80% success rate for IVF a myth: UAE experts

Jasmine Al Kuttab/Abu Dhabi
Filed on July 29, 2018 | Last updated on July 29, 2018 at 06.21 am
Health experts warn that there are clinics in UAE, which mislead couples desperate for an offspring.
Health experts warn that there are clinics in UAE, which mislead couples desperate for an offspring.

The biochemical pregnancy rate for women under the age of 35 is around 80 per cent.

Thousands of UAE couples are being duped by 'infertility myths' peddled by money-making clinics, according to Abu Dhabi-based health experts.

"There are so many IVF misconceptions, especially about the 80 per cent success rate," Dr Yasmin Sajjad, consultant obstetrics and gynaecologist/reproductive endocrinology, Burjeel Hospital, Abu Dhabi, told Khaleej Times.

"This information is wrong. The truth is, IVF success rate is nowhere in the world near 80 per cent," said Dr Sajjad.

She added that some clinics in the UAE are misleading couples, and not informing them about the "real" chances of taking a full term baby home.

She said there are three stages of pregnancy: Biochemical -when the pregnancy test reveals 'positive' around 14 days after the embryo is placed inside the uterus; clinical pregnancy - which is when the heartbeat of the baby is verified; and final stage is the 'live' birth.

Dr Sajjad added that the biochemical pregnancy rate for women under the age of 35 is around 80 per cent. However, after the biochemical pregnancy rate, there is a 20-25 per cent drop until reaching the clinical pregnancy stage (60 per cent).

Moreover, there is another drop of 10-15 per cent in reaching the third and final stage, which is the full term live birth.

"Any woman under the age of 35 with good ovarian reserve and no other comorbidity has 35-40 per cent chance of taking her baby home." Meanwhile, if the woman is above the age of 35, the success of IVF drops to around 20 per cent or less.

Financial burden

Dr Sajjad stressed that it is not just the misleading success rate that is deceiving couples, but also the costs advertised by the clinics around the UAE.

While some women can conceive from the first IVF cycle, others may require eight cycles to conceive, which also means, a huge financial burden.

IVF is not covered by insurance, and only Thika Insurance gives three IVF cycles a year. Therefore, thousands of couples without the insurance are paying as much as Dh45,000 per cycle. "But some clinics advertise they do IFV for Dh15,000-Dh20,000."

Another common IVF myth is about the ovarian reserve. Dr Sajjad said many doctors often tell patients that treatments can increase or improve their egg reserve, which is "never the case."

"The egg reserve never increases, it actually decreases with each passing year."

Moreover, she explained that if a woman at the age of 38 has an ovarian reserve of 0.01 - the chance of a success story is only one-two per cent. "Many fertility centres still do the treatment on such patients, because they want to put the patient's money in their pockets. As a result, the patient is put through such an emotional roller coaster ride and subjected to the risk of medications."

Moreover, she said the greatest cause of infertility is due to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Around 85 per cent of the female population in the UAE have PCOS, while it around 25-30 per cent globally.

Infertility on the rise

Dr Archana Ashtekar, specialist - obstetrics and gynecology, Bareen International Hospital, said infertility among women is growing in the UAE, in which causes many patients turn to expensive IVF treatments, without conducting thorough research.

According to the World Bank data, 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.

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.

Moreover, according to Dubai Health Authority (DHA), around 50 per cent of women face infertility issues in the UAE.

Statistics also show that women in Dubai seeking treatment per year could nearly double, from 5,975 in 2015 to 9,139 by 2030.

Dr Ashtekar investigates the patients and other possible roots they can take, prior to going through the option of IVF. "Everyday I am seeing around six patients, and from the investigations, I am treating them accordingly."

She pointed out that more than 50 per cent of her patients are Emirati. "There needs to be a proper selection of patients suitable for IVF treatments, such as those suffering from PCOS and those of advanced age."

She pointed out that the proper selection of the protocol for ovulation induction is vital, with a consideration of hormonal imbalances.

Dr Ashtekar said the top causes of infertility in the UAE is obesity, hormonal imbalances and advanced age.

"The incidents of obesity and PCOS are extremely high in the UAE."

She warned that the incidents of male infertility in the UAE is also high, and mainly caused by unhealthy lifestyle choices.

Growth of IVF hasn't solved 'heartbreak of infertility'

A recent report by Philippa Taylor, Head of Public Policy, Christian Medical Fellowship (CMF), based in UK has said that growth of IVF treatment has not solved the "heartbreak of infertility."

The report reveals that it is estimated that more than 7 million babies have been born as a result of IVF and other assisted reproduction treatments (ART).

"If rates stay at current levels, then an estimated 157 million people alive will owe their lives to assisted reproductive technologies at the end of the century."

"While the IVF industry and media focus on and market the success stories, the average delivery rate from ART treatments are around just 19 per cent per cycle - a global failed recycle rate of around 80 per cent."

Taylor, who is a leading bioethicist, pointed out that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority reports a success rate of 26.5 per cent, which means that 73.5 per cent of cycles do not lead to a birth.

The industry in the UK alone is estimated to be worth over 600,000 (Dh3billion).

The intervention by the doctors group comes as global fertility rates continue to decline, with the World Bank finding they have halved since 1960.

She warns that too many women are being duped by stories of celebrities in their 50s, who with the help of IVF, find it relatively quick and easy to conceive.

"Even a woman under 35 years has less than a one in three chance of having a baby per embryo transferred."

She pointed out that a woman in her early 40s only has about a one in ten chance of having a baby per embryo transferred, and the success rate drops to a mere two per cent for women over 44.

"This is highly relevant in a time when more and more women are delaying childbirth to concentrate on jobs and careers. IVF heartbreak is real. IVF is no guarantee of success. Added to this is the significant financial, emotional and physical toll that IVF can have on women."

The top three IVF myths

1-Success rate: Some clinics and doctors inform patients that the success rate of IVF is around 80 per cent. However, the real success rate of taking a full-term baby home is around 35-40 per cent for women under 35.

2-Costs: IVF clinics and doctors advertise misleading costs of IVF treatments. Each cycle can go up to Dh40,000-45,000, whereas some clinics in the UAE advertise it for around Dh15,000.

3-Ovarian reserve: Many clinics give hope to older women that are trying to conceive, by telling them they can improve or increase their egg count, which is impossible, as the egg count decreases with age.

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