Why experts seek change in UAE law on frozen embryos
A number of patients are travelling abroad seeking treatment as fertility rates dip among Emiratis
Earlier this month, lawmakers in the UAE called for a change in the law that could allow for preservation of frozen embryos as part of fertility treatment in the UAE.
The Federal National Council (FNC) debated the issue with Abdul Rahman Al Owais, Minister of Health and Prevention, on why the Federal Law No?11 of 2008 on fertilisation centres does now allow fertilised eggs to be stored.
A number of patients are travelling abroad seeking treatment as fertility rates dip among Emiratis. An Emirati family has three children on an average now as compared to seven in the 1970s according to a report released recently.
Fertility experts, while responding to the proposal, said that the change could bring physical and psychological relief to many couples seeking IVF treatment which was also a costly affair.
Dr David Robertson, group medical director at Bourn Hall Fertility Centre, said: "In many In vitro Fertilisation (IVF) treatments, there are 'left-over' embryos that are not transferred in to the patient and these can often be frozen for future use.
"This might be if treatment is not successful the first time, or it could be after delivery when the couple wants to have another child. Frozen embryo treatment is much simpler as it is not necessary to give hormone injections to stimulate the ovaries, or do another operation to collect eggs. This makes the treatment simpler, cheaper and avoids some of the complications that can be associated with a stimulated cycle," he explained.
He also said that being allowed to freeze embryos also means that "we can carry out genetic testing of them at a later stage when it is more accurate. Currently, we have to do this early, when the embryo is less developed, so that there is time to replace the embryo into the patient. This is an especially important point in this region, where genetic disease is common."
Dr Gautam Allahbadia, IVF consultant and head of Aster IVF and Women Clinic, said that embryo freezing is a common part of the IVF procedure. "Embryo freezing by vitrification today is the only real advance in assisted reproductive techniques after the introduction of intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) nearly 15 years ago."
"Today it is scientifically proven that a deferred embryo transfer after vitrification and accumulation of embryos increases the take home baby rates significantly. Further the babies born from vitrified-thawed embryos have been known to have better body weights at birth."
He said that many patients undergoing IVF have 'leftover' embryos that could be frozen for future use. "This means that the woman need not undergo treatment with stimulating drugs every time she has treatment, thus reducing the inconvenience and cost for them."
"Many women in this region, especially of Gulf Arabian nationality have polycystic ovaries, which makes them susceptible to over-stimulation of the ovaries. This is potentially dangerous and can even be life-threatening. If embryo freezing were permitted, this would reduce the likelihood of this complication arising and make fertility treatment safer for these women. Because of their condition, many of these women need IVF treatment," he added.