Abu Dhabi - There is an alarming increase in the UAE's infertility rates, with lifestyle choices being the main cause.
The birth rate in the UAE has significantly dropped in less than 50 years, from an average of 6.9 to just 1.8 child, while infertility rates continue to surge, particularly in the age group of 20-30, warn doctors.
Dr Yasmin Sajjad, consultant - Obstetrics and Gynecologist, Reproductive Endocrinology at Burjeel Hospital, told Khaleej Times there is an alarming increase in the UAE's infertility rates, with lifestyle choices being the main cause.
"Age is a major factor. In the last 40 years alone, there has been a drastic fall in the fertility in the UAE."
She noted that in 1964, the birth rate was 6.9; in 2000 it dropped to 2.6, while by 2007 it fell to 2, and in 2011 it dropped to a low 1.8.
Dr Sajjad said the main causes are related to lifestyle factors, obesity, stress, smoking and alcohol consumption.
'Mobile phones are literally cooking your sperm'
For men, she said the use of hot jacuzzis and baths, as well as the consumption of protein shakes and workout drinks, have a staggering affect on sperm count and quality.
Another worrying trend is the effect of mobile phones, which release dangerous radiation and aff-ect men who carry it in their pockets, causing a decrease in antioxidant levels and leading to DNA damage to the sperm.
"Mobile phones are cooking your sperm," she warned.
Dr Sajjad stressed that a new study indicated that 47 per cent of cases among men had a reduction in both sperm quality and quantity, due to keeping mobile phones in their pockets.
Men who experience two or more stressful life events in recent years will also have poor quality sperm, she noted.
Delayed motherhood leading to infertility
For women, Dr Sajjad said infertility cases are increasing because women are also not considering the consequences of putting motherhood on hold.
When a female is conceived, she has around 7,000,000 eggs in her ovaries, and by the time she is born, she has 2,000,000-3,000,000, the doctor pointed out.
However, a whopping 11,000 eggs die every month until the female hits puberty, and from the age of puberty to 34, she loses 1,000 eggs per month. By the age of 37, the woman is left with only 25,000 in her ovaries, and by 40, she will have around 5,000.
"Women need to start looking at having children in their late 20s or early 30s, rather than leaving it until they hit 35, when fertility declines."
Moreover, although men produce sperm throughout their lives, Dr Sajjad said after the age of 45, the DNA damage in the sperm begins and their fertility also declines. "Men will have huge DNA damage in their sperm after 45. So, it's not just the women's biological clock that's ticking."
Dr Sajjad said she receives around 15 patients a day who have difficulty conceiving. The majority are between the ages of 35-45. She noted that the success rate for the patients aged 37-38 is around 45-48 per cent.
Both young men and women face infertility
Dr Human Fatemi, subspecialist Reproductive Medicine and Reproductive Surgery, Medical Director, IVI Middle East Fertility Clinic, said maternal age is one of the most important factors to help identify a woman's odds of having a baby.
According to the clinic's recent analysis, the age group of 20 to 30 is witnessing a surge in both male and female infertility factors.
The average percentage from this group is almost 15 per cent of the total patient count, which is the second highest.
He added that there has been a steady increase in female infertility cases amongst Emirati couples from this age group. "While lifestyle and eating habits are two critical factors that have led to an increase in infertility within the local age group between age 20-30, consanguinity is another very important reason for the increase in such cases amongst the Emirati population," said Dr Fatemi.
Recent research by IVI Middle East counsellors also brings to light that the largest number of infertility cases are from the age group of 35-40 in the region, with the younger age group is catching up too.
Almost 80 per cent of the clinic's patients in the UAE are Emiratis, while 20 per cent comprise other nationalities. "It seems that Emirati families face increased incidence of infertility. In females, parental consanguinity leads to a low ovarian reserve, and due to rare sun exposure of the skin, Vitamin D deficiency is very common."
KT Nano Edit: A problem aplenty
Infertility rates in the UAE have reached worrisome proportions. At this rate, it could have far reaching implications on the country's demographics and future growth. Blame infertility on stress, technology, the weight of expectations, or dietary habits. Perhaps, you need medical help or you simply have to slow down the pace. Watch that weight, treat your body right and make it happen.