HFEA wrong to criticise foreign IVF clinics

There has been a lot said about foreign IVF clinics and ‘false hope’ in recent days. You may have seen headlines screaming that ‘vulnerable’ couples ‘desperate’ to a have a baby are being ‘enticed’ by overseas IVF clinics.

The clinics, it was claimed, had inflated their own success rates in a bid to make them look more favourable against specialist centres in the UK. Such claims were made by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority – the Government’s regulatory body overseeing fertility treatment.

The clinics, it was claimed, had inflated their own success rates in a bid to make them look more favourable against specialist centres in the UK. Such claims were made by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority – the Government’s regulatory body overseeing fertility treatment.

IVF Cube, the centre I head up, was one of those clinics mentioned in the articles. There’s a huge difference in the way the UK fertility sector works when you compare it to where we are in the Czech Republic.

But first of all, let’s address the snobbery and arrogance at play here. There’s a sense that in the Czech Republic – and indeed other European countries – we can’t possibly provide better results than in the UK. How can it be that over in Prague we can give fully verified success rates of 84 per cent while in the UK it stands at just 32.5 per cent? There must be something sinister at play here, right? Wrong.

The secret to our success rate is simple. The vast majority of our patients use eggs donated from younger women. We don’t shy away from this. In fact, we shout about it.

The reason our rates differ is that in the UK you simply do not have that donor market. If you perform IVF with a woman between the ages of 35 and 37, the success rate is around 23 per cent. In a woman over the age of 44, the success rate is around 2 per cent. Add donor eggs to the mix and these rates double.

We absolutely do not sell false hope . Our 84 per cent success rate is based on the number of women who have become pregnant from a single egg collection. In each collection we include up to 10-11 eggs. And from that collection we guarantee two embryos.

We absolutely do not sell false hope . Our 84 per cent success rate is based on the number of women who have become pregnant from a single egg collection. In each collection we include up to 10-11 eggs. And from that collection we guarantee two embryos.

Quite often we see women from the UK who have exhausted every avenue available to them. They might have had one round of IVF on the NHS, if indeed they are eligible. They then might have had a number of other fertility treatments at private clinics.

Be left under no illusion – the financial implication in the UK is huge. A typical round of IVF in the UK can costs between £3,000 and £5,000, but that’s usually without added extras like embryo storage, follow up appointments, hormone drugs, the list goes on.

When a couple come to us we have to be brutally honest. For some women they simply will not be able to have children using their own eggs. This may be because their egg count is too low or their eggs are not good quality, or their fertility problems may be down to an unknown cause.

In these cases the only option we can offer is with donor eggs. In the UK the waiting lists for donor eggs can be very long. In some cases where clinics are able to offer no waiting list, it’s because they are importing donor eggs from abroad anyway.

With donor eggs being much more readily available in the Czech Republic than in the UK we are able to offer fresh eggs, which contributes to our success rate. Our results are validated every six months and we extend an invitation to the HFEA to visit our facilities to see what we do.

Instead of criticising overseas clinics, it might be a good idea to learn from them.

Dr Hana Visnova

Dr Hana Visnova is medical director at IVF CUBE in Prague, Czech Republic. She is a specialist in fertility, assisted reproduction, gynaecology and obstetrics.
She treats hundreds of patients from the UK each year.
Dr Hana Visnova

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R.Ross

Since IVF remains an experiment with human life, the effects of which will not be known for at least another 50 years, when the first humans artificially created in this way, have lived reasonably normal lives and given birth to children, should that be possible since many appear to be sterile, unsurprisingly, who do the same.

IVF should never have been commercialised and sold like ice-cream. It should only ever have been used in a few cases where the resulting human being would have knowledge of and contact with its biological parents.