Great Britain may have produced the first test-tube baby 40 years ago, but did you know the Czech Republic followed suit a mere 4 years later - the first country in Central and Eastern Europe to do so? In the past decade particularly, the Czech Republic has established itself as one of the global leaders in reproductive medicine carrying out around 2500 IVF cycles/million population compared to the European average of 1500. It boasts around 42 state-of-the-art fertility clinics, which treat 10,000 foreign couples (so-called 'fertility tourists') every year. So what is behind the boom?
The UK banned donor anonymity in 2015, meaning children born from donor eggs or sperm have the right to request the donor name and other identifying information at the age of 18. The Republic of Ireland also looks set to follow, joining a growing list of countries that have outlawed donor anonymity, including Sweden, Australia and Germany. This has resulted in a rapidly shrinking pool of donor eggs and sperm, which has in turn driven up the price and waiting times for treatment and the upsurge in fertility tourism. Conversely, in the Czech Republic, donor anonymity remains and the country boasts a substantial egg bank and supply of fresh donor eggs. When you consider that most fertility tourists are looking for IVF with donor eggs, this is a massive draw. There is a rigorous screening process for potential egg donors mandated by Czech and EU law and some clinics also adhere to standards set by the American Association for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM). Donors must be between the ages of 18 and 35 and are thoroughly checked for STDs, endocrinological, gynaecological and genetic issues before they are added to the database. The recipient is the only privy to non-identifying information such as physical characteristics, blood group, education and ethnic background to ensure a good physical match. The high-quality pool of donor eggs results in excellent success rates of between 60 and 70% - a significant improvement in the UK.
Value for money
IVF is a costly process. Many people go to desperate measures to fund it, often spending their life savings or re-mortgaging their homes. The severe cutbacks to NHS IVF provision in the UK and the exorbitant costs of private care are driving couples to seek treatment abroad. A recent research study conducted by Fertility Clinics Abroad and Fertility Network UK found that over 93% of respondents would consider fertility treatment abroad and those that have already been abroad for a fertility procedure would go back again. 68% said lower cost was their primary reason for going abroad and 80% claimed private clinics in the UK were twice as expensive as they were willing or able to pay. The cost of fertility treatment in the UK can often exceed £10000 when all the add-ons are factored in, but treatment in the Czech Republic can be over 50% cheaper. Additionally, many Czech clinics offer treatment packages, so there are no hidden costs and nasty surprises along the way. It's also worth noting that there are several smaller towns offering treatment that often get overlooked. Zlin, Olomouc, Kostelec nad Orlici and Hradec Kralove offer the same quality of care, but at a slightly lower cost when compared to the main hubs of Prague and Brno.
High quality of care
The Czech medical system is of comparable quality to that in the West. In fact, the 2016 Euro Health Consumer Index (EHCI), which rates the public health care systems across 35 European nations, placed it at number 13 - ahead of the UK and Spain. Clinics must hold a license (inspections are carried out every 2 years) and are strictly regulated in accordance with Czech law and the European Union Tissues and Cells Directive 2004/23/EC. There are several treatments available in the Czech Republic which many couples are ineligible for or are only available privately in the UK, such as PICSI and PGD, which can increase the likelihood of success. Other pioneering treatments include cryopreservation and transplantation of ovarian tissue to enable fertility preservation before or during cancer treatment and assisted oocyte activation (AOA) to improve pregnancy rates in couples with a history of failed ICSI.
Get in touch
Contact one of our experts to learn more about the clinics we work with and what they offer. We'd be happy to discuss a tailored treatment plan that suits your needs and your wallet.
Contributing writer: Natasha Robinson