"Fertility Tourism" Carries Health Risks

Women who go to overseas fertility clinics run the risk of higher-than-average multiple pregnancies, which can dramatically increase the chances of high blood pressure, hospital stays, premature labor, fetal disabilities and even death in mother or babies. A study done on 109 British women with multiple pregnancies showed that 15 were conceived naturally and, of the 94 remaining, 25 percent had received fertility treatment outside of Britain - so-called fertility tourism.

The Fetal Medicine Unit at University College London Hospital (UCLH), which ran the study, noted that fertility clinics outside Britain are far more likely to rely on inserting multiple embryos in a mother to achieve pregnancy. This inevitably leads to an above-average multiple pregnancy rate.

Women became fertility tourists due to factors such as the high cost in Britain, that the country was their home, the better success rate due to the higher number of embryo implants overseas, faster treatment and the availability of an acceptable ethnic donor.

 Dr. Alastair McKelvey, Subspecialty Fellow in Materno-Fetal Medicine at UCLH and lead author of the study, said: "Triplet, quadruplet and higher-order multiple pregnancies are very challenging high-risk pregnancies. We were concerned, through personal experience, about the extent of this problem and its link to unregulated fertility care on the world market."

The information revolution and globalization have radically changed many aspects of life - including medicine and access to it. National regulatory bodies can be sidestepped by couples desperate for a baby, and the myriad of tempting offers of fertility treatments can lead them to serious adverse consequences. "This research suggests that international agreement on this aspect of women's health - preferably by professionals - is needed."


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