The future of fertility travel

By:  Dr Manuel Muñoz, Director of IVI Alicante.

In recent years there have been huge advancements within the fertility industry, with new techniques such as time lapse technology and genetic screening coming to the forefront; and the topic of egg freezing holding firm on the international news agenda. But what does 2015 hold for an industry whose developments hold so much hope for millions of people across the globe?

Moving into the future

2015 marks the 10 year anniversary since the change in UK laws surrounding the anonymity of egg and sperm donors. This change has sparked a sharp increase in UK patients travelling abroad to countries such as Spain and Portugal for fertility treatment, where different legislation currently stands.

As we settle in to 2015, there is much discussion around what the major new trends will be for the year ahead, and what leaders from within the industry predict will occur over the coming months. However, for us it is also a time to take a look back at a trend which has developed over the last 10 years – the increasing trend for UK patients to travel over to our clinics in Spain for donor egg/sperm treatment, which we believe was sparked by a major shake up to anonymity legislation in the UK in 2005.

Due to Spanish laws, all egg and sperm donors and their offspring are protected with complete anonymity, allowing parents full control over their child’s knowledge of how they were conceived. Up until 2005, the UK had similar legislation in place however, amendments to the UK Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act have meant both donors and donor-created offspring now have the right to be contacted by one another once the child reaches the age of 18.

Our patient register shows that, before the changes in the UK law, we treated a total of 157 UK patients during 2004. This number has increased over the following years, and we have now treated a total of 3,575 UK patients over the past 10 years.

These results suggest that changes to the UK law has greatly impacted the amount of patients choosing to travel to abroad to receive treatment.

We anticipate that this is a trend that will continue to grow as we move through 2015, and beyond, as parents want complete reassurance that they have full control of their child’s knowledge and understanding of their conception.

The fact that UK legislation doesn’t offer this is a real concern for many, who feel they will be pressured into telling their offspring how they were conceived before they otherwise would have done so.

In addition to the trend for UK patients travelling abroad for treatment, I think there are also some other key things that we need to look out for across the fertility industry in 2015…

Expectations for fertility travel in 2015

This year, I think that we will see experts starting to combine some of the key techniques which have been developed over the past few years such as time lapse and PGD (genetic screening) to really move assisted reproduction on a step, and gain an even more accurate understanding of which embryos will successfully implant.

One area in particular which we know experts will be looking to improve over the next 12 months via these means is the decreasing of twin pregnancy rates. This is something that needs to be addressed on an international scale, and is certain to be a key focus for the coming year. At present, twin pregnancies represent 30% of pregnancies achieved through assisted reproduction.

We know that a single pregnancy is always the preferred choice as it is much more comfortable for the expectant mother and carries less risk of a pre-term birth amongst other problems. However, the issue we face at the moment is that we often have to transfer two embryos following IVF or another form of assisted reproduction to give a higher chance of achieving pregnancy.

Over the next year we need to get to a point where our techniques are so refined and that we are confident in the condition of the embryos we are working with, that implanting one will be sufficient to ensure a high rate of pregnancy.

Throughout 2014, egg freezing has been high on the news agenda with several big US corporations including Facebook and Apple publically stating that they offer their female employees the option to have their eggs frozen so that they can delay motherhood and continue to progress their career.

More recently, we have heard in the media about the emerging US trend for ‘egg freezing parties’. I am not sure if there is a market in Europe for this at present, and we would always advise for egg freezing to be carried out in a professional clinic however, it will be interesting to observe how this craze will grow in America over the coming months.”

 
 

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