Going Abroad For IUI

In Europe, the trend for infertile couples is to travel to other countries for treatment. The main reason for the travel tendency has nothing to do with needing a change of scenery: couples feel they can get better care elsewhere and in some cases the desired treatment has been banned in their home countries. These are the conclusions of a study presented at the 25th annual conference for the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE).

Dr. Francoise Shenfield, co-author of this study says that these results are the only evidence thus far that fertility patients in Europe are traveling afar for treatment. Until now, there was only anecdotal evidence to suggest such a phenomenon. Shenfield is affiliated with University College Hospital in London, England.

Task Force

ESHRE's task force looked at a month's worth of data gathered from clinics in Denmark, Spain, Belgium, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, and Switzerland. In cooperation with this task force, the clinics had patients coming from abroad fill out questionnaires. Questions included those about the patients' age, country of residence, treatment received, why they were traveling to another country for treatment, had they been given information in their own native tongues, why they chose the clinic in question, and whether their health systems would reimburse them for foreign treatment. A total of 1230 questionnaires were filled out by the patients.

Shefield's team found that between 20,000 and 25,000 fertility treatments in the abovementioned 6 countries were cross-border treatments. However, this doesn't tell us how many patients journeyed for treatment, since these may be patients undergoing repeated cycles of treatment until such time as conception has been achieved.

Traveling Patients

Most of the traveling patients, around two-thirds of them, came from 4 of the six countries participating in this study. Most of the patients were from Italy (31.8%), followed by Germany (14.4%), the Netherlands (12.1%), and France (8.7%). In total, patients from 49 countries were represented in the data on travelers for infertility treatments.

The majority of the traveling patients mentioned legal restrictions on the treatment of choice within their home countries. Patients from Germany cited this reason 80.6% of the time, while 71.6% of the Norwegians, 70.6% of the Italians, and 64.5% of the French patients claimed this as their central motivation for their treatment journeys. As for patients who stated they had trouble accessing the chosen treatments in their home countries, this was the main reason for those traveling patients from the UK (34%).

Most of the travelers (73%) were seeking assisted reproduction treatment (ART) while 22.2% were journeying for the purpose of IUI. Another 4.9% were seeking both ART and IUI. Most of the IUI treatments were sought by the French (53.3%) and the Swedish patients (62.3%). ART was the focus for the majority of the patients hailing from other countries.

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