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Fertility Tourism’s New Frontier

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Fertility Tourism’s New Frontier

The rise of fertility tourism across Europe has provided countries such as Spain, the Czech Republic and Greece with a lucrative income at a time when other industries have fallen by the wayside and economies have struggled. With demand for cost-effective IVF treatment as high as ever, countries that have established a strong reputation in the sector have been joined by a number of new, lesser-known destinations. Although not part of the established fertility tourism circuit, many of these new countries are offering unique benefits to fertility tourists, ranging from less stringent regulations to more cost-effective treatments.

Here is our top five guide to fertility tourism’s new frontier:

1. FINLAND
Finland is not well-known as a fertility tourism destination and yet the country’s impressive health and safety record is attracting more couples each year. There are currently 10 privately funded fertility clinics and five hospitals offering treatment in Finland and as mentioned, the sector is well regulated and fully licensed, including adhering to the European Union Tissues and Cells directives which regulate standards across all European Union countries.

Fertility clinics in Finland are regularly inspected by the Finnish Medicines Agency, Fimea and all require a licence to operate. Every IVF clinic in the country is bound by law to send its fertility success rates to Fimea, as well as the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health (Valvira). Some clinics also send their results to the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE), though this is not required by law.

Unlike many other European countries offering IVF treatments, egg and sperm donors in Finland are anonymous only to the recipients of the treatment but not to a child born from that treatment. This is quite novel and may attract some people who do want to provide the opportunity for their child to find out more about their donor.

Egg donors in Finland must be between 18 and 36 years of age and sperm donors between 18 and 45. Donors are tested psychologically and genetically, as well as for infectious diseases such as: HIV, HCV-Ab, HBs-Ag, HBc-Ab, Chlamydia, Gonorrhoea and Syphilis.

Embryo donation is allowed in Finland from both fresh and frozen eggs and sperm, as well as the donation of surplus embryos from other couples. However, not all clinics offer both types of embryo donation.

2. TURKEY
With over 140 clinics offering IVF, Turkey is growing in popularity as a destination for fertility treatment abroad. Legally, the country does not allow egg, sperm or embryo donation, meaning clinics can only offer ‘own egg’ IVF. Patients must also be married to qualify for treatment. It is illegal to treat single women and lesbian couples and surrogacy is strictly prohibited. The plus side is that IVF in Turkey is up to 50% cheaper than the UK.

PGD and PGS are allowed in Turkey, but sex selection for non-medical reasons is prohibited. There is also no legal age limit for treatment, however many clinics won’t treat women 46 or older due to complications associated with using the patient’s own eggs.

There are also laws regulating the number of embryos that can be transferred. For example, women less than 35 years old are allowed one embryo transferred for the first and second cycle, and two embryos for the third cycle.

Because Turkey is not part of the European Union, clinics do not fall under the EU Tissues and Cells Directive. However, fertility clinics in Turkey do adhere to government legislation on IVF treatment.

It’s also worth noting that most UK visitors require a visa to enter Turkey, though securing one is a relatively cheap and painless process. Most visitor visas cost around £20 and are valid for three months, which is plenty of time for the majority treatments.

IVF clinics in Turkey are inspected every six months by the Ministry of Health, where checks are carried out on equipment, staff, the physical environment and health records. The Ministry of Health will licence the clinic if it is deemed fit to practise. IVF success rates are also submitted to the Ministry of Health, although frustratingly the public does not have access to this data.

3. RUSSIA
Russia is steeped in history and culture and is a great place to visit. As it gets easier and cheaper to travel to the country, many people are visiting not only as tourists, but also for medical reasons. Russia currently has over 140 fertility clinics, many of which are found in Moscow and St Petersburg.

Treatment prices in Russia are lower than in the West, and waiting lists for egg and sperm donors are significantly shorter. In Russia, only anonymous donation is permitted. There is a possibility of finding out a lot more about your donor (at a price) e.g. childhood photos or audio recordings of their voice. However, the donors name, address and phone number are never available.

