Dubai is one of the top global destinations for medical tourism because of its quality of healthcare and strategic geographical position which is very convenient for foreigners, said Dr Pankaj Shrivastav, founder of Conceive Gynaecology & Fertility Hospital.
Dr Shrivastav said the emirate provides immense expertise in reproductive medicine compared to other major cities of the world.
Highlighting the current status of fertility in the UAE, he said: “The situation is not so different from the rest of the world. All over the world, 15 per cent of couples are unable to have a family or have the desired family size. But there are a few local issues that are more specific to this part of the world.”
Dubai receives a vast number of patients from South Asia (India, Pakistan and Afghanistan), from the Middle East (Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, etc), from central Asia (Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan) and from Africa (Nigeria, Egypt, Morocco, Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti). “Nigeria, in particular, has contributed a great deal to medical tourism here due to its declining economy,” he informed.
Responding to a question about the latest treatments being launched regionally and globally, Dr Shrivastav said: “First and foremost, people have begun to accept that infertility isn’t uncommon in prevalence and they’re beginning to seek infertility treatment at an earlier stage.”
Consanguineous couples [those marrying first- or second-degree relatives] are a major cause of high infertility in the Gulf, according to a latest study. The study further highlights that there are differences in treating GCC patients compared to Western patients due to cultural and social issues.
“Slowly and surely, the stigma attached to the condition is declining. Most couples know at least one or two others in their immediate circle of friends who have sought the help of reproductive medicine and are less afraid themselves to embark on the course,” Dr Shrivastav said.
Couples are much better informed and most have researched on the topic through the Internet and are aware of assisted reproductive techniques (ART).
Talking about new developments, he focused on pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGS) in particular. The thrust is towards increasing the success rate of each and every treatment.
Dr Shrivastav said it is important for couples to choose a centre based on its track record and reputation. He added that they also conduct consultations holistically, dealing with all aspects such as diet, lifestyle, emotional and mental support through counselling to actual medical procedures and techniques.
“It’s extremely important because if the patients are in poor physical health, i.e. hormonal imbalance, obesity, etc., they are less likely to make healthy gametes i.e. eggs and sperms. Before we embark on any fertility treatment, we try to detect any health issues that exist and encourage the couple to lose weight to optimise the outcome of the treatment,” he added.
Dr Shrivastav mentioned that lifestyle was the biggest factor compromising a person’s fertility. “Obesity, sugar intake, sedentary lifestyles, smoking of shisha and cigarettes, high alcohol consumption, recreational drugs, high radiation exposure and bisphenol from plastics all hinder fertility,” he added.
“The exact cause has not been elucidated but it’s probably related to the increased use of pesticides and toxic chemicals, which enter the water table,” he added.
“Those that are less well-off financially find ART limiting because insurance companies are unwilling to bear the charges. I expect research will be directed towards being able to choose the most viable embryo to put back after ART,” he said.
“I expect there will be better culture systems to grow embryos in the most optimal way and techniques such as PGS, embryo copy and evaluation of the uterus lining to boost the success rates of conceiving,” he concluded.