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Gulf News: New technology helps childless couples conceive

Saturday, March 15th, 2014

Dubai: Zainab Habib, 34, was frustrated and felt that time was running out for her. She had been married for 11 years and still did not have a baby.

“Believe me, we tried everything; herbal medicine, Chinese medicine,” Zainab, a Nigerian, said.

A doctor then diagnosed her husband with a condition called Azoospermia, an infertility issue many men face and is commonly known to mean no sperm count.

The condition affects five per cent of infertile men and is among the various causes of sperm production problems.

In some cases, the sperm production is actually normal, but a blockage stops the sperm from reaching the ejaculate.

The doctor told the couple their only option was to find a sperm donor.

Zainab, in her desperation, made arrangements with “medical agents” in Nigeria to go to Chennai, India, for treatment.

“The tension (of not having a baby) was unbearable. I was almost giving up,” she said.

Then, Zainab’s friend, who had gone to the US for several years of infertility treatment without any success, told her about a visit her husband made to Dubai where he heard about a private fertility clinic that had a good success rate helping couples conceive.

“You cannot believe the problems my friend had,” Zainab said.

Her husband took a second wife and even she could not conceive. Her friend finally had a baby daughter three years ago after receiving treatment from the clinic.

Zainab took her friend’s advice and got treated in the clinic.

“Alhamdullilah (praise be to God), for the first time I was able to conceive,” she said. “My advice [to couples] is not to give up. The right time always comes.”

High rate

Male infertility is very high in the UAE, said Dr Michael Fakih, chairman and medical director of Fakih IVF, where Zainab and her husband received their treatment.

“In 70 per cent of the cases, the male has abnormal sperm,” he said. There are a number of reasons for male infertility; and the number one reason is men not taking care of themselves, Fakih said.

An unhealthy lifestyle, lack of exercise and the high prevalence of diabetes, causes low sperm count and reduces motility (the ability of a sperm to fertilise an egg), sexual desire and libido.

Some men marry their relative, or marry within the same tribe, and that leads to certain genes being concentrated into a spectrum of people and causes a lot of issues, one of them being infertility.

Children borne by such couples often have genetic diseases, the doctor said.

Fakih IVF offers hope to men with infertility issues such as Azoospermia, helping thouse who had given up hope of having a child, the doctor said.

“It’s a laborious surgery. You have to fish for sperms in the testicles, mapping the sperm under microscopic guidance. We try to find a good one and inject it into the egg. We have been very successful with this technique,” he said.

A high price for having a baby

Fakih said the emotional impact of infertility on couples is massive. “It’s a roller coaster ride. People are willing to sell their home to have a baby,” he said.

The doctor said he has met couples who have endured 10 to 15 In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) procedures and are “completely beaten up, financially and emotionally”.

He said it takes a toll on their marriage and often leads to depression. “There is complete unhappiness,” he said.

The doctor said a woman who had undergone numerous IVF procedures was able to conceived and gave birth in the clinic’s Abu Dhabi facility three days ago.

“The woman had undergone 13 failed IVF procedures. I remember, during the first ultrasound, the whole family came from Jordan just to see the baby’s heartbeat.”

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

The doctor said the common causes of infertility among women is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), where a woman’s hormones go out of balance, causes problems with menstruation and makes it difficult to get pregnant. Most women with PCOS grow small cysts on their ovaries, which cause hormonal imbalances.

The other reasons for infertility among women are obesity (due to improper diet), hypertension, and diabetes. “So, you have a pool of infertility,” said the doctor.

Fakih decried the common procedure to remove cysts caused by PCOS by burning the follicles.

“Unfortunately, it leaves a scar tissue and women develop secondary egg failure,” he said. “It’s double jeopardy. This adds to the problem. Only in 5 per cent (of cases) you may see an improvement. Patients need to be educated about this,” he said.