Fertility Tourism Industry Booming As Sperm Numbers Decline
A study published recently in the reputable journal Human Reproduction revealed that sperm concentration rates in France are falling steadily. Over a 17 year period, there was a 32.2% drop in sperm concentration. The authors suggest that this constitutes a public health warning. Although this data cannot automatically be extrapolated to the world, it would be naive to think that what was happening in France was not happening elsewhere. The cause of the decline is unclear, although it is suggested it may be related to environmental causes. In the UK, the HFEA provide data to show that the number of treatments involving ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection) has increased. The ICSI technique is used to help the sperm fertilise the egg. In traditional IVF, a concentration of sperm is placed in a ‘test tube’ with the egg and left to fertilise. The ICSI technique involves actually picking up a sperm and injecting it into an egg. This is usually used when men have low sperm numbers or the morphology of the sperm is very poor.
A reduction in sperm concentration in the male population may partly explain the numbers of couples seeking fertility treatment. According to the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE), the number of IVF treatment cycles continues to rise with an estimated 1.5 million cycles being performed globally each year. In the UK, a population with a decreasing sperm rate will lead to more pressure on the NHS. Many couples seeking donor sperm choose to go abroad to get treated quickly and cheaply. Furthermore, the change in anonymity laws in 2005 mean those children born as a result of donation will be able to find out identifying details about their donor once they reach 18. This doesn’t always sit comfortably with some people and they make an active decision to go to a country where donor anonymity is enforced, like the Czech Republic and Spain.
Fertility tourism, as it’s known, is becoming more acceptable as people seek treatment to beat cost and queues. And, as a result, there is an industry being generated on the back of it. Some companies will facilitate the journey to one of these countries, whilst others provide some reassurance before they go. This all makes the process of going abroad easier and smoother and ironically will lead to an increase in numbers travelling as a result. Making it easier to go abroad for those who have already chosen to do so is no bad thing as it will reduce stress for people who have a lot to worry about. Reputable companies will ensure that their clients are well informed about their choices and will ensure all choices are driven by the client.
Dr Caroline Phillips PhD is the founder of http://www.fertilityclinicsabroad.com. This Edinburgh based company provides a unique service to people travelling abroad for IVF treatment. The service matches an individual with three clinics which best suit their requirements and provides a fully personalised report for them. The IVF clinics have been personally visited before recommending. For more information visit http://www.fertilityclinicsabroad.com.