Residents of the UAE are living longer and staying healthier, but having dramatically fewer children than they used to, according to the World Health Organisation.While life expectancy rose from 73 years in 1990 to 78 by 2007, the birth rate almost halved over the same period, from 4.4 children per woman to just 2.3, according to the latest edition of the WHO’s World Health Statistics. Fertility rates have been falling in the UAE for three decades. According to figures released by the United Nations, the Emirates has the sixth fastest-changing fertility rate, comparable with neighbouring oil-rich emirates such as Qatar and Kuwait. While the findings have led to praise for the UAE’s social advances, there are concerns over its changing demographics.
Fertility rates are dropping in the UAE, mainly due to Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), a condition in which the ovaries release eggs less frequently, or not at all.
Earlier this year, a senior Ministry of Health (MoH) official said there was an urgent need for more fertility centres to meet the increased demand.“At present, there is one in Dubai, but that is not enough to meet the requirements of the people in the northern emirates,” said Hamad Taryam al Shamsi, the head of the Ajman Medical District.
“New centres are being planned by the MoH and the services allowed by Islam will be provided.”
There are proposals to start an IVF institute in Ajman and to establish a further fertility centre in the emirate. In vitro fertilisation (IVF) is available at both public and private clinics in six of the emirates.But in Dubai, the fertility business is more tightly regulated than in the rest of the country. Private clinics are banned from offering IVF to couples, leaving just one government fertility centre that provides the therapy. Dubai reiterated its rigid stance when it released a statement advising that any clinics that flouted the rule and offered IVF would be immediately closed down. The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) said it was strictly enforcing its rules for moral and ethical reasons.
Dr Odeh Ahmed, the acting head of the facility control unit and quality assurance licensing department with the DHA, said doctors who did not share Islamic values might be tempted to allow a woman to become pregnant by a man other than her husband.“From an ethical point of view, there are special precautions which could not be easily controlled by private clinics, as the emirates are multinational. The Government needs more control, which is why IVF is still banned in Dubai.
Last year, 1,700 couples went to the Dubai Gynaecology and Fertility Centre for treatment and 800 received assisted reproduction therapies, said Dr Mohamed el Kalyoubi, a consultant obstetric gynecologist and IVF expert at the centre.
Doctors say the restriction can interfere with a woman’s chance of becoming pregnant.IVF is a fertility treatment by which a woman’s eggs are fertilised by sperm outside of the womb. Many women require several treatments before becoming pregnant. The procedure, often painful and expensive, is usually a last hope for couples wanting children.Women with fertility problems could be missing out on the chance to have a baby because of a lack of treatment facilities, experts have warned.Women are increasingly seeking treatment abroad, where they feel better care is offered for less money, and waiting lists are non-existent. Dr Michael Fakih, who runs the Fakih Gynaecology and Obstetrics private clinic in Dubai, says the services he can offer to women who are having trouble conceiving are limited to hormonal tablets and certain surgical procedures. For IVF, he refers patients to the Government’s clinic.“I’ve heard that the waiting list can be up to two years. For a woman who’s trying to get pregnant, especially if she is over 35, a long wait for treatment could really reduce her chances.“It’s absolutely, absolutely frustrating not to be able to treat them. You are taking the most successful procedure away from them.”
“We would like to, if it was opened by the government, to go into areas like in vitro fertilisation,” says Dr Azad Moopen, chairman and founder of DM Healthcare. “It is because they want to have more controls on that. They don’t want people to play around,” Moopen added.However, he said he believes “it is time for the authorities to look at providing such avenues for the private sector”.“What should be done by the government is to look at the individual organisations and establishments and those who have accreditation and [a] good reputation the government should allow such establishments to take care of these areas,” he said
Its really sad, for those who cannot, since some women bank on IVF as the last resort, being denied the treatment will really be heart-breaking for them. Why this disparity? Why its allowed in govt and private clinics in all other emirates except Dubai? Women don’t have the rest of their lives for child bearing, middle aged women are already on a short lease, a long waiting list just adds to their woes. Its like denying the last breathe of air to a dying person, we never know sometimes the last breathe will be the one which brings back the life!