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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face
books
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv'The Last Kingdom' is based on historical events
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
filmSir Ian McKellen will play retired detective in new film
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
'Molecular Man +1+1+1' by Jonathan Borofsky at Yorkshire Sculpture park
tv
News
Glamour magazine hosts a yoga class with Yogalosophy author Mandy Ingber on June 10, 2013 in New York City.
newsFather Padraig O'Baoill said the exercise was 'unsavoury' in a weekly parish newsletter
Extras
indybest
News
people'She is unstoppable', says Jean Paul Gaultier at Paris show
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
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

    Trainee Recruitment Consultants For Multiple UK Offices

    £18000 - £25000 per annum + DOE, OTE £40000: SThree: LONDON - BRISTOL - DUBLIN...

    Embedded Software Engineer - Process Coordinator

    £45000 - £50000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare, Bonus, Holiday : Progressive ...

    Subject Leader of ICT & Computing

    £21588 - £36756 per annum + negotiable: Randstad Education Chelmsford: ICT/Com...

    C# Senior Web developer (C#, VBA, Strong Education,C++, JAVA)

    £40000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C# Senio...

    Day In a Page

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
    Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

    Hollywood targets Asian audiences

    The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
    Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

    Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

    Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
    Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

    Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

    Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
    10 best girls' summer dresses

    Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

    Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
    Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

    Westminster’s dark secret

    Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
    Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

    Naked censorship?

    The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
    Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

    Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

    As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
    Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

    David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

    Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil