Normalizing egg freezing in the Middle East

Across the world, increasing numbers of women are freezing their eggs.   

As more women choose to prioritize their careers and have children later in life, the demand for social egg freezing, or egg freezing for non-medical reasons, has risen sharply.   

The UK’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority reported that more than 4,000 people froze their eggs in 2021 compared to 2,500 in 2019, while the American Society for Reproductive Medicine declared that the number of egg freezing cycles completed in the US in 2021 was up by 31 percent from the previous year.

Here in the Middle East, demand is soaring. 

Why has it become more acceptable?

Social egg freezing was legalized in the UAE in 2021 for both married and unmarried women. However, it’s important to note that women can’t use frozen eggs for IVF treatment in the UAE unless they are married and completing the process with their husband. Egg freezing for social reasons is also permitted in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, but only for married women.   

According to reporting from Arabian Business, clinics in Dubai have experienced a 2,000 percent surge in egg freezing since the UAE’s legal reforms two years ago. Around 20 times more women requested egg freezing procedures in 2023 than in 2021.  

This boost has been encouraged by several high-profile influencers.

UAE fitness coach and influencer Tracy Harmoush received great praise, and some criticism, when she spoke openly about her gg freezing journey at Bourn Hall Fertility Clinic in Dubai, while Saudi mega-influencer Alanoud Badr also spoke publicly about how relieved she was to have it done.

Writing on her Instagram stories in 2021, Badr said: “The pressure, the worry, the ‘what ifs’ are all gone. I can’t explain the feeling. You can focus on what really matters and have a clear mind when making decisions. Your happiness should be your number one priority, and egg freezing is an act of self-love.”  

Dubai even had its first-ever, awareness-raising ladies’ egg-freezing night in late September, hosted by the global IVF service NOW-fertility in collaboration with IVF Support UAE at Canary Club in JLT.

Ovasave Co-Founders Torkia Mahloul and Majd Abu Zant

What are the benefits of egg freezing?

One company that is helping to make egg freezing accessible and ‘normal’ in the UAE is the digital platform Ovasave. By partnering with a network of pre-vetted fertility clinics spread across Abu Dhabi and Dubai, Ovasave lets women purchase egg freezing packages, make appointments and view their medical reports all online.

Inspired by her own struggles with finding information about egg freezing, tech expert and Ovasave co-founder Torkia Mahloul wants to use technology to help demystify egg freezing and make it simple, convenient and affordable for all.

She says: “We are convinced that by digitizing and simplifying the egg freezing process we can help many more women start their fertility journey. Similar platforms already exist in the UK and the US, but we are the first in the Middle East.

“Egg freezing means that women don’t have to feel rushed into starting a family when they’re not ready, still exploring the world or haven’t found the right partner yet. By freezing our eggs at a young age, we increase our chances of having a child later on in life.”

Torkia advises women assess their ovarian reserves through an anti-mullerian hormone (AMH) test – her company offers a more reasonably priced at-home version – before starting out.

Dr. Laura Marqueta-Marques, reproductive medicine and infertility specialist at ART Fertility Clinic, explains that eggs freezing doesn’t just allow women to keep their own eggs for future use, but ensure their quality.

“Women are born with a limited number of eggs, and they never generate new ones. This number continuously decreases from the moment they are born. So, the older a woman is, the lower the number of eggs she has. Some women are born with a lot of eggs and lose them slowly, while others are born with a low number and lose them very fast,” she explains.  

“As women age, their eggs also lose their ability to work properly. When the quality of an egg declines, the risk of having genetically abnormal embryos increases. This can lead to miscarriages or children with genetic disorders. Therefore, egg freezing  should be performed before the ovaries are exhausted.”   

How does it work?

The egg freezing process involves stimulating egg production through hormone injections.   

Dr Marqueta-Marques adds: “The treatment lasts between 10 to 12 days, and the medication is injected under the skin using needles that are specifically designed to be non-painful. The patient will also need to visit a clinic a couple of times for a blood test and an ultrasound.

“Once the eggs are mature and big enough, they are aspirated from the ovaries with a thin needle. The procedure takes no more than 15 to 20 minutes and local or general anesthesia is applied. The eggs are then taken to the laboratory, placed in containers, and stored in liquid nitrogen at -196 degrees.”  

In the UAE, eggs can be stored for up to five years, with the potential for extension upon consent.  

Dr. Laura Marqueta-Marques, reproductive medicine and infertility specialist at ART Fertility Clinic

When should you freeze your eggs? 

Dr Nadia Najjari, medical director of consultant reproductive medicine and infertility at Bourn Hall Fertility Clinic Abu Dhabi, is one of Ovasave’s partner specialists.   

She says:It is generally recommended that women freeze their eggs before the age of 35. This leads to better chances of a successful pregnancy later in life. It’s more challenging to conceive using eggs from women who froze them at an older age.”

Those suffering from various medical reasons are also encouraged to consider the procedure.  

“Certain conditions like endometriosis or autoimmune diseases are known to reduce the quantity and/or quality of eggs, as do treatments such as chemotherapy or ovarian surgery,” continues Dr. Marqueta-Marques.  

“Plus, it is important to know that, due to ethnic and cultural reasons, Middle Eastern women have a higher risk of losing their fertility at a younger age than women from other regions.”   

Are there any side effects?  

Side effects from the hormonal injections can vary from person to person. 

Dr. Marqueta-Marques continues: “Patients may experience some mild local irritation or bruising at the site of injection, and  hormonal side effects like breast tenderness, headache or mood swings are rare. Once the ovaries increase their size, patients may feel mild bloating and abdominal discomfort. But all these symptoms typically improve a few days after the surgery. 

“Thanks to the development of lighter medications, the risk of severe ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome is extremely low nowadays.”

Patients are recommended to avoid intense and high-impact activities during the process. 

Dr Najjari says: “Light or moderate-intensity exercises such as yoga, tai chi, walking, and swimming are recommended. Heavy weightlifting and contact sports should be avoided. It’s important to listen to your body and consult with your healthcare provider for specific recommendations based on your individual circumstances.”  

How much does it cost?  

For many, the main consideration is the financial burden of egg freezing.  

With egg freezing packages in the UAE ranging between Dh20,000 and Dh25,000, and generally not covered by insurance, it’s a considerable investment. 

However, with Ovasave, you can spread the payment out over three to six months with zero percent interest. For Emirati women, egg freezing is sometimes covered by insurance when completed for medical reasons.  

Majd Abu Zant, Ovasave co-founder and a healthcare expert with over 20 years of experience in women’s health, says: “In the past, social and medical egg freezing for Emirati women was sporadically covered by Thiqa, the national insurance program. However, more recently free treatment has been restricted to women who have medical conditions such as endometriosis or autoimmune diseases, or for women who are undergoing cancer treatment.”  

Once the eggs are collected, there are annual storage fees to consider. is for every body and mind in the UAE. This magazine is all about moderation, making small changes, little additions and the odd subtraction.



Receive our newsletters right in your inbox.