Knowing your options when it comes to life changing decisions is vital for every woman, yet 41 per cent undergoing IVF don't feel adequately informed about the treatment options available to them, with many left feeling incomplete and devastated by their inability to conceive.
One of Spain’s leading fertility clinics, Eugin clinic, commissioned the research in partnership with Infertility Network UK to understand the increasing trend in the UK towards women seek fertility treatment abroad.
The research, conducted among women currently undergoing fertility treatment in the UK, highlighted that nearly 9 out of ten women (88%) had undergone treatment in the UK (59% via NHS, 34% private - some trying both). While the vast majority of treatment is taking place in the UK, 12% of treatments are taking place abroad, a figure which is continuing to grow.
Clare Lewis-Jones, Chief Executive of Infertility Network UK, comments: “In recent years, many members of our forum have considered going abroad when unable to access the right treatment in the UK. Our focus is to support people trying to have a family and provide information and education about the range of options so that women can make the most informed decision that is right for them.”
Why are women seeking treatment abroad?
A key finding of the research was that women are increasingly dissatisfied with the level of information available to them about treatment options in the UK, particularly if conceiving with their own eggs was no longer an option. For these women, long waiting lists for egg donors were also a factor, together with the change in donor anonymity laws in 2005, which means that all UK donors can be identified by donor conceived children at the age of 16 years. This change in UK regulation has resulted in a significant drop in egg donation, leading to longer patient waiting lists – in some cases, up to two years.
Of those women polled, only one in 10 (14%) had undergone egg donation, despite over one third (37%) stating that they had been trying to conceive for more than 5 years. With six out of ten (62%) women claiming that they would consider egg donation, there is a clear indication that more information needs to be made available to help women understand their choices.
Rebecca Bozeat-Manzi, former Eugin clinic patient, underwent three unsuccessful IVF cycles at a private UK fertility clinic, before being told that she suffered from sub optimal egg quality. Rebecca says: “When my consultant informed me that I had poor egg quality, I was desperate to know the other options available to me. I didn’t really get the information I needed from my fertility consultant so, like many women, I spent hours doing internet research and found out more about egg donation. Ultimately, I went to Barcelona because treatment was available immediately, compared to the long wait that I would have faced in the UK. I am now blessed with a beautiful baby boy, Toby, which has made me realise how important it is for other women to really understand their choices to have a family of their own.”
Fertility Tourism – Motivating Factors
For many women, the changes in donor legislation in the UK have led to long waiting lists before they can even start treatment. In addition, over a quarter (28%) of women felt concerned that the lack of donor anonymity would impact on their family’s future. By seeking treatment in countries, such as Spain, that have donor anonymity in place, access to treatment is immediate and they have the choice as to whether they wish to inform their child that they were donor conceived.
One third (30%) of respondents would be more likely to consider egg donation if donors were completely anonymous. Before seeking treatment abroad, they would need to understand more about success rates (61%), information available on the treatment process (42%) and cost (26%).
Dr Valérie Vernaeve, Medical Director at The Eugin Clinic, comments: “We have seen a significant increase in the number of UK women visiting our clinic over recent years. The research revealed that 28% of women would be concerned about travelling abroad for treatment, citing factors such as lack of knowledge of overseas treatment (71%), lack of knowledge of overseas regulations (60%) and language barriers (53%). We fully understand the importance of reassuring women who are about to embark on a journey to parenthood which is why we have a team that is fluent in seven international languages and have recently opened offices in London, providing women with the opportunity to discuss the treatment and regulatory process in more detail.”