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GCC rise in infertility rates caused by diet and lifestyle, say experts

A pregnant Syrian refugee woman is weighed during a check-up at a clinic managed by the French non-governmental organisation Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in the Lebanese town of Arsal in the Bekaa valley, the main crossing point for people fleeing Syria, on April 29, 2014. MSF is assisting refugees through general medical consultations including treatment of acute and chronic diseases, immunization, reproductive healthcare and mental healthcare, as well as distributing relief items. AFP PHOTO/JOSEPH EID (Photo credit should read JOSEPH EID/AFP via Getty Images)
A pregnant Syrian refugee woman is weighed during a check-up at a clinic managed by the French non-governmental organisation Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in the Lebanese town of Arsal in the Bekaa valley, the main crossing point for people fleeing Syria, on April 29, 2014 [JOSEPH EID/AFP via Getty Images]

Infertility rates in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are rising and are more than twice the global average, according to research carried out by ART Fertility Clinics, which has medical centres across the region. Global estimates of infertility are approximately 15 per cent, while data suggests that rates in GCC states are as high as 35 to 40 per cent.

"We are seeing a continuous upward trajectory in primary and secondary infertility in our region due partly to cultural and lifestyle-related issues," Al Arabiya quoted Dr Carol Coughlan, medical director of ART Fertility's clinic in Dubai as saying. "An in-depth study conducted by ART Fertility Clinics has shown that in the GCC, there are additional factors pertaining to this particular region which contribute significantly to the documented increasing infertility rates."

She added that the study highlighted "the need to add region-specific counselling and treatment modalities to the current standard evaluation of infertile couples."

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According to Dr Sandesh Kade, a gynaecologist at the same clinic, it is important that infertility is seen as both a male and female issue. "First, male and female factors must be identified to treat infertility," he said. "After the early identification of the problem, it can be corrected medically/surgically."

Research by the clinic revealed that there are many causes of infertility around the world including advanced maternal age, polycystic ovary syndrome, endometriosis, uterine fibroids and male factor infertility. Other factors may vary from country to country, and might be associated with climate, social, cultural, economic or religious disparities.

"The prevalence of obesity is rising globally with the Middle Eastern regions notably reporting extremely high obesity rates," said the clinic. "A sedentary lifestyle, lack of physical exercise, and high-calorie diets are common contributory factors to the increasing prevalence of obesity." The latter, it added, "seems to be related to an increased risk of infertility due to hormonal irregularities and ovulatory dysfunction."

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