Intended for healthcare professionals


Infertile couples favour Spain and Czech Republic for treatment because of good supply of donor gametes, study shows

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 05 July 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d4249
  1. Clare Dyer
  1. 1BMJ

People from the UK who travel abroad for infertility treatment are motivated mainly by the shortage of UK donor gametes, the high cost of treatment and previous unsatisfactory care they experienced at home, and perceived better success rates abroad.

The findings come from the Transrep Project on cross border reproductive care at De Montfort University in Leicester, which interviewed 51 people who travelled abroad for treatment. They show that the media picture of “fertility tourists” who choose destinations for their holiday potential and return home with triplet pregnancies to burden the NHS is misplaced.

The project, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and also involving researchers from Sheffield, Swansea, and Huddersfield Universities, interviewed 41 women and 10 men (the partners of 10 of the women) about their experiences. The interviewees included six single heterosexual women and one woman in a lesbian relationship.

They chose 13 different countries for their treatment. The largest group, 18, selected Spain, with the Czech Republic, chosen by eight, the next most popular. Third in popularity, with five choosing to go there, was the US.

In 19 of the 41 cases, donor eggs were needed, and in Spain and the Czech Republic donors are plentiful and waiting times short.

Among the 41 cases there were 32 pregnancies, with six women having more than one pregnancy as a result of treatment abroad. Six pregnancies resulted in twins but there were no triplets or higher order births.

For some, the anonymity of donors in countries such as Spain, the Czech Republic, or the Ukraine, was important. For others, access to more extensive information about donors, as in the US, was an advantage—not to create a designer baby but to try to maximise the physical resemblance between parent and child.

The interviewees’ experience of treatment abroad was broadly positive, although some experienced negative reactions from UK health professionals and difficulty obtaining the scans, drugs, and blood tests they needed in the UK both before and after their treatment abroad.

In the UK, removal of anonymity for donors and a £250 (€276; $400) cap on the payment that can be made to egg donors (for loss of earnings) have been blamed for the shortage of donors. The researchers make a range of recommendations to safeguard patients travelling abroad for treatment and to reduce the need to go abroad, including a new strategy for donor recruitment.


Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d4249


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