What is infertility?

According to Dr Diana Kayal, specialist in reproductive medicine and infertility at Bourn Hall Fertility Centre in Dubai, infertility is the inability to conceive naturally after trying for a year or more. ‘We advise women under 35 to try for a year before seeing a fertility doctor, and women who are over 35 to try for six months.’

What are the most common medical causes of infertility?

Causes differ between men and women, says Dr Eset Dzeygova, specialist obstetrician and gynaecologist at Dubai Herbal and Treatment Centre. In women, it can be due to an ovulation disorder, problems in the fallopian tube and early menopause. Among men, it can be because of abnormal sperm production or overexposure to toxins such as pesticides and other chemicals. ‘Smoking, alcohol, [drug use] or certain medications, such as select antibiotics and anabolic steroids, can affect fertility among men. Heat, such as in saunas or hot tubs, can raise the core body temperature and may affect sperm production too,’ she adds.

How many times should a couple try assisted conception?

Dr Diana says it depends on the health of the couple. ‘It is recommended that the couple takes a break between IVF cycles. This allows the body to heal, and gives the couple time to recover emotionally. We recommend a couple try IVF a maximum of 5-6 times, and if it’s not successful, we suggest other options.’

Dr Diana Kayal debunks some infertility myths

Age: This is the single most important factor in determining your fertility, irrespective of how healthy your lifestyle has been. Fertility significantly diminishes after the age of 30, even if a woman already has children. ‘The number of women facing secondary infertility [inability to have another child] has seen an alarming increase,’ she says.

Birth control: In general, hormonal contraception will not harm fertility in the long term. ‘IUDs are occasionally associated with pelvic inflammation, which can affect fertility, but is uncommon.’

Genetic/family history: Genes and familial history only play a role when associated with a medical condition that could lead to infertility. ‘For instance, if there is a family history of diabetes, thyroid or PCOS, it could lead to an increased risk of infertility issues.’

Egg supply: A low ovarian reserve doesn’t mean you can’t get pregnant. ‘It just means you have less time to do it, as the quantity of eggs in your ovaries declines over time. This doesn’t mean the quality of your eggs isn’t good.’

Hormone medication: There is no evidence to show that taking ovary-stimulating medication during IVF leads to ovarian cancer. It doesn’t deplete egg supply and won’t lead to an early menopause.