Like many other countries, there is no central register of donors in Russia so, in theory, a woman can donate many times at different clinics but whether this happens or not is a matter of debate. Sperm and egg donors in Russia are aged between 18 and 35 and by law, thorough screening of donors is undertaken. Egg donors undergo testing for infectious diseases as required by law. Urine analysis, ultrasounds, cardiograms, smear tests and many other tests are also available.

Embryo donation is allowed in Russian and embryos that are donated from couples who have completed their family, or from fresh egg and sperm donation, are also both permitted. There are no laws on how long embryos can be stored for, but it is usually up to 25 years.

IVF success rates are submitted voluntarily to the Russian Association of Human Reproduction. According to the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE), the body that collates European IVF data, up to 25% of Russian IVF clinics do not submit their results.

Russian IVF laws are legislated by the Ministry of Health (Regulation 107n), however Russia does not apply the European Tissue and Cells Directive which regulates assisted reproduction in the European Union.

4. POLAND
Just a short flight from the UK and offering low cost fertility treatment options, Poland is becoming an increasingly popular fertility tourism destination. There are currently 39 IVF clinics in Poland, comprising of a mix of state and privately funded facilities. The cost of living in Poland is significantly cheaper than in the UK and USA, with consumer prices up to 75% lower in cities such as Katowice.

Similar to many other European countries, both sperm and egg donors are anonymous in Poland. The recipients can find out about the donor’s blood type and the fertility clinic will match the donor and recipient on the basis of ethnicity, race, hair colour, weight, height, body build, eye colour and blood type. People born as a result of assisted reproductive treatment can find out some information about their donors once they reach 18 years of age.

There is no upper age limit for egg or sperm donation, but most Polish fertility clinics won’t accept a donor older than 32 years of age. Donors must register with the Krajowy Rejestr Dawców (National Register of Donors), which is controlled by the Ministry of Health. This means that no more than 10 babies can be born per donor. By law, egg and sperm donors are screened psychologically and physically before being able to donate.

Fertility clinics in Poland are inspected at least once a year and they all need a license to operate.

Fertility success rates are sent to the Ministry of Health, but they are not made available to the public. Some IVF clinics will publish their success rates on their website, but unfortunately, there is no scope to view success rates for all individual clinics.

5. BULGARIA
Bulgaria is one of the lesser known European countries offering IVF treatment. The country currently has about 30 fertility clinics offering treatment, 26 of which are private. Bulgarian IVF clinic success rates match EU averages and the average cost of infertility treatment is below EU averages.

Egg donation in Bulgaria is well regulated, with treatment permitted up to the age of the menopause. Egg and sperm donors are anonymous by law, however, with respect to egg donation, close relatives (sisters and cousins) are allowed to donate to each other. However, the law around sperm donation is different. Women may not use a sperm donor who is related to her.

Egg donors are only allowed to have five children, including their own, which means fertility clinics are obliged to record the egg donor’s details in a central register, maintained by the Executive Agency for Transplantations. In order to become an egg donor, the woman must have had at least one child.

By law, each donor undergoes a full medical examination – blood tests, urine tests, a genetic consultation and a gynaecological examination. A detailed personal and family history of illnesses is also recorded and all donors undergo a psychological evaluation. Information relating to the donor, such as blood group, physical features, occupation and education is also available to recipients, as long as the identity of the donor is not revealed.

Embryo donation is permitted in Bulgaria, provided all the legal requirements have been met. Couples can donate their frozen embryos to another couple anonymously. There are no laws governing how long embryos can be stored for, however the Ministry of Health advises no more than five years. Fresh egg and sperm donation is also allowed.

Before IVF clinics in Bulgaria can undertake assisted reproduction treatments, they are inspected by the Ministry of Health. The Ministry will only licence them if they are deemed fit to practice. IVF clinics are also obliged to send in detailed reports summarising cycle numbers, number of retrieved egg cells, donors and on-site visits and inspections.

IVF success rates are submitted by law to the Executive Agency for Transplantation. However, the public does not have access to these statistics.

