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Dubai: Women in the UAE should focus on maintaining a healthier lifestyle to improve their reproductive health since obesity is among the top health issues that affect pregnancy and child birth, warns Dr Amala Nazareth.

Dr Nazareth, an obstetrician and gynaecologist and secretary-general of the Emirates Medical Association, was speaking at a press conference on the International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) Regional Conference of the Middle East and Africa.

The three-day congress on women’s health issues starting on Wednesday in Dubai will have over 80 speakers talking about the main issues related to women’s reproductive health.

“The biggest concern in the UAE is obesity that is leading to infertility. Most women have a Basal metabolic index (BMI) of over 30, probably due to work stress, sedentary lifestyles, and improper eating habits. These trigger several factors such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), hypothyroidism, metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance that contribute to infertility,” said Dr Nazareth.

Other factors that impact women’s reproductive health include Vitamin D deficiency, endometriosis, cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Despite abundant sunshine, 90 per cent of the UAE population suffers from Vitamin D deficiency.

“The active form of Vitamin D — calcitriol — not just controls the oestrogen content in a woman, but many other genes that are involved in embryo implantation,” explained Dr Nazareth.

During pregnancy, Vitamin D is required to fight infections, and its supplementation contributes to egg cell maturation in women affected by PCOS. Women who are Vitamin D deficient can face hormonal imbalance making them prone to miscarriage. Lack of vitamin D can also result in complications, such as gestational hypertension and diabetes,

The doctor also noted that women needed to be constantly updated and educated on the health concerns, stressing that women need constant reminders with regards to diet and exercise to counter the prevalent obesity problem.

“We need awareness campaigns to educate women on how to avoid illness. Most women do not understand or realise the constant repercussions of daily stress of work, job and family life which can have a huge toll on a normally healthy individual,” she observed.