Obesity rates in women among the UAE's greatest public health challenges, say doctors

DHA report on International Women’s Day raises concerns about weight and fertility

FILE - In this June 26, 2012 file photo, two women converse in New York. New government figures released Friday, Oct. 13, 2017 showed small increases that were not considered statistically significant but were seen by some as a cause for concern. The adult obesity rate rose from to about 40 percent, from just shy of 38 percent. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
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One of the biggest issues facing women of childbearing age in the region is obesity, according to a report from Dubai's Department of Health.

With improvements in healthcare and in the care of women during pregnancy and childbirth over the last century, the high prevalence of obesity in the region is now posing the biggest challenge to reproductive health.

“Obesity really affects a woman’s health in many ways; it can cause fertility issues and complications during pregnancy and childbirth,” said Dr Muna Tahlak, CEO of Latifa Hospital.

“Despite advances in fertility treatments, sadly rising obesity rates around the world have had a negative impact on female reproductive health.”

The hospital saw a high number of patients who are overweight or obese attending clinics for pre-pregnancy counselling; however, women’s bodies need to be at an appropriate weight to be introduced to fertility options.

Another doctor at Latifa Hospital said women with a BMI of 35 or above would not be offered fertility options due to the risks posed by being overweight.

“It is not uncommon to see patients who weigh 80 to 90 kilograms before their pregnancy; we even have patients who weigh more than 100 kgs and approach us for fertility counselling,” said Dr Amal Al Qedrah, consultant gynaecologist and infertility specialist at the hospital.

She also said the first thing they do is devise a comprehensive lifestyle modification plan for obese women that includes consumption of healthy food and regular exercise.

“In many cases, weight loss itself can solve several fertility problems such as irregular periods and helps boost fertility as it regulates the hormones in the body.”

Dr Al Qedrah said women’s bodies need to be at an appropriate weight to produce the right amount of hormones and regulate ovulation and menstruation, while women who have polycystic ovaries are at a higher risk of putting on weight and they need to take extra care to ensure they do not pile on the pounds.

Obesity can also increase the chances of having a C-section delivery by 20 per cent.

“Obesity is linked to a higher chance of developing several diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease,” she said.

The issue was discussed by DHA doctors to raise awareness on women’s health to mark International Women’s Day.