Jenny Hewett corners an expert to learn more about fertility issues and IVF centres in the UAE.
For many married couples, the question of when to start a family is a moment of excitement. For some, however, the conversation has taken an uncomfortable turn.
It is increasingly common for people of all nationalities to know somebody who has had, or is perhaps considering, in vitro fertilisation, or IVF treatment. According to Dr Diana Kayal, an obstetrician and gynaecologist at Bourn Hall’s new preconception care facility, this is no coincidence. ‘Over the past five years, studies show demand for IVF in Dubai has increased around eight percent every year. The rate of babies born via IVF treatment worldwide is three percent, while the UAE percentage is much lower, pointing to a gap in supply for the region,’ she says.
While one in seven couples face infertility problems in Europe, Dr Kayal says that rates in the region are particularly high and it is more like one in six couples in the UAE.
So why such scary statistics? ‘The preconception clinic within our IVF centre aims to help people change to a healthier lifestyle from the start,’ says Dr Kayal.
From there, the clinic works on altering lifestyle-related factors, such as obesity, diabetes, smoking, diet and lack of exercise.
‘Heat also has a negative influence on male fertility, which is the primary contributing factor in over 50 percent of cases and this can be a difficult social/cultural stigma to tackle,’ she says.
On the other hand, Dr Kayal adds that expats in the UAE don’t necessarily have a higher level of infertility here than they would in their home countries. The difference, it seems, may be as much social as physical. ‘What we experience is that expat ladies are in general older than local ladies when planning to have a baby and that can play a role,’ says Dr Kayal.
So when should you start taking action? According to Dr Kayal, 85 percent of couples get pregnant after one year of trying naturally. With IVF costs so high, many couples are unsure when to start the process. ‘In a young couple, where the woman is below the age of 35 and where there is no known underlying condition, we advise people to seek fertility treatment after 12 months of trying for a baby,’ she says. ‘Above the age of 35 it is recommended to seek help by a specialist after six months,’ she says.
Recently, fertility doctors in Belgium claimed the cost of IVF could be cut dramatically – to around Dhs1,000 – using a new technique which replaces expensive medical equipment with more economical methods. But, Dr Kayal says it will be some time before the development reaches Dubai. ‘These are new procedures that are still in the early stages of testing and they need far more investigation before we understand their true significance and could consider using them globally,’ she says.
Until then, couples will need to invest money in their hope of becoming parents. ‘We offer an all-inclusive IVF treatment for Dhs37,000,’ says Dr Kayal, while adding the cost differs from clinic to clinic, but to be wary of hidden costs. Until then, she suggests maintaining a healthy lifestyle and seeking advice from a specialist as early as possible to avoid a situation where struggling to conceive starts to affect you psychologically.
Stress is extremely bad for anyone trying to start a family. Often the problem can be solved without having to resort to assisted reproductive technologies such as IVF and then if they are needed, the latest technologies are showing the best success rates,’ she says.
Bourn Hall Clinic, 7th floor, Sheikh Hamdan Centre, Jumeirah, (04 705 5055).
Three Dubai fertility clinics
1 Fakih IVF
Claims a 60 percent success rate and provides treatment for men with low fertility.
Villa 37, 65b St to 32b St, Al Wasl Road, Jumeirah 1 (04 349 7600).
2 Dubai Gynaecology and Fertility Centre
Specialises in obstetrics, reproductive endocrinology and IVF.
Building 64, Block E, First Floor, 1029-1031, Dubai Healthcare City (04 393 8003).
3 Dr Wafa Gynaecology and Fertility Centre
Offers both freezing services for men and women, as well as help with Intra-uterine insemination (IUI) and IVF.
Unit 3002, Block A, Al Razi Building, Dubai Healthcare City (04 437 7520).