Frozen embryos to be destroyed this month

A Dubai fertility centre says it will destroy frozen embryos this month, to comply with federal law.

UAE - Dubai - May 31- 2011: Nadine Truscott with her baby Skye, during an event that celebrate over 180 babies who were born as a result of fertility treatments at the Dubai Gynaecology and Fertility Centre in Dubai Healthcare City.  ( Jaime Puebla - The National Newspaper )
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DUBAI // Nadine Truscott tried to get pregnant for two years before conceiving her daughter, Skye, now 14 months old, following fertility treatment.

"It is emotionally draining, but we had an amazing result and we might be back this year," said Mrs Truscott, 37, of Australia. "I would tell mothers that want babies not to waste time."

Her child was one of more than 180 the Dubai Gynaecology and Fertility Centre (DGFC) helped bring into being in 2009 and 2010 and whose birth was celebrated by a reunion of families at the centre's premises in Dubai Healthcare City yesterday.

The children were conceived using various treatments, one of which is being phased out completely this month.

The practice of storing frozen embryos for in-vitro fertilisation was banned in 2008 by the Ministry of Health, but the DGFC has been allowed to continue using those embryos already frozen for those women deemed special cases. The DGFC will have to destroy its remaining frozen embryos this month. Other forms of in-vitro fertilisation remain legal.

Dr Awatif al Bahar, the centre's medical director, said: "[The ministry] looked at it from a human point of view and gave us a year and a half until this June for certain medical or social reasons."

Dr al Bahar, who is also a consultant in obstetrics, gynaecology and endocrine infertility at the Dubai Health Authority, said there were not many frozen embryos left in storage, as most couples were already aware of the law.

Last year, it was estimated that the centre was storing 5,000 frozen embryos. The number of embryos it is currently storing was not immediately available.

Dr al Bahar added that the centre was still waiting for some couples to collect their embryos.

"Some couples left the country and some of them migrated and some got older. We wrote to them, put it in the newspaper, called them and e-mailed. If they don't answer, we are allowed [to dispose of the embryos] because they did not turn up to ask about their own embryo."

In some cases, many years have passed since the eggs were harvested.

"Anything above 10 years, we do not know if they exist and others may be over the age of 55," Dr al Bahar said. "Until now, we have had the chance to get in touch with the patients who may still want to use their frozen embryos."

The pregnancy rate for couples with frozen embryos last year was 40.5 per cent, according to the centre's statistics. The rate for those using non-frozen embryos was 49 per cent.

DGFC was the first fertility centre in the UAE, and has been operating for 20 years. The centre moved to its current location in Dubai Healthcare City in 2009. The total cost for IVF treatment at the centre is Dh22,000 for local and expatriate couples.

"We helped deliver over 180 babies in 2009 and 2010 ... our success rate at the centre is over 55 per cent for 2011, at par if not better than leading institutes around the world," Dr Awatif said.

"One of our success stories involves a patient who has been trying to get pregnant for 30 years and finally did."

The centre has also stored eggs and sperm for married couples receiving chemotherapy and those suffering illnesses that threaten their ability to reproduce in the future.

At the reunion yesterday, Hassan al Buloushi, the father of nine-month-old twins Meera and Mansour, said that even after 15 years of marriage, he and his wife never gave up hope of becoming parents. His wife, Umm Mansour, 30, said: "We started treatment in 2009 and it took about a year ... we could not believe it when we found out. I have my hands full with them now, but I would tell other mums to keep trying and never lose hope."

Clare Barker, 35, came to the event with her one-year-old triplets Megan, Oliver and Zac.

"I knew that I wanted to be a mum because I just love kids," said Ms Barker, who started IVF treatment at the end of 2009.

"We found out we were pregnant on Valentine's Day 2010, so it was extra special. We were over the moon. I advise mums to go into it with an open mind and to stay strong."