is rather costly, and I don't have the means. So I've decided not to return to hospital, and to stay at home and wait for God to work a miracle. I’m praying to the good God. My husband has never let me down. He is always behind me, encouraging me, helping me and trying to find solutions. At first, it hurt very much when he took a second wife, because when you see your husband going elsewhere, and there are no children... Well, it hurts because, if only you could have his children... My husband is a really amazing person. He is always by my side. He could have rejected me, not stayed with me, as others have done, but he’s always with me, talking and consoling me. I don’t find crying easy. Just because you don’t see someone’s tears, doesn’t mean they’re not crying inside. I cry inside, in my heart, and that’s much more difficult. It’s been so long, that if I do have a child one day, well, I will love that child more than my own eyes. Not even a fly will touch that child."

The IVF Patient

"My name is Reissa*, I'm 39 years old, I live in Dakar, Senegal and I've been married for five years. I was married at 35; nowadays, we marry late in life. I had boyfriends, of course, but there was never anyone serious enough to enter into marriage with, and I really wanted to pursue a career, have a job before getting married. So, up until the age of thirty-five, I never consulted a gynaecologist. I didn’t even think of it. I never thought that I would wait so long to have a child, or that I wouldn’t have one. I never thought about that. Perhaps if I had known about IVF when I got married, if I'd had the information, I wouldn’t have waited five years to do it. We were not informed... After I'd been married for two or three months, I went to see a gynaecologist, and I was told I had fibroids. An operation to remove the fibroids was arranged straight away, and I began to receive treatment to conceive a child. Since then, we have been trying for so long. We've taken medication, we've been to see marabouts, but until now, nothing has happened. Here in Africa, they say women who can’t have children are affected by bad angels. It’s a taboo subject, a secret subject, but there are solutions. They need to see the doctors, the infertility specialists like Dr Ba and others, for advice. But solutions do exist. I'd like to have a boy who would be like me, not his dad! A very boisterous child who will make the house come alive. That’s what I imagine, yes."

The husband

"When my wife told me she kept having miscarriages, I was so sad. I was so sorry for her, because I desperately wanted her to carry my child. It's such a shame. Sometimes, people here joke: ‘But you, you, after all this time you haven’t had a child? You’re ill aren’t you.' Then my older sister had a baby boy, and she said to my wife: ‘You, is it you who is ill or your husband?’ Because she accused me, I set out to prove that I wasn’t ill. That’s what pushed me to take a second wife. When I took a second wife, all I felt was vengeance. If it comes to loving Ndim, I love her! If it comes to having pity for her because she doesn’t have children, I feel pity! Frankly, Ndim is so lovely with the little girl I’ve had with my second wife. The little girl comes into Ndim’s room, and Ndim plays with her as if she is her own daughter." 

The Marabout

The Marabout
"My name is Cherif, and I am a marabout in Ngor, Dakar. I provide treatments for all sorts of things, and spiritual help to my community. I help lots of women who have fertility problems by praying for them, and offering them spiritual treatments including gri-gris [talismans] and mystical baths. I keep my work, my prayers, in this briefcase."

The Campaigner

"My name is Arame and I am a senior pharmacist in Senegal, West Africa. I am 37 years old. I had given up all hope of being a mother one day. So many prayers, so much searching for advice and treatment. But now we thank God, as we have our twins after doing an IVF treatment with Dr Ba, a boy and a girl who just celebrated their third birthday. You know, I am not at ease doing this interview, because it’s very private, but I think we have to take advantage of these opportunities to inform other women who are trying to have children, who are having problems. Me, I left Senegal to go and find treatment elsewhere, thinking I would benefit from the best treatments. But it was in Senegal that I finally got results."

The IVF Doctor

Dr Moustapha Thiam
"I'm a gynaecologist and obstetrician working with Dr Ba at the clinic, and I'm 39. Initially I worked at the hospital in Dakar, and there were many couples coming for treatment after miscarriages. There is a bigger and bigger need for infertility treatments and IVF here. Discussing these sorts of problems with men is not easy. When we talk about infertility here in Senegal, it's seen as a woman's problem, when it should be seen as the couple's problem. For this reason, when we first see a woman for her first consultation, we always ask that she brings her husband with her. Men here need more information and knowledge that infertility does not just concern women. But infertility in Senegal is considered as a social drama, you see. A couple who can't have children have many problems, and so it's a difficult subject to broach with men. Dr Ba is a pioneer in IVF here, but even though we have a good level of success, patients don't want to tell other people we have helped them to have an IVF treatment. Nevertheless, when we succeed in helping a couple have a child, we feel a great pride, a huge joy. It's the real charm of our job."

The biologists

"It does feel like magic sometimes! Here we are in a building off a small sandy street in Dakar, making babies. "