Infertility and Reproduction Assistance Programs in Cuba
By Kachita Chaviano. Photos: Luis Joa
For many, having children represents a confirmation of love or significant personal achievement; however, it is difficult for some couples to conceive naturally due to various factors that can compromise fertility.
Causes of infertility can affect men and women alike. In response, Cuba created the National Assistance Program for Infertile Couples in 2007, which has facilitated 1,155 pregnancies in the country up to date.
This year, the Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP) will inaugurate two high tech reproduction centers, one in Santiago de Cuba and the other in Camagüey, which will provide attention to infertile people in the south-eastern and central-eastern regions, respectively.
These two institutions will add to the four preexisting centers at the Hermanos Ameijeiras and Ramón González Coro Hospitals in Havana, the Gustavo Aldereguía Lima Hospital in Cienfuegos and the Vladimir Ilich Lenin Hospital in Holguín.
The head of the MINSAP Mother- Child Department, Roberto Álvarez, told CubaPlus that in spite of the economic limitations, the country aims to modernize the equipment in order to ensure high-quality services in all areas. Sperm cryopreservation, egg donation and artificial and in vitro insemination are some of the reproduction techniques currently preformed at these hospitals, for which many specific types of devices, treatments, equipment and medicine are necessary, Álvarez stressed.
In addition, the country’s semen bank will be improved by August 2019, with altruistic volunteers donating their semen after proper examination evaluating their health, followed by cryopreservation of the sperm.
The procedure begins with a debrief and physical exam that includes a spermogram, revealing fertility information including sperm count, morphology, sperm motility, PH, and viscosity.
Álvarez noted that this technique is expected to help at least 30 percent of the 102,000 Cuban couples currently identified with difficulties to conceive a child, largely due to men’s infertility. The procedure guarantees complete confidentiality. Therefore, the origin of the semen will remain unknown to the female receptor and the donor will not know the beneficiaries.
The specialist mentioned that infertility can be prevented in many cases, which is the reason why MINSAP has implemented a series of measures that includes the reduction in teenage pregnancy and the promotion of family planning services.
The most important thing is to assess the reproductive risk factor by conducting tests of everyone involved, Álvarez noted.
At the beginning of the year, only eight percent of couples went to their family doctor or local hospitals to plan their conception.
A comprehensive health exam may reveal factors such as infertility or female obesity —which is associated with 17 percent of complications during pregnancy and labor— the specialist explained.
In addition, the exam can reveal vaginal infections or sexually transmitted diseases as well.
Abortion is another factor that causes female infertility, and in this sense, it is necessary to promote all available contraceptive methods.
According to Álvarez, Cuba has assigned more than four million USD annually to the Assistance Program for Infertile Couples, which is aimed at infertility prevention, facilitating healthy pregnancy and conception, and promoting reproductive health.