Women over 40 fuel boom in European 'IVF tourism'

Lack of treatment at home forcing Britons to go abroad, study finds

Older British women seeking fertility treatment are having to travel to Europe because they are finding it difficult to get IVF help at home, a study has found.

Hundreds of women from the UK could be going to countries such as Spain, Slovenia and the Czech Republic where it is easier to gain access to IVF treatment, scientists discovered.

The growing trend for "fertility tourism" involves thousands of women crossing European borders each year in search of medical aid. Although 80 per cent of German women, 70 per cent of Italians and 65 per cent of French women who travelled abroad for IVF cited legal restrictions at home, British women were the most likely to cite access difficulties as their main reason for seeking help in mainland Europe.

More than 60 per cent of the women in Britain found to be having IVF treatment in another country are over the age of 40, according to a survey of fertility clinics in six European countries – Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Slovenia, Spain and Switzerland.

"Access [to IVF] is a big reason for women in the UK. It's very difficult for us to get funding for patients over the age of 39. When they are 39 or 40 they're stuck. Britain is bad for access," said Francoise Shenfield of University College London Hospital. The pilot survey's results, released yesterday by the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology in Amsterdam, were the first to quantify the scale of fertility tourism in Europe, Dr Shenfield said.

"Until now we've only had anecdotal evidence of this phenomenon. We think that our results will be of considerable value to patients, doctors and policymakers," she said.

Each clinic from the six countries that took part were asked to complete a questionnaire for each patient attending the centre over a period of a month. They returned 1,230 forms.

"This may not seem to be a very high number but it reflects only one month of events in a limited number of centres in six months," Dr Shenfield said.

Extrapolating the data over Europe, there were at least between 20,000 and 25,000 cycles of IVF treatment each year resulting from women travelling abroad, she said.

Of these, the largest proportion – 32 per cent – were from Italy, followed by Germany (14 per cent), the Netherlands (12 per cent) and France (9 per cent). Britain was sixth, accounting for nearly 5 per cent of the patients who had travelled abroad for treatment.

The shortage of donated eggs in the UK was also cited as a reason for travelling. The numbers of both sperm and egg donors had decreased in recent years.

Since 2005, British donors have had to give up their right to anonymity, making it possible for them to be identified as the biological mother or father of an IVF child. This has deterred many people from helping childless couples, said Dr Shenfield. Overweight women classified as obese were also refused IVF treatment on the NHS.

"It's a complex ethical issue. Having a child is not a right, but from the point of view of health and quality of life, it's an essential part of a life project and it's not something that goes away," she said.

"Not being able to have children is a hurt which lasts for ever. People who can't have children are reminded of it repeatedly throughout their lives."

Suggested Topics
Voices
voices
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode
arts + ents
Sport
Laura Trott with her gold
Commonwealth GamesJust 48 hours earlier cyclist was under the care of a doctor
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
arts + entsFilmmaker posted a picture of Israeli actress Gal Gadot on Twitter
News
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
people
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel
arts + entsPrince Oberyn nearly sets himself on fire with a flaming torch
News
Danny Nickerson, 6, has received 15,000 cards and presents from well-wishers around the world
newsDanny loves to see his name on paper, so his mother put out a request for cards - it went viral
Sport
France striker Loic Remy
sportThe QPR striker flew to Boston earlier in the week to complete deal
News
Orville and Keith Harris. He covered up his condition by getting people to read out scripts to him
People
Arts and Entertainment
Zoe Saldana stars in this summer's big hope Guardians of the Galaxy
filmHollywood's summer blockbusters are no longer money-spinners
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Life and Style
Workers in Seattle are paid 100 times as much as workers in Bangladesh
fashionSeattle company lets customers create their own clothes, then click 'buy' and wait for delivery
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Data Analyst

    £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable software house is looking ...

    Application Support Analyst / Junior SQL Server DBA

    £40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established professional services...

    Commercial Litigation

    Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - SENIOR COMMERCIAL LITIGATION SO...

    BI Developer - Sheffield - £35,000 ~ £40,000 DOE

    £35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

    Day In a Page

    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
    Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

    Edinburgh Fringe 2014

    The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried