Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 March 2018

Dubai doctors warn against cheaper IVF treatments at the cost of extra risks

Older women looking to conceive via IVF treatment are taking extra risks by using clinics offering cut-price deals, a leading fertility doctor has said.

Pankaj Shrivastav established the country’s first fertility unit. Satish Kumar / The National
Pankaj Shrivastav established the country’s first fertility unit. Satish Kumar / The National

DUBAI // Older women looking to conceive through IVF are taking extra risks by going to clinics offering cheaper prices, a leading fertility doctor has said.

Some clinics can charge as much as Dh45,000 for a single cycle of IVF treatment, but smaller centres are offering the same course of fertilisation for less than half of that.

Dr Pankaj Shrivastav, director of Conceive Fertility Hospital in Jumeirah Lakes Towers, said all clinics were licensed but smaller centres with inexperienced staff offering cheap services could be risky.

“In complication cases, most women would have come from the smaller clinics,” said Dr Shrivastav, who established the UAE’s first government fertility unit.

“One issue is hyper-stimulation, where the woman makes a huge number of eggs and her ovaries become very large.

“She can end up in intensive care. Deaths have been reported in Dubai from this.”

The emotional trauma of not becoming pregnant because of complications through faulty equipment is also a problem, Dr Shrivastav said.

Rates of infertility in women increase with age.

At a pregnancy conference supported by the Ministry of Health this week, doctors from the Dubai Gynaecology and Fertility Centre said women aged 40 to 44 had a 29 per cent risk of being infertile, and women aged 35 to 39 were 22 per cent more likely.

Those aged 30 to 34 were said to have a 15 per cent chance of infertility – twice that of those aged 25 to 29.

Success rates for IVF also largely depend on age. In women under 30 there is a 50 per cent success rate, but at 40 there is a 20 per cent chance of conception and between 5 and 10 per cent for those over 43.

Incubators used for IVF cost about Dh100,000. Micro-manipulators to inject individual sperm into an egg are also expensive, at Dh200,000.

“If an incubator is faulty I would call an engineer and have it replaced immediately,” Dr Shrivastav said.

“Smaller clinics may not have the means to buy a replacement, but still stay open.”

The law is very clear on licensing, with strict requirements on staff levels, qualifications and equipment.

Dr Awatif Al Bahar, a senior consultant at Dubai Gynaecology and Fertility Centre who is also the head of the IVF board in the UAE, said there were many options for older women.

“IVF is free for locals through the Dubai Health Authority and Sharjah University is also to open an IVF centre,” Dr Al Bahar said.

Women can improve their chances of conceiving naturally by staying healthy and exercising regularly. Medication can also affect fertility, particularly steroids.

South African bank worker Belinda Schmarr, who has had two children through IVF clinics in Sharjah and Dubai, said she was made fully aware of the risks and success rates by doctors.

In Dubai, Ms Schmarr’s procedure cost Dh40,000, but just Dh20,000 in Sharjah.

“I was 33 when I had my first child and 36 for the second,” she said. “The clinics I chose were recommended first in Dubai by my doctor and then by a work friend in Sharjah for my second child.

“I had little knowledge of the process the first time around in 2010. You are treated like cattle.

“There were a lot of blood tests and it was very expensive in Dubai. I had to inject myself everyday with hormones.”