Dr Jennifer Rayward
UK patients going abroad for fertility treatment may worry about the standard of care they’ll receive. But that can be unfounded says one clinician in Spain, where fertility laws are strictly regulated.
Patients who have trouble accessing fertility treatment in the UK may decide to investigate the possibility of receiving it overseas. Of course, they may then start to worry about the standard of care they’ll receive when they get there.
Yet, in many cases they shouldn’t, says Dr Jennifer Rayward, Co-Founder of ProcreaTec clinic in Madrid, Spain — and particularly if they have done their research properly.
“I completely understand why UK patients might worry about going abroad to have fertility treatment,” she admits. “I’d be wary if I was in a country I didn’t know and where I couldn’t speak the language. But, take Spain; what many people don’t realise is that assisted reproduction here is strictly regulated by central government. Plus, fertility clinics are regulated by autonomous regions and audited every year by Sociedad Española de Fertilidad (Spanish Fertility Society).”
Strong research base and more flexible laws
In June, the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology reported that Spain was the most active country in assisted reproduction in Europe, with a record 140,909 treatment cycles performed.
“The worldwide medical community thinks of Spain as one of the best countries for assisted reproduction – and rightly so,” says Dr Rayward.
“We’re home to some of the strongest research groups in the world and we have lots of egg donors because our laws are more flexible than those of other countries.” Also, in Spain, fertility treatment is open to anyone over the age of 18, including same-sex and unmarried couples and single parents.
Studying patients to boost chances of fertility
Naturally, treatments can be expensive and no clinic — wherever it is in the world — can guarantee pregnancy. “Nature is nature,” says Dr Rayward.
“But the high success rates we see in Spain are partly due to the range of technologies and techniques that are used. For example, pre-implantation genetic testing allows us to biopsy the embryo to ensure it’s healthy before we transfer it. And, while we can’t improve the quality of sperm, embryologists are able to select the best sperm from a sample for micro-injection.” If patients are studied closely before treatment in order to get a good diagnosis, the chances of a better outcome will be increased.
When deciding on a fertility clinic in a different country, patients should ensure it will offer them a summary of every treatment they receive and every test they have.
Clinicians should also be able and willing to speak to patients’ doctors in the UK, and pledge to remain in close contact in the pre- and post-natal periods.
“This can be a worrying time,” agrees Dr Rayward. “But that isn’t only the case for those having fertility treatment in a foreign country. It’s the same for any patient having fertility treatment in any country in the world.”