Thinking of going abroad in search of cheaper, more available fertility treatments? You may be putting your health—and your chances of becoming pregnant—at risk, according to a joint report released September 14, 2010, by the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) and the International Federation of Fertility Societies (IIFS). Concern comes after a survey of fertility services in over 100 countries found a surprising lack of uniform fertility clinic and patient standards between countries.
According to ABC News report on fertility standards outside the US:
- In Britain and Scandinavia only one or two embryo transfers are allowed per IVF cycle, but other countries have higher limits or none at all—a factor that can increase the number of multiple pregnancies (and pose risks for both mothers and babies).
- In Britain the removal of sperm donors' anonymity has led to a severe shortage in donated sperm.
- Sperm and egg donation is banned completely in many Islamic countries, and in France lesbians are not allowed access to donated sperm.
- In Turkey, citizens have been banned from going abroad to receive donated sperm or eggs (a law which the experts said was almost completely unenforceable.)
Both international organizations support the rights of patients to travel abroad to receive the best fertility treatment available to them. But patients should be cautious, experts warn. "Although in principle the care of foreign and local patients should essentially be the same and fit the best possible standards, there is evidence that it is not always so," says Françoise Shenfield, coordinator of ESHRE's Cross Border Task Force.
To address the safety of fertility patients who seek treatment out of country, ESHRE, in cooperation with national fertility organizations from around the globe, is currently developing a "Code of Practice on Cross Border Reproductive Care" to lay out a set of rules that protects and reassures patients, donors, surrogates, and future children. The ESHRE Taskforce plans to finalize an approved Code of Practice before the end of the year.
"The variation in international laws relating to infertility treatment is one of the reasons that cause couples to seek cross-border treatment. Whilst this is unavoidable we call for international standards to ensure these patients receive consistent advice and safe treatment," says Ian Cooke, Director of Education for IIFS.