The number of pregnancies in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is expected to drop to 1.66 per couple from 2020-2025(1). This rising infertility in the UAE is a real concern as more poeple turn towards treatments.
According to a market research conducted by Colliers, infertility rate in the Middle East is estimated to be at 15%, split across men and women (2). This is significantly higher than the 10% infertility rate over the rest of the world, as estimated by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Why is UAE fertility rate so low?
According to a recent report published by Research and Markets, the female infertility in the UAE is estimated to be at 90% (3). With this highly significant figure, it’s not surprising that IVF and other treatments for infertility are very in-demand in the UAE.
Below are the reasons for growing infertility among UAE women:
1. Lack of sun exposure
The primary reason linked to the rise of female infertility in the UAE is the lack of sun exposure. Most females in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Dubai, and Sharjah commonly wear an abaya or burqa whenever they go out in public. The lack of exposure to sunlight significantly reduces the absorption of Vitamin D in the body. When your body lacks Vitamin D, it could cause havoc in the hormones.
Vitamin D is essential in the production of anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH), which is needed in maintaining your egg quality. If you have Vitamin D deficiency, your egg quantity and quality may deteriorate, which is what is happening to most women in the UAE. Additionally, a lack of Vitamin D in the body may lead to increased levels of cholesterol which could affect conception and fertility.
Another cause for the rise of female infertility in the UAE is obesity (3). If you are obese, you are at risk for decreased uterus receptivity and diminished egg quality. Obesity is also often the reason for secondary infertility, which means that you could experience problems getting pregnant after a prior successful pregnancy.
3. Smoking, drinking
According to Maria Banti, a Dubai-based clinical embryologist, rising infertility in the UAE can be greatly attributed to lifestyle choices. Smoking, drinking, and not eating a balanced diet can affect health, specifically potency and fertility.
4. Late marriages
In addition to lifestyle and health factors, a study published in 2014 pointed out higher levels of female education and late births/late marriages as the two primary causes of fertility decline in the UAE (5).
“For women, egg quality can decline significantly as can sperm quality in men. Age also plays a critical role—because as a woman ages, their egg quality and quantity decline,” shared Ms. Banti.
Family balancing, gender selection, and IVF
According to Dr. Bohaira Elgeyoushi, an IVF consultant in Dubai, Arabs like to have large families(4). Struggling with infertility in a culture that welcomes large families can be a big emotional hurdle for couples.
“IVF is an emotional rollercoaster journey, and it can be a make or break for some families, especially those in the Middle East because family is everything,” Dr. Elgeyoushi said.
Aside from rising infertility in the UAE, the increasing number of genetic disorders among newborns is also the reason for the growing interest in IVF (3).
The awareness regarding the significance of early detection of genetic disorders such as Edward’s syndrome or Down syndrome is boosting the IVF industry in the UAE, just as the rest of the world.
Apart from IVF treatments, UAE also offers various fertility treatments and services that are otherwise unavailable or prohibited in other countries such as family balancing or gender selection.
If you want to have a baby boy first, and then a baby girl the next, you can openly discuss this with a fertility doctor when you go to UAE for IVF. Through Comprehensive Chromosomal Screening (CCS) and IVF, it is possible to determine your embryo’s gender prior to pregnancy. Also known as pre-implantation genetic testing (PGT-A), it is a great option if you prefer to balance or sequence the genders of your future kids.
With PGT, doctors can screen for potential genetic abnormalities.
Meanwhile, PGD can detect a specific disorder even before the embryo implantation is done. Both PGD and PGS are considered illegal genetic testing procedures in countries such as China, the UK, India, Canada, and Australia. However, it is allowed in Thailand, Italy, Mexico, and the US as a means of gender identification. These technologies are not yet available in many countries.
Genetic testing of embryos can also be done with Next Generation Sequencing (NGS). NGS also gives access to safe and efficient family balancing by producing almost 100% accurate results at the chromosomal level.
Cost of IVF in the UAE
IVF treatments need a lot of preparation – physically, emotionally, mentally, and financially. According to Colliers (4), the Emirates spends more than $200 million per year on fertility treatments.
UAE citizens are entitled to three free IVF cycles per year. However, non-citizens have access to insurance packages that rarely cover IVF or other fertility treatments. Dubai residents spend an estimated Dh20,000 to Dh30,000 per cycle of IVF.
This rising infertility in the UAE due to lifestyle, cultural, and societal factors is certainly a caus for concern. Even though medical sciences have made good progress with artificial reproductive technology, we need to be aware of the environmental and other factors contributing to the loss of our fertility potential.
For instance, just including a more nutritious diet and getting some sun exposure every week, may help improve the egg quality in women and save you throusands in IVF costs.
If however, you do need fertility treatments, working with a reliable and trusted fertility expert will help you get through it successfully.
What do you think of this crises of rising infertility in the UAE? Please share your comments below:
1.’Secondary infertility’ rates in UAE among highest in the world https://www.khaleejtimes.com/uae/secondary-infertility-rates-in-uae-among-highest-in-the-world
2. IVF in the UAE: why so many couples need fertility treatment https://www.thenationalnews.com/uae/2021/07/04/ivf-in-the-uae-why-the-fertility-treatment-is-so-popular/
3. UAE In-Vitro Fertilization Market: Female Infertility Rate of 90% Driving Demand https://www.researchandmarkets.com/reports/3146099/uae-in-vitro-fertilization-market-by-technique
4. IVF in the UAE: why so many couples need fertility treatment https://www.thenationalnews.com/uae/2021/07/04/ivf-in-the-uae-why-the-fertility-treatment-is-so-popular/
5. Al Awad, M. and Chartouni, C. (2014), “Explaining the decline in fertility among citizens of the GCC countries: the case of the UAE”, Education, Business and Society: Contemporary Middle Eastern Issues, Vol. 7 No. 2/3, pp. 82-97. https://doi.org/10.1108/EBS-01-2014-0002