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NHS suffers under the strain of multiple births resulting from 'fertility tourism'

22 September 2008
Appeared in BioNews 476

A report has indicated for the first time the cost faced by the UK's NHS as it copes with multiple births resulting from IVF patients treated abroad. New research undertaken by the Fetal Medicine Unit at University College London Hospital (UCLH) makes a link between higher order multiple pregnancies (triplets and above) and the numbers of women travelling to other countries for fertility treatment.

The ten-year study carried out in London and revealed in Montreal last week at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) 7th International Scientific Meeting, showed that of the 94 women expecting three babies or more as a result of IVF treatment, 24 of them had received their treatment abroad. The women were treated in countries including Cyprus, Algeria, France, Germany, Belgium, the US, Greece, India and Japan and were reported to be 18 per cent less likely than their UK-treated equivalents to opt for embryo reduction.

The research highlights the potential dangers to women seeking IVF treatment abroad where there is less regulation of the numbers of embryos transferred into the womb; UK regulation recommends that in most cases only one embryo is implanted to reduce the instances of multiple births which are linked to dangerous and often life-threatening conditions for mother and baby.

Dr Alastair McKelvey, lead author of the study, believes that international agreement on this particular aspect of women's health needs to be agreed upon in order to reduce the 'huge cost burden' of increased ante- and neonatal care associated with multiple births. Recent research carried out by Sheffield University found that the extra care required by IVF twins and triplets cost the NHS £9,000 and £32,000 respectively. Dr McKelvey said: 'triplet, quadruplet and higher order multiple pregnancies are very challenging high-risk pregnancies. We were concerned, through personal experience, about the extent of this problem and its link to unregulated fertility care on the world market. National regulatory bodies can be sidestepped by couples desperate for a baby and ... fertility treatments can lead them to serious adverse consequences'.

British women and couples have many reasons for travelling abroad for IVF treatment. These include higher success rates due to transferral of more embryos, cheaper treatment, and availability of more 'ethnically acceptable' embryos. Women then return to the UK where the NHS provides care for their babies who often number more than two and are therefore more likely to be born prematurely.

What Impact Does "Fertility Tourism" Have On The NHS?
Medical News Today |  19 September 2008
1 September 2009 - by Dr Francoise Shenfield 
As a clinician based in the UK, one cannot fail to be aware that some patients seek fertility treatments abroad. Until now we only had newspaper headlines or anecdotal evidence, but having presented the results of the first European study in Amsterdam at the annual ESHRE conference (1), we may now base our reflections on some facts, even if selected by the voluntary nature of participating colleagues and centres abroad....
3 August 2009 - by Ben Jones 
Two Israeli doctors and one Romanian are being detained by a special Romanian investigative police unit after raids on a Romanian IVF clinic suspected to be involved in international human egg and stem-cell trafficking. The Romanian department for fighting organized crime (DIICOT) announced in a statement that 'the group was focusing on identifying foreign couples eager to resort to assisted reproduction techniques and on grabbing Romanian (women) aged 18-30 to donate ova for 800 to 1,000 lei...
18 May 2009 - by Professor Eric Blyth 
What we currently know about cross-border reproductive services derives primarily from anecdotal patient accounts shared on the Internet and reports provided by journalists - often working 'undercover' and posing as patients. The nefarious character of some services under investigation, alleging illegal activities (1,2) and exploitation of young women as egg donors...
3 November 2008 - by Sarah Pritchard 
The BBC has exposed a Turkish clinic offering prospective parents in the UK the chance to illegally select the sex of their children. Secret filming carried out in London by BBC reporter Colette McBeth reveals that the Jinemed Center in Istanbul offers to carry out sex selection...
21 July 2008 - by MacKenna Roberts 
An overwhelming majority of infertility patients in the UK said they would contemplate travelling abroad for fertility treatment, according to the first comprehensive study on the strength and motivations behind the fertility tourism industry. Among the 339 infertile patients who responded to an online poll conducted by...
16 July 2007 - by Katy Sinclair 
The Italian health minister, Livia Turco, has publicised an official report examining data on assisted reproduction following the introduction of a new restrictive law in 2004. The study has found that a reduction in the success rate of procedures and an increase in multiple pregnancies have been...
5 February 2007 - by MacKenna Roberts 
An AP/Washington Times report has revealed that the market for fertility treatment tourism is booming as a solution to egg donor shortages, high private clinic costs and restrictive donor anonymity laws. More permissive nations are taking a cottage industry approach to promote fertility services that are...
30 April 2006 - by BioNews 
The UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has urged couples seeking fertility treatments to 'think twice' about travelling to other countries for an 'IVF holiday'. The HFEA, which was set up in 1991 to regulate, license and monitor the provision of fertility treatment in the UK, said that couples...
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