Experts from Aster Hospitals and Clinics delve into the topics of women’s health, infertility diagnosis and treatment, pregnancy well-being, and more
The journey to parenthood is an exciting one, but for many couples, it can also be a challenging path.
Infertility, defined as the inability to conceive after a year of regular, unprotected intercourse, is a growing concern worldwide, affecting both men and women. In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the issue of infertility is becoming increasingly prevalent, with an estimated one in six couples requiring assisted conception to fulfill their dream of having a child. In this article, we will delve into the topics of women’s health, infertility diagnosis and treatment, assisted reproductive technology, pregnancy well-being, and high-risk pregnancy management and care, shedding light on potential solutions and treatment options available to couples in the UAE.
WOMEN’S HEALTH AND GETTING PREGNANT
Women’s health plays a vital role in their ability to conceive. Several factors can contribute to infertility in women, including ovulation disorders, hormonal imbalances, structural abnormalities in the reproductive organs, and conditions such as endometriosis. Age, obesity, excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, and certain medical conditions or medications can also impact fertility. To address these issues, it is crucial for women to prioritize their overall well-being, maintain a healthy lifestyle, and seek medical assistance if they encounter difficulties in getting pregnant.
Dr. Meenakshi Karthikraj, Specialist Obstetrics & Gynecology at Aster Clinic, Ras Al Khor and International City, emphasizes the importance of seeking medical assistance to determine the cause of infertility and explore treatment options. By undergoing a series of tests and evaluations conducted by fertility specialists, couples can gain insights into their specific situation and access various treatments available, including medications, surgical procedures, and assisted reproductive technologies like ovulation induction, intrauterine insemination(IUI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF).
INFERTILITY — DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT
Infertility is a complex issue that can have multiple underlying causes. Both men and women may experience challenges when it comes to fertility. In men, low sperm count, poor sperm motility, or abnormalities in sperm production or function can contribute to infertility. In women, hormonal imbalances, structural abnormalities in the reproductive organs, or conditions such as endometriosis are common culprits.
To diagnose infertility, couples should consult with fertility specialists who will conduct a series of tests and evaluations. These may include semen analysis for men, hormonal tests, imaging tests to assess the reproductive organs, follicular monitoring for funtional assessment and procedures such as Hysterosalpingography (HSG) to evaluate the fallopian tubes’ condition. Based on the diagnosis, appropriate treatments can be recommended, ranging from lifestyle modifications and medication to surgical procedures and assisted reproductive technologies.
PRE-PREGNANCY: STEPS TO TAKE BEFORE YOU GET PREGNANT
Dr. Indira Venkataraman, Specialist Obstetrics & Gynecology at Aster Clinic, Muteena, Deira, highlights the importance of preconception health care and the steps couples should take before getting pregnant. Consulting with a doctor or healthcare provider is crucial during this phase to discuss various aspects of preconception health. The doctor will assess the individual’s health history, including any medical conditions that could affect pregnancy, previous pregnancy problems, current medications, and the need for vaccinations. Additionally, the family’s health history will be evaluated, and steps to be taken before pregnancy to prevent certain birth defects will be discussed.
As part of preconception care, individuals may need to undergo blood tests to evaluate their overall health. It may also be necessary to make changes in medications or manage long-term health problems such as diabetes mellitus and hypertension to ensure stability before getting pregnant. Taking vitamins and folic acid supplements is highly recommended during this stage. Additionally, adopting a healthy lifestyle by quitting smoking, avoiding alcohol and drugs, limiting caffeine intake, and maintaining a balanced diet and exercise can contribute to preconception health. Finally, reducing stress and practicing relaxation techniques while trying to conceive are advised.
