Thousands of childless older British women desperate to be mothers are flocking to eastern Europe for IVF, the Daily Express can reveal.
They are being forced abroad for IVF because the NHS only provides fertility treatment for women up to the age of 39 and with stringent restrictions.
The eligibility for free treatment to help childless couples conceive is made worse by a postcode lottery.
Primary Care Trusts routinely refuse treatment to couples, based on their own criteria for who is eligible.
It means women are increasingly heading to clinics in the Czech Republic, Romania, the Ukraine and Russia for fertility treatment at a quarter of the cost of private treatment in the UK.
But there are fears for the health of these women as many foreign clinics ignore safety guidelines and implant multiple embryos to create pregnancies.
Using more than two in an IVF cycle can lead to dangerous complications and multiple births.
The number of women over the age of 40 becoming pregnant has soared in recent years, accelerating at a record rate.
Experts say that older mothers may be risking their own health and that of their babies by delaying pregnancy until later life, with more women choosing to put their career before starting a family.
The likelihood of miscarriage, stillbirth and other problems in pregnancy increases significantly for women over 40.
They are also more likely to have a Down’s syndrome baby and other congenital abnormalities as well as suffering high blood pressure, diabetes or requiring a Caesarean section delivery.
Susan Seenan, of the national fertility charity Infertility Network UK, said: “It’s very sad that people are forced to go abroad because they can’t access treatment in the UK but that happens a lot.”
In the UK, clinics are encouraged to implant only one embryo into a womb during a treatment cycle but some foreign clinics regularly transfer two or three.
Private treatment in the UK costs between £4,000 and £8,000 for each cycle with couples encouraged to budget for two attempts.
However specialist clinics in the Czech Republic charge just over £2,000 for full IVF treatment with others in Romania, the Ukraine and Russia charging even less.
A change in the law in the UK giving the children of anonymous sperm and egg donors the right to track down their biological parents has also led to an increase in interest in IVF clinics in Eastern Europe.
Ms Seenan added: “We never tell people not to go abroad but we recommend they do their homework.
“People should go abroad because it is the right option for them, not because it is the cheapest option. Infertility treatment is stressful enough anyway.”
The Department of Health said PCTs were making “good progress” in implementing the National Institute of Clinical Excellence guidelines on providing IVF.
A spokesman added: “We would encourage all local health trusts to provide three cycles of IVF, as recommended by NICE.”
This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always
been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such
material available in our efforts to advance understanding of
biotechnology and public policy issues. We believe this constitutes a
'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section
107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section
107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those
who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included
information for research and educational purposes. For more information
go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use
copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go
beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.