Fertility experts say that today women can freeze their eggs during the peak of their fertility period for future use.
Women in the UAE are putting off marriages in the hope of finding ‘Mr Right’ and in the process, delaying motherhood.
This delay, according to experts, is affecting the most crucial years of a female’s fertility, a fact that is supported by the declining birth rates.
In many other cases, women are also rendered infertile due to cancer treatments. As an option, fertility experts say that today women can freeze their eggs during the peak of their fertility period for future use.
“In the US, when the technique became part of mainstream treatment in 2013, women started putting careers ahead of family because they had an option,” says Dr Pankaj Shrivastav, director of Conceive Clinics in Dubai and Sharjah. “Today, in the UAE, women are delaying marriages while waiting to find the right man.”
According to the Dubai Health Authority’s (DHA) statistical guidebook for 2015, the average Total Fertility Rate (TFR) was two children per woman in the age group of 15 to 49 years. The DHA attributed the declining birth rates to urbanisation, changing attitudes about family size, increased education and work opportunities for women.
In January, a report titled ‘Fertility Rates among Emiratis in Dubai: Challenges, Policies and the Way Forward’ showed that late marriages, putting off having children and high costs of raising children are among the several reasons for a dramatic dip in fertility rates among Emiratis in Dubai. An Emirati family has three children on an average now as compared to seven in the 1970s, it said.
“This technique has helped men freeze sperms but as technology progressed, women are now also able to freeze good quality eggs,” Dr Shrivastav explains. “However, this treatment is not an alternative unless it is absolutely necessary.”
Dr David Robertson, group medical director, Bourn Hall Clinic, Dubai, says that an increasing number of women are choosing to wait before having children.
“We are seeing increasing numbers of women who, for many positive reasons, choose to wait before having children, but unfortunately they have gone on to experience fertility problems,” he says. “A woman’s chance of successful pregnancy is closely linked to her age, so, if eggs are frozen when she is younger, the chance of pregnancy at a later age may be greatly improved, especially after the age of 40. Also, the risk of abnormalities in the baby is primarily linked to the age of the eggs, so that is another benefit of doing this earlier.”
Cancer treatment affects fertility
An unanticipated life event such as cancer can endanger a woman’s fertility potential because of the exposure to chemotherapy and radiation.
Dr Michael Fakih, medical director of Fakih IVF, says, “Such treatments can actually destroy eggs, which is why many women become menopausal or suffer ovarian failure after cancer treatment.
“When a woman under 38 receives a cancer diagnosis, it is important that she asks a fertility specialist about fertility preservation quickly before she starts treatment, even if it wasn’t on her mind to have children,” he says.
Did you know?
• A woman’s fertility starts to decline from the age of 30, dropping more steeply after 35
• The process of egg freezing allows women to start a family later by preserving eggs at a younger age
• If eggs are frozen at a younger age, women will be more likely to become pregnant than a woman trying to get pregnant later on.
• Process of freezing eggs is similar to IVF. The woman is given a course of hormone injections to stimulate the ovaries and the response to these is monitored by regular ultrasound scans and blood tests. A minor operation is needed to collect the eggs, which are then assessed for quality and frozen.
• In the UAE, the eggs are re-implanted only if the woman presents a marriage certificate
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