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Availability of services for the diagnosis and treatment of infertility in The Gambia`s public and private health facilities: a cross-sectional survey

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

BACKGROUND: Infertility is a long-standing reproductive health issue, which affects both men and women worldwide and it is especially problematic in the Global South. In sub-Saharan Africa, understanding the current availability of diagnostic and treatment services for infertility is important because this could guide health systems to improve access to fertility care for all. Yet, few studies have explicitly started from a health system perspective to grasp the availability and integration of infertility services in sub-Saharan Africa. This quantitative study, the first in The Gambia, West Africa, examines the availability of infertility services in public and private facilities as part of a wider endeavour to improve fertility care policy and practice in the country.

METHODS: A cross-sectional survey using Qualtrics was administered to 38 health facilities. The survey was carried out between March and August 2021 and involved closed-ended questions. Data analysis consisted of descriptive statistics and t-tests performed using SPSS version 26.

RESULTS: A total of 25 facilities (66%) offered infertility services, of which 13 (52%) were public and 12 (47%) private. Although the availability of screening tests was similar between health institutions, most diagnostic and treatment services were available only in the private sector. Treatment services included: (i) ovarian stimulation (n = 16, 42%); (ii) reversal of tubal ligation and/or blockage (tuboplasty) (n = 4, 11%); and (iii) intrauterine insemination (n = 3, 8%). Assisted reproductive technologies such as IVF and ICSI were not available in public or private sectors. The Gambian health management information system lacked a dedicated space to capture data on infertility. Reported barriers to integration of infertility services in existing reproductive health services included a lack of specialised training, an absence of national guidance on infertility management, and a shortage of appropriate equipment, supplies, and medication.

CONCLUSIONS: The availability of infertility services in The Gambia follows a trajectory that is similar to other SSA countries in which services are mostly obtainable through the private sector. Yet, access to private care is expensive and geographically restricted, which exacerbates inequalities in accessing fertility care for all. Improving the provision of infertility services in the public sector requires systematically capturing data on infertility and investing in the provision of a full-range fertility care package.

Journal: BMC Health Services Research
ISSN: 1472-6963
Issue: 1
Volume: 22
Publication year:2022
Keywords:Cross-Sectional Studies, Female, Gambia, Health Facilities, Humans, Infertility/diagnosis, Male, Private Facilities