6. The "ART" of Making Babies Using In Vitro Fertilization: Assisted Reproduction Technologies in the United Arab Emirates
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87 6 The“ART”of Making Babies Using In Vitro Fertilization Assisted Reproduction Technologies in the United Arab Emirates Shirin Karsan For millions of couples around the world, the inability to have children is a personal tragedy. For a significant proportion, the private agony is compounded by social stigma, which can have serious and far-reaching consequences (Cui 2010). This is particularly apparent in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a society that can be broadly characterized as pronatalist (Doaa 2001). With increasing access to fertility centers providing assisted reproduction technologies (ARTs) in the UAE, Emirati couples facing infertility—medically defined as the inability to conceive after twelve months of appropriately timed intercourse —hope to fulfill their desire for children by using technologies such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) for infertility treatment. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ARTs include all fertility treatments in which both eggs and sperm are handled. In general, ART procedures involve removing eggs from a woman’s ovaries, combining them with sperm in the laboratory, and transferring a newly-formed blastocyst to a woman’s body (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention n.d.). ARTs are differentiated from treatments, such as intrauterine insemination , in which only sperm are handled and from procedures in which a woman takes medicine to stimulate egg production without having eggs retrieved . IVF is usually reserved for instances in which the woman has blocked or damaged fallopian tubes, the man has a low sperm count, or both. The typical IVF cycle begins with drug treatments designed to control ovulation. One common method is to take five days of nasally administered gonadotropin-releasing hormone analog to shut down the ovaries, followed by ten days of injections of follicle-stimulating hormone designed to spur the production of multiple eggs. Blood tests and ultrasound exams help de- 88   Abortion Pills, Test Tube Babies, and Sex Toys termine the best time to retrieve eggs from follicles in the ovaries, which typically occurs about thirty-six hours after an injection of human chorionic gonadotropin. Once retrieved and nutritionally prepped, the woman’s eggs are then mixed with sperm and incubated in a glass dish for two to five days as the fertilized eggs develop (despite popular terminology, this is not done in a test tube). Selected eggs are then placed in the woman’s uterus by means of a catheter inserted through the vagina and cervix, and the patient remains in bed for the next several hours. Often, multiple eggs are implanted to improve the chance of pregnancy, although this also increases the risk of a high-order multiple pregnancy (defined as three or more fetuses). Any remaining embryos are typically frozen for future attempts. History of In Vitro Fertilization Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, the Dutch microscopist, codiscovered sperm in 1678 (Gilbert 2000). However, it is only within the past two centuries that sperm’s role in fertilization has been known. In the 1800s researchers established that conception takes place when a sperm enters an ovum (Cobb 2012). In 1934 Harvard scientist Gregory Pincus conducted IVF experiments involving rabbits that suggested similar fertilization was possible in humans. Additional research and advancements in scientific techniques led to the birth of Louise Brown, the world’s first “test-tube baby” on July 25, 1978. In 2010 Robert Edwards was awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine for the development of in vitro fertilization. The field of reproductive medicine has been revolutionized in the last three decades, giving hope to infertile women and men all over the world that they can become parents to a biological child. The now common IVF procedure has enabled more than five million people around the world to conceive. Assisted Reproduction in the United Arab Emirates The breakthrough in modern assisted reproduction technologies has brought hope to thousands of childless couples in the UAE (Bell 2013). The UAE is a young country, formed in 1972 when seven states merged. Over half of the UAE’s 9.2 million residents live in the urban centers of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and 96 percent of the population identifies as Muslim (of whom 84 percent are Sunni and 16 percent are Shi’a). The UAE’s population comprises several major racial, ethnic, and national groups, including South Asians (50 percent), Arabs and Iranians (23 percent), Emiratis (19 percent) and other ex- The“ART”of Making Babies Using In Vitro Fertilization   89 patriates (8 percent); only 30 percent of the population holds Emirati citizenship . It is within...



Subject Headings

  • Human reproductive technology -- Middle East.
  • Human reproductive technology -- Africa, North.
  • Birth control -- Middle East.
  • Birth control -- Africa, North.
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