The latest report from the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology confirms an increase in IVF treatment abroad, The report surveys infertility clinics in Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Slovenia, Spain and Switzerland and is based on a sample of 1,230 patients visiting these infertlity clinics. See details of the report in the Guardian.
Lack of access to IVF services in the home country for the over 40's and legal restrictions on infertility treatment are the prime drivers. Italy was the biggest source of IVF "medical tourists" accounting for 32% of the patients in the survey. Next was Germany (14%), followed by the Netherlands (12%), France (9%) and the UK (5%). The average age was over 37 but 63.5% of the British patients were over 40.
According to study coordinator, Dr Francoise Shenfield from University College Hospital in London, "Spain and the Czech Republic are popular destinations for oocyte donation; Swedes travel to Denmark for insemination, and the French to Belgium." She also highlighted the significant numbers of Italians who travel abroad to receive treatment that was rendered illegal in their home country under recent legislation or because they believe they will receive better quality care.Extrapolating the data, EHSRE estimates that 20,000 to 25,000 cross-border fertility treatments are carried out each year.IVF related medical tourism is a relatively new but growing trend in the UK, as couples delay having children into their 40's and then discover that they have a problem.
IVF treatment is available within the National Health Service in the UK, but access to treatment can be a problem.
- Age and waiting lists can be a barrier to treatment.
- Overweight women are excluded from NHS treatment.
- Demand for egg donation exceeds supply. ( The right of anononymity for egg donors was removed in 2005)
Whereas some areas of medical tourism may be feeling the effects of the recession and the resulting impact on people’s pockets, IVF treatment abroad is an opportunity worth pursuing for those IVF clinics abroad that can demonstrate impressive results and cater for the needs of the “fertility tourist”.