GESTATIONAL DIABETES MELLITUS (GDM)
Dr. Sunitha Mary Mathew, Specialist Obstetrics and Laparoscopic Gynaecology at Aster Hospital, Al Qusais, emphasizes the significance of early diagnosis of Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM) for better pregnancy outcomes. GDM refers to high blood sugar levels that develop during pregnancy in women who did not previously have diabetes. Early diagnosis allows for the implementation of appropriate management strategies to ensure a healthier pregnancy for both the mother and the baby.
To identify the risk of GDM, HbA1C (glycated hemoglobin) levels can be measured in the first trimester of pregnancy. Elevated HbA1C levels during this period may suggest pre-existing diabetes or a higher likelihood of complications associated with GDM. In such cases, closer monitoring and management throughout the pregnancy become essential.
Consulting with a healthcare professional is crucial for specific concerns related to GDM and pregnancy. They can provide guidance on diagnosis, management options, and the necessary steps to maintain stable blood sugar levels throughout pregnancy.
Once a woman becomes pregnant, her focus shifts to ensuring a healthy pregnancy and the well-being of her growing baby. Proper antenatal care plays a crucial role in achieving this goal. Dr. Danu Chandradas, Specialist Obstetrics & Gynecology at Aster Hospital Sharjah, emphasizes the significance of regular antenatal visits and monitoring various health parameters such as blood pressure, weight, and baby’s growth.
During antenatal visits, blood investigations are conducted to rule out conditions like diabetes, anemia, thyroid disorders, Rh incompatibility, and infections. Additionally, ultrasound scans, including the nuchal translucency (NT) scan, anomaly scan, and growth scan, are performed in each trimester to assess the baby’s development. Women are advised to take supplements containing folic acid, iron, and calcium, maintain a healthy diet, get adequate sleep, and avoid harmful habits such as smoking, alcohol consumption, and the use of recreational drugs. Ensuring proper immunization is also crucial for both the mother and the baby’s health.
HIGH-RISK PREGNANCY - MANAGEMENT AND CARE
In some cases, pregnancies are considered high-risk due to medical conditions that can affect the health of the mother, fetus, or both. Dr. Isha Amarnath, Specialist Obstetrics & Gynecology at Aster Clinic, Arjan, highlights several risk factors that can contribute to a high-risk pregnancy. These include advanced maternal age (over 35 or under 17), lifestyle factors like smoking and substance abuse, and pre-existing medical conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, renal disease, thyroid disorders, autoimmune diseases, obesity, anemia, fibroids, heart diseases, seizure disorders, and a history of genetic diseases.
Managing a high-risk pregnancy requires specialized care and close monitoring by obstetricians and other medical specialists. Preconception counseling is crucial to optimize health before pregnancy, which involves abstaining from harmful substances, maintaining a healthy weight through physical activity and a balanced diet, and managing pre-existing health conditions. Identifying warning signs during pregnancy, such as reduced fetal movement, vaginal bleeding or discharge, fever, severe headaches, abdominal pain, and other concerning symptoms, necessitates immediate consultation with healthcare providers.
Dr. Rethu C J, Specialist Obstetrics & Gynecology at Aster Hospital, Mankhool, emphasizes the importance of planning pregnancies for individuals with known diseases like seizure disorders, diabetes, and hypertension. By having these conditions under control and optimizing medication before conception, many complications can be avoided. Furthermore, closer follow-up with obstetricians and maternal-fetal specialists, as well as careful monitoring of conditions like blood pressure and blood sugar levels, ensures early detection of any issues and the implementation of appropriate treatment strategies.
Ultimately, the journey to parenthood may present challenges for couples struggling with infertility, but advancements in medical science and assisted reproductive technologies offer hope. Seeking medical assistance to diagnose the cause of infertility and explore appropriate treatments is the first step. Additionally, prioritizing women’s health, receiving proper antenatal care, and managing high-risk pregnancies through specialized care are essential factors in ensuring a healthy pregnancy and the well-being of both the mother and the baby. With the guidance and expertise of healthcare professionals, couples in the UAE can navigate the path to parenthood and achieve their dream of starting a family.
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