Did the expensive IVF treatment in the UK (or your home country) leave you thinking about flying abroad for treatment? You are one of many people who are looking for more affordable alternatives. While the UK has some of the best health care in the world (both on the NHS and private), still many infertile couples are turning their backs on their home country when it comes to having IVF.
Travelling abroad for IVF, so-called cross-border reproductive care is a 21st-century phenomenon. Nowadays, secondary infertility or unexplained infertility touches women and men of various ages all over the world. Patients are willing to travel abroad searching for experienced fertility specialists and top-quality patient care.
Impeccable patient care is one of the staples of care at PreGen UR Vistahermosa, an IVF clinic in Alicante, Spain. They have an International Department which helps foreign patients on a daily basis. In this article, we present an interview with the UR Vistahermosa team and the answers to the questions that are crucial to understanding what treatment in Spain looks like. Read the interview to discover what your journey to parenthood would look like at UR Vistahermosa.
Can you tell us why patients from abroad should consider Spain as their destination for egg donation programs abroad?
Spain is one of the countries in Europe where most assisted reproduction treatments are legally allowed. One of the reasons for the Spanish leadership is that the legislation allows egg donation. Couples from different countries such as France, Italy, Germany, or the United Kingdom arrive in Spain, where they can freely undergo IVF using donor oocytes. For example, in Germany egg donation is forbidden and in the United Kingdom and other countries, gamete donation is not anonymous, which can make it difficult to find a donor. All over the years, Spanish legislation has increased the quality of the medical services offered in our country as well as advances in this type of treatment. In addition, it must be taken into account that the prices of IVF treatments in Spain are lower than in other northern European countries.
What egg donors are available at your clinic (race/ethnicity, proven fertility, age)?
By having an oocyte bank and a high percentage of donors, we have a wide variety of donors with different ethnicities. But it should be noted that the most common are the Mediterranean, Nordic, Latin, and African ethnic groups. Regarding the age of the donors, in Spain, donation by women from 18 to 35 is allowed. In our clinic, we accept donors aged 18-30, since this way we obtain better results. Many of our donors have proven fertility, even though due to their age, some are too young to have their own children yet.
Do you use your own egg bank or external egg banks?
Yes, we have our own oocyte bank.
How egg donors are qualified for the process?
All donors undergo an interview, where they are also psychologically analyzed. The next step is a consultation with the gynecologist and a complete review along with a complete analysis. In the analysis, apart from confirming their state of health, a complete genetic study is done. When we obtain all the results and everything is correct, the donor can start the donation process.
Do you offer fresh and/or frozen oocytes? How the egg donation cycles are organized and managed in terms of synchronization?
We offer fresh and frozen oocytes since we have an oocyte bank. But it depends on the decision of the patient and the availability that she has. When fresh oocytes are offered, synchronization with the donor must be taken into account, and this requires transfer dates that depend on the evolution of the donor’s ovaries and when the oocytes are extracted. The patient will not have to come until the day of the transfer.
How the egg donor matching with the recipient process is managed? Is it possible to match and “book” the donor before the first visit to the clinic?
The best for patients is to have their first visit, either in person or online. From this moment, according to the characteristics of the patient, a donor will be assigned. Matching is performed using the Fenomatch platform, which takes into account both the phenotypic and genetic characteristics. Yes, a donor could be assigned before the first visit, but we always recommend that the first visit is made beforehand.
What is the average number of visits and time spent in the clinic for patients travelling for IVF with donor eggs from abroad?
Usually 2 trips: a one-day trip to come for the first appointment, to see the clinic, meet the team and have any tests performed which cannot be done in their home countries. If there is a male partner, he can leave a sperm sample to freeze. The patients can also buy medication here, as sometimes this is not easy to purchase abroad. The second visit to the clinic can last 2-8 days, depending on whether the male partner has come in advance to freeze a sample.
What are important IVF add-ons patients may consider for their egg donation cycle?
The use of Time-Lapse technology is the main additional technique requested by patients. Some also have the genetic panel performed to confirm that the donors do not carry the same genetic alterations (either both donors or donor and male partner).
How the embryo transfer process is organized and managed at your clinic for patients who are travelling from abroad?
We try to schedule things so that patients can plan in advance, but always take into account that there is a biological component that we cannot control. If patients have specific dates they want to travel, we can use frozen eggs from the donor to accommodate those dates. If they prefer a fresh donation, then we can give them approximate dates, but we always advise them to book with either flexible dates or cancellation insurance, just to be on the safe side.
What may be guaranteed in basic egg donation programs at your clinic? The number of oocytes, the number of embryos, etc.? In an egg donation cycle, we always guarantee to carry out the embryo transfer with EmbryoGlue, in addition to freezing the partner’s semen until the day of the transfer. Regarding oocytes and embryos, we do not guarantee the number of oocytes, but rather the number of blastocysts. We guarantee a minimum of 3 blastocysts per cycle (subject to medical parameters to be assessed according to seminal quality and patient history).
Are there any tests/scans or other diagnostics patients should provide before the first visit to the clinic when travelling for an egg donation cycle?
We always recommend having recent results for the following tests (not older than 6 months): ultrasound scan to check ovaries and uterus, TSH and T4 blood level, viral screenings (Hepatitis B, C, HIV, and syphilis) for both, sperm analysis and karyotype for the partner. If they cannot have one or more performed, they can do so at our clinic, but it speeds up the process if they already have this when they do the first appointment.
What are the documents (contracts) patients need to read and sign before starting an egg donation program?
Patients must read and sign an informed consent according to the techniques to be performed. In addition, they will also have to read and sign the budgets of the said techniques.
From which countries do patients most often travel for an egg donation program to your clinic?
We have patients from many parts of the world, but most of our international patients come from the UK, Ireland, Iceland, Germany, and Norway.
What kind of support do you offer for patients who are travelling from abroad for egg donation programs to your clinic?
We help them book hotels or lodgings, and can give them information on transportation and tips on what to do while in Spain.
UR Vistahermosa has International Department which helps foreign patients on a daily basis and boasts a 72% success rate per embryo transfer when it comes to fresh donor eggs (data for 2021). If you are wondering what your IVF chances might be, you can get them reviewed by Vistahermosa experts. Contact their team here and find out.