Dubai: Over 91 per cent of young men and women in the UAE have poor awareness about fertility issues and failed to correctly predict the age at which their biological clocks start ticking, a nationwide survey conducted among 1,000 UAE residents has revealed.

The survey, commissioned by the Orchid Fertility Centre at the Dubai Health Care City, was conducted by YouGov Mena.

Results were announced on Tuesday at the opening of the centre which is affiliated to Northwestern Medicine, Chicago. The survey, which included national as well as expatriate men and women, found only nine per cent of respondents correctly pointed out that a woman’s fertility declined in her late 20s, while 38 per cent of men and women believed male fertility only declined in the 50s or 60s.

Explaining the concept of the ‘biological clock’, Dr Boheira Al Geyoushi, medical director of the clinic, said: “By biological clock we mean the fertility levels of a woman which are measured by the number of eggs her ovaries produce. When a female embryo is conceived a female foetus has two million eggs. As soon as she is born, the number comes down to 500,000. By the time a girl hits puberty, she has 300,000 eggs and by the age of 30 she has a limited pool of 72,000 eggs. Every month as a 100 eggs prepare for fertilisation, only one really matures and gets ready for fertilisation which means that the rest just dwindle and die. By age 35 there is a steep decline.”

Dr Al Geyoushi emphasised that it was important for women who postpone pregnancy to know that both egg quality and quantity begin to decline in the late 20s and early 30s. Poor quality of eggs causes miscarriages, fetal abnormalities and other perinatal complications such as pre-eclampsia.

A recent Dubai Health Authority research indicates that around 50 per cent of women in the UAE face issues of infertility and this is not related to just poor reproductive health but to other factors such as obesity and metabolic disorders, consumption of processed and refined foods and a high level of stress.

The clinic provides a holistic approach to treatment of infertility and reproductive health specialists pointed out that poor lifestyle choices were one of the major reasons for rising infertility issues.

Jared Robins, chief of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Northwestern Medicine, Chicago, said: “Infertility as a disease is set to double worldwide by 2021. Smoking, obesity, diabetes and other metabolic disorders, a high level of stress and depression directly impact male and female fertility.”

He also pointed out that at their clinic in Chicago, nearly 48 per cent of patients who came in for In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) did not need it at all once they cut back on all these factors. “We do not need to pump women with hormones, and a personalised guidance to a male who has a mild suboptimal sperm count helps in resolving his fertility issues. Women report natural pregnancy after effecting a change. That is why at the Orchid clinic we are for the first time here adopting a holistic approach to fertility. IVF, we feel, is just one tool and not the only way to achieve good reproductive health,” he said.

The clinic also offers next generation genetic sequencing to screen for genetic anomalies in an embryo.

Survey fact sheet

A woman’s biological clock begins ticking once she is 27 years of age and she experiences a good decline in the number of eggs by the age of 30.

38 per cent of men and women who participated in the survey believed that male fertility only declined in the 50s or 60s and 15 per cent felt it did not decline at all.

51 per cent of respondents did not believe that being overweight affected fertility and 41 per cent did not know that smoking, which includes shisha smoking, caused infertility issues among men and women

57 per cent of respondents were not aware that diabetes was a major cause of infertility in both men and women.