Thinking of having treatment overseas?

If you are considering going abroad for fertility treatment, you may be interested in this article I wrote for a supplement for The Times earlier this week.

For many people, going overseas can be a cheaper option, and many return with positive stories about their experiences, but you do need to be aware of the facts and understand the differences you may find if you choose to have treatment outside the UK.

There are some great clinics across the globe, but there are also some that are not quite so great and you don’t have the protection that you have here in the UK of knowing that all  clinics offering IVF are licensed and regularly inspected by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority. As you don’t have that luxury with clinics elsewhere, you do need to make sure you do your homework and research as much as you can about the clinic and the country to ensure that you are left feeling that you did the right thing in choosing to travel for treatment.

Advertorial posts

Once again one particular overseas clinic is spamming a fertility forum with endless fake patient posts about how marvellous the clinic is. What’s really sad about this is that it shows so little respect for those going through treatment – the posts are all remarkably similar, all from people raving about the marvellous treatment they’ve had at this particular clinic and all of them full of the same terrible English, peculiar phrases and spellings. Some even seem to forget they are pretending to be a patient half-way through and say things like “Maybe during your vacation you can visit xx and will direct you. Maybe also hangout together” or “Welcome to xx where reproductive health is assured”. Do they really think anyone is going to believe this is a fellow patient sharing their fertility journey?

These fake patient posts are so easy to spot and I hope that this is as counterproductive as it ought to be. A fertility forum should be a safe place where patients can talk to one another, and a clinic which doesn’t respect and understand that is not one you’d want to be spending your money visiting.

Have you had fertility treatment overseas?

Cmhc-LqWYAAWk88Fertility Network UK have a media request for anyone who either has had IVF or ICSI overseas or anyone who is actively considering it?

If you are happy to talk to a Radio 4 journalist about this – and it can be done anonymously if you prefer – please email Catherine Hill at

Can you help stop the cuts?

Cmhc-LqWYAAWk88Fertility Network UK have a number of media requests for people to talk about how the cuts to NHS fertility services that are happening across England are affecting them. They really need people who are willing to talk about it as the situation is only reported on when the media can give an insight into how this affects those who need treatment.

In particular, they are looking for people who are unable to access any NHS IVF services because they live in South Norfolk, mid-Essex or north-east Essex where funding has been cut completely. They also need people who live in areas where NHS IVF could be cut completely in the near future: Basildon & Brentwood, Bedfordshire, Ipswich and East Suffolk, and West Suffolk. Other areas where cuts have occurred include Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, North East Lincolnshire and Somerset.

ITV news have been looking for people affected by the postcode lottery anywhere in the UK. They are keen to speak to people who have moved house to try to access NHS treatment, who are going overseas because they can’t access NHS treatment or are embarking on treatment in the private sector because they can’t get NHS treatment.

This is your chance to have your voice heard. Email or phone 07469-660845.

Should patients be able to travel abroad for treatment?

104px-GEO_GlobeThere’s a really interesting article here asking whether patients should be allowed to travel overseas for fertility treatment to a country which has different rules and regulations from those at home. We just assume that patients have the right to go wherever they want and do whatever they want, but this article is based on a  report in European Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Reproductive Biology which considers the idea that there are moral issues for doctors in supporting patients who want to travel abroad to avoid the laws in their own countries.

Apparently in 2012 the French Health Ministry sent out a warning to doctors that informing patients about egg donation overseas would carry a risk of five years in prison and a fine of 75,000 Euros because of concerns about human eggs being bought and sold – and in Germany and Turkey they have also had penalties for doctors referring patients overseas for certain treatments.

You can find the report itself, from the European Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Reproductive Biology here, which argues that governments should be tolerant to patients who wish to travel for treatment and suggests that their doctors who refer them are trying to act in their best interests. However, the article from Fox News quotes a Japanese health researcher from  Kanazawa University in Japan called Yuri Hibino who says that in Japan some hospitals are so worried by the risks of egg donation abroad, which can include multiple pregnancies and older mothers, that they won’t deliver babies conceived by egg donation.


What do you think? Should there be restrictions on treatment overseas? Or would that be a step too far and an interference with personal liberties? And what about doctors who refer patients overseas? It’s certainly an interesting issue…

GPs report more aftercare requests from patients who’ve been treated overseas

A report in the doctors’ magazine Pulse says that GPs are seeing an increase in the number of aftercare requests they get from people who’ve been overseas for medical treatment.  The report specifically mentions people who are going abroad for IVF because it can be cheaper who are asking for prescriptions for medication or other requests.

Apparently, your family doctor should be treating any request from a doctor abroad in just the same way that they would a request from a specialist in Britain – but that they need to be sure that they feel confident that the medication is appropriate and necessary.

People going overseas for IVF do sometimes find it difficult getting the back up they need from clinicians in the UK – and it may be a matter of paying privately for scans or other monitoring such as blood tests.  If you are planning going abroad for treatment, it is important to sort out where you will have any monitoring carried out – and to make sure that you will be able to get any drugs that you will need.

When problems do occur with GPs, it is sometimes because patients haven’t kept them informed about treatment but then suddenly expect them to issue a prescription or to help with after-care.  This is why it is important to keep your family doctor informed.

You can read the Pulse report here 



afterword – The Fertility Show…

This weekend’s Fertility Show was very busy – more than 3,600 visitors over the weekend – and it was lovely to meet some of you and to find many old friends too.  The seminar programme this year was fantastic with really interesting topics addressed by some of the world’s leading experts in their fields and most of the talks appeared to be packed out.

There were quite a few clinics from the UK exhibiting at the Show, mainly from London and the South East, but they were rather outnumbered by their counterparts from overseas who have clearly realised that more and more people are considering travelling for fertility treatment.  There were fertility specialists from Spain, Russia, Latvia, Georgia, Italy, Barbados, the Czech Republic, Norway, Denmark, Greece, Sweden and across the USA from Florida to Chicago. I spoke to a number of people who were considering treatment overseas and they’d found it really helpful to have so many different clinics from around the world all gathered under one roof.  It can be very hard to distinguish between one and another when you’re only judging them on their websites and email communications, and the opportunity to meet staff face to face and get a feel for the clinics and what they can offer is quite unique.

For me, it was really good to see so many patient support organisations there too – Infertility Network UK, the Donor Conception Network, International Asherman’s Association, Klinefelter’s Syndrome Association, Fleur and the lovely team from Verity PCOS who must be congratulated on their purple theme which even went as far as a rather wonderful pair of handmade purple earings…

As it is National Adoption Week, it was heartening to see that a number of fostering and adoption agencies were represented too as this is an alternative route to parenthood that some may want to consider.

Everyone I spoke to who’d visited the Show had found it to be a beneficial experience.  I know some people do feel it is a rather commercial affair for a medical problem, but fertility treatment is a massive commercial industry. Personally, I think the opportunities a weekend at The Fertility Show can offer outweigh any such concerns.  If you’re not into fertility astrology or crystal therapy, you don’t need to spend time at the stands offering them. It’s a matter of picking and choosing the things that you want to know more about and making the most of the opportunities the weekend can afford.