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Dubai: Obesity and Vitamin D deficiency are among the top factors triggering major problems in women’s reproductive health in the UAE affecting child birth and also leading to other health complications such as cancer and cardio vascular diseases, said a top specialist ahead of an international conference being held in Dubai.

Dr Amala Nazareth, obstetrician and gynaecologist and secretary general of the Emirates Medical Association, as well as representative of the International Federation of gynaecologists and Obstetricians spoke to Gulf News about the major issues impacting women’s health ahead of the three-day conference being held from April 11-13.

Dr Nazareth said: “The biggest concern in 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 Poly Cystic Ovaries Syndrome (PCOS), hypothyroidism, metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance that contribute to infertility.”

The problems women face in the UAE are certainly different from those in the third world countries, where issue such as the lack of resources, poor maternal health, surgical expertise, poor access to training and protective equipment are bigger concerns. But the problems women face here regarding their reproductive health get complicated because of other stress and lifestyle factors.

One such issues is Vitamin D deficiency. Despite abundant sunshine, 90 per cent of the UAE population suffers from Vitamin D deficiency.

Alerting to the dangers of Vitamin D deficiency, US endocrinologist Professor Michael Holick in an earlier interview to Gulf News had cautioned “Vitamin D deficiency is a major health issue around the world and in the UAE. Adults require to have 2,000 units of Vitamin D per day. Pregnant women who have a Vitamin D deficiency have a higher risk of pre-eclampsia and premature delivery. Studies also indicate that children born to Vitamin D-deficient women can suffer from conditions such as schizophrenia, asthma and some forms of development disorders.

Dr Nazareth complemented that: “Research evidence suggest a strong relationship between vitamin D deficiency and infertility, especially with regards to IVF failure. 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. During pregnancy, Vitamin D helps 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.”

Lack of awareness about reproductive health issues as well as certain inhibitions are blocking the way of education on these topics among women said Dr Nazareth. “We need awareness campaigns at both big platforms and at individual level to educate women on how to avoid illness with wellness. 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,” observed Dr Nazareth.

She also added that women needed to be constantly updated and educated on the health concerns they needed to address. “Women need constant reminders vis-a-vis diet and exercise to counter the prevalent obesity problem. Incorporating the right diet in daily life and a healthy balanced lifestyle to keep the body mind and spirit healthy is of utmost importance in maintaining good health and avoiding diseases of any kind.”

The top five health issues impacting women’s reproductive health in the UAE:

1 PCOS: One of the biggest causes of fertility issues among women, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome can be recognised by irregular or prolonged menstrual cycle. Besides infertility, PCOS can also cause gestational diabetes, miscarriage, Type 2 diabetes, endometrial cancer, sleep apnoea, anxiety and eating disorders, and depression.

2. Fibroids: While women with fibroids can conceive, the chances of fertility reduce. For example, fibroids can block Fallopian tubes or change the shape of the cervix, affecting the number of sperm that enter the uterus. When a women is pregnant, fibroids weaken the uterine cavity lining or decrease blood supply to embryo, potentially resulting in miscarriage.

3. Endometriosis: The relationship between endometriosis and infertility remains unclear; however the fact remains that a significant number of women with endometriosis face difficulty getting pregnant. This could be because endometriosis may obstruct the Fallopian tube, making it difficult for the egg to unite with the sperm.

4. Obesity and metabolic syndrome: Obese women can experience hormonal imbalance and irregular menstrual cycle, which can affect their ovulation, reducing their chances to conceive.

5. Cardio vascular disease and cancer: All the above four factors are triggers of cardiovascular diseases and cancer which are on the rise in UAE.