How Abimbola Ajetomobi’s online forum is helping African women deal with infertility
TTC provides a happy community where women can speak freely with other women about their challenge with trying to conceive.
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Five years ago, Abimbola Ajetomobi got married to his heartthrob, Tunde. Like most couples, they expected that in a few months, she would wake up one morning, sick with nausea, run some tests and discover that she had become pregnant. That didn’t happen until two years after.
She told Nigeria Today that “it was in the process of trying to understand why, talking to gynaecologists that we found out that this is a normal occurrence”.
This experience led Abimbola to start Trying To Conceive, TTC, an online forum dedicated to empowering women attempting to conceive with reliable reproductive information by aggregating similar experiences to share vital information.
“During this period, we read a lot. You know, after doing a series of tests and you are certified okay, but you still don’t get pregnant, it doesn’t make sense and you want to know more.
“What we found out was that, though there were different information here and there on understanding infertility, who to talk to, treatments and so on, we don’t have it in an organised platform, so, we thought it would be a good idea to create one,” she said.
According to Maternal Health Task Force, 50 million couples worldwide experience infertility. Developing countries, including Nigeria, account for about 46 per cent of this figure.
The fertility rate in Nigeria is estimated to be 5.4, implying that the average woman can expect to have that many children during her life. Yet many Nigerians experience infertility, according to The Economist, citing Chelsea Polis of the Guttmacher Institute, a think-tank, who estimates that 31 per cent of Nigerian couples fail to conceive a child after 12 months of unprotected sex.
Launched in January 2017, TTC started with less than 10 users but has grown to about 2,600 registered users and thousands of anonymous visitors by the end of 2019.
TTC is not much different from other online forums. It has a well-sectioned catalogue of information for women going through or that have gone through the process of waiting to conceive; and is available for anyone to signup, introduce themselves and immediately join their conversations.
Participants during one of TTCs hangout sessions
Infertility is a sensitive topic in Nigeria, with millions of couples struggling to keep their marriage and women enduring social stigmas. This has created a thriving fertility business in the country, with fertility clinics springing up at every nook and cranny and religious centres leading the pack. A significant chunk of these fertility problems is a result of ignorance and dearth of information on vital reproductive health. TTC is addressing these problems through a feature that lets users engage anonymously.
"TTC is solving two major problems," Abimbola started.
“First, TTC provides a happy community where women can speak freely with other women about their challenge with trying to conceive. Second, we are creating an organized database of information readily available to people if they ever get to this phase in their lives,” she said.
Women aged between 25-34 make up the over 1000 daily visitors to the forum, but it also sees increased engagements from the 35-44 age range, according to Abimbola.
To make the forum even more relevant, TTC organises regular live Question & Answer sessions called ‘Ask the Gynaecologist' where experts are brought to engage live with the users, share knowledge and answer their questions. They also have regular sessions with nutritionists as well as physical hangout sessions for users.
“Most people are happy they have a community where they can come and ask questions or rant,” she said.
Challenges remain, such as getting women who have found a solution through the forum to continue their engagement, but running the platform, Abimbola said, provides relevant insights into the reproductive health challenges that women face in Nigeria/Africa.
Participants during one of TTCs hangout sessions
“First, we see that a lot of people are being taken advantage of by scammers because of their desperate situation. I can’t go into specifics on this but there are lots of fake information, fake practitioners out there that people need to be wary of.
“Second, even though IVF is becoming acceptable and safer, most people still can’t afford it especially when it does not guarantee 100 per cent result.
“Lastly, we have found that people are still not comfortable speaking openly about reproductive challenges.”
TTC’s target, according to Abimbola, is “to archive enough information which we can mine to educate or inform people. For instance, people want to know top hospitals for IVF, the average cost of IVF, success rate, surrogacy and so on, but that info is not readily available.”
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