Jakarta. Having kids is one of the greatest joys in life. But what if this joy does not arrive? You may have read many books and tried so many things to be able to conceive, yet somehow the crib remains silent and empty.
In vitro fertilization (IVF) is an option for married couples in Indonesia. The technology of fertilizing by combining an egg and sperm in laboratory has been around since 1970s.
The first successful IVF birth was recorded in the United Kingdom in 1978. Since then, the technology has become much more advanced and spread to many countries, including Indonesia.
One of the pioneer IVF clinics in Indonesia is Morula IVF established by Bundamedik Healthcare System, the parent company of Bunda Mother and Baby Hospital (RSIA Bunda), in Jakarta in 1997.
The name "Morula" means an early stage embryo.
The clinic's first IVF baby was born in June 1998.
Morula IVF operates eight clinics in Indonesia's major cities, including Jakarta, Bandung, Surabaya and Makassar.
The clinic has already helped in the births of 3,068 Indonesian babies.
This year, the clinic is celebrating its 20th anniversary.
"We feel so happy to have reached 20 years," Dr. Ivan Rizal Sini, gynecologist and chief executive of Morula IVF, said during a press conference in Jakarta on Aug. 24.
"IVF is becoming more and more important in Indonesia these days. And we're glad to be able to help more couples achieve their dreams with our advanced technology."
According to Indonesia Health Profile (Profil Kesehatan Indonesia) data, in 2012 there were approximately 67 million couples in their productive, child-bearing years. It was estimated that 12 percent of them, or about 8 million, were infertile. Thirty percent of the infertile needed in vitro fertilization to be able to conceive.
However, according to Indonesian Association for In Vitro Fertilization (Perfitri) data, in 2017 only 9,100 couples sought IVF treatment in Indonesia.
"Many still prefer to do it overseas," Ivan said.
According to Ivan, our country loses about $1 billion a year with Indonesian couples seeking IVF abroad.
"It's a shame, because Indonesian clinics have the same advanced technology," he said.
Morula IVF clinics offer sophisticated IVF technologies, including Intracytoplasmic Morphologically Selected Sperm Injection (IMSI), which allows embryologists to choose the best sperm to be injected into the egg, Timelapse Incubator, which allows embryologists to closely monitor the growth of the embryos and select the best ones to be attached to the uterus, Pre-Implantation Genetic Screening (PGS), which allows parents to know the genes of the embryos before they are placed within the uterus, and Assisted Hatching, in which zona pellucida that coats the embryo is ruptured to allow it to attach better to the uterus.
Since 2015, their clinics have also been accredited by Australia's Reproductive Technology Accreditation Committee (RTAC).
Fertility Science Week
For their 20th anniversary, Morula IVF will present "Morula: Fertility Science Week 2018" in the Central Park shopping mall, West Jakarta, on Sept. 6-9.
"The joining of sperm and egg in becoming a baby is an incredible journey," said Professor Arief Boediono, senior embryologist at Morula IVF clinics.
"It's amazing how a human being actually derives from [a fertilized ovum] that is about 100 microns in size."
During the event, visitors will be able to learn about the process of human conception and IVF technology.
The exhibition area will be set like a laboratory with high-definition microscopes and time-lapse incubators.
"We want people to know that IVF is not something that is just expensive with a low success rate," Arief said.
The cost of an IVF program varies between Rp 60 million and Rp 100 million.
According to Arief, their clinics' success rate is around 40 percent, similar to the international average rate.
During the exhibition, there will also be educational talkshows on healthy lifestyle, financial preparation for pregnancy and modern parenting techniques.
There will also be games, cooking demos, live music, fashion shows and activities for kids.
"You can definitely bring your entire family to the exhibition," Arief said.
Pop singers Afgan Syahreza and Marcell Siahaan are scheduled to perform on Saturday and Sunday night.
Couples, who want to have kids, can also consult Morula IVF's doctors.
The Science of Getting Pregnant
But when should you consider IVF?
"When you've lived together with your spouse and had sex regularly for a year, but have not conceived, you should start thinking what's wrong," Arief said.
"The sooner you and your spouse get help, the better."
According to the World Health Organization, infertility is "the failure to achieve a clinical pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse."
"When you or your spouse are infertile, there are several options to consider, including artificial insemination and IVF," the embryologist said.
With IVF, the best chances for success is if your wife is still below 35 years old.
To enroll in an IVF program in Indonesia you have to be legally married. Under Indonesia's laws, surrogacy is not possible.
Indonesian actress Tya Ariestia is one of Morula's patients.
"Many think of IVF as the last resort, but I'd say if you're almost 30 years old and have fertility problems, you should consider it immediately," she said.
Tya's 2-year old was conceived with the help of IVF.
"We're now trying for our second child through the same process," the 32-year-old actress said.
Besides genetics, there are several other factors that affect a person's fertility.
"Alcohol and cigarettes greatly impact the quality of human sperms," Arief said.
Smoking and drinking alcohol also reduce women's chances of conceiving and increases the possibility of miscarriage or giving birth to unhealthy babies.
"If you're considering to get pregnant, lead a healthy lifestyle, stay away from stress and exercise regularly," Arief said.