Bulgaria applies the European Tissue and Cells Directive which regulates assisted reproduction in the European Union. Since 2007, there has been legislation in place which defines the medical status of assisted reproduction (Regulation No.28/2007 of Ministry of Health).

6. CONCLUSION

As demand rises from countries such as the UK and USA, more and more countries will be offering fertility treatments to couples who are either seeking more cost effective options or have specific requirements that cannot be met within their own country. Having a vibrant fertility industry is important, not only because it gives couples choice, but also provides access to treatment that would otherwise be out of reach. Having greater access to fertility treatments does however come at a risk. The maintenance of standards, particularly within non-EU countries, is often regulated internally, with some significant variations from one country to the next. As such, patients must make careful choices to ensure their treatment is both safe and successful.

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Fertility 360

NEWS: Get access to adult photos of the Cryos sperm donors

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Adult Cryos Sperm Donors Photos

Viewing adult photos of Cryos sperm donors is now a reality. Visit dk.cryosinternational.com today and get access to the new feature.

At Cryos it is now possible to access adult photos of sperm donors on our website, thus adding another dimension to your search for the perfect donor.

The unique chance to see both childhood and adult photos of your sperm donor, provides you with a more comprehensive idea of who your sperm donor is and moreover of the features of your future child. We hope that this extra dimension will upgrade your experience making your decision of a sperm donor easier.

The 5-6 adult photos are taken by a professional photographer and are a part of the donors extended profile where you also have access to childhood photos, an audio recording of the donor’s voice, a handwritten message, an emotional intelligence profile, and finally our staff impressions of the donor, amongst other exclusive features.

The adult photos require special access on our website. Visit our website and find out more and get access to this new feature now.

Please note that the person in the photos is a model and not a Cryos donor.
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Fertility 360

Fertility And Sex: Why Her Orgasm Matters

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Why her orgasm matters

For many couples, trying to conceive can make sex feel less fun and more pressured. Instead of being an intimate and enjoyable experience, baby-making sex can start to seem like a finely choreographed routine. Often, the female orgasm is one of the first things to go, but the maleorgasm is not the only orgasm that matters when it comes to fertility.

Before I dive into discussing the potential benefits of the female orgasm for fertility, it’s important to note that reaching climax is not technically essential for conception. If you never, or rarely, achieve orgasm, don’t worry, you can still get pregnant! Around 1 in 10 women don’t experience orgasm, ever. What’s more, the exact nature of the female orgasm remains somewhat elusive. Some experience orgasm through clitoral stimulation, some through vaginal intercourse, some through both, and others through something else entirely, or not at all.

Even without reaching orgasm, sexual arousal is itself beneficial to fertility. Like an orgasm, arousal is, first and foremost, a good indication that sex is enjoyable. Sexual arousal and climax causes significant changes in your levels of neurotransmitters including noradrenaline, oxytocin, prolactin, dopamine, and serotonin. These ‘reward’ neurohormones help you bond to a sexual partner and make it more likely that you’ll have sex more often, thereby increasing your chances of conception.

Second, orgasm and arousal have a range of physiological effects that might aid conception, which I’ll discuss in a moment. And, third, sexual arousal and orgasms for everyone can help sperm-producing partners avoid feeling like they’re being used just for their sperm. In fact, some studies show that male partners who engage in cunnilingus prior to vaginal intercourse have greater sexual arousal and produce more semen!

HOW ORGASMS ENHANCE FERTILITY

The female orgasm can help relieve stress, and promote healthy circulation and balance in the body. Stress is a key cause of diminished libido and may also reduce the chances of conception by raising levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Conversely, good sex can help raise levels of oxytocin and the other neurohormones mentioned above. These help you to relax and bond to your partner.

Published in 1967, the author even went as far as suggesting that the increase in these hormones after orgasm help support conception by temporarily incapacitating you. Put simply, this ‘poleax’ effect means you’ll feel so relaxed that you’ll stay lying down, which may increase your chance of conceiving. Whether staying supine does make conception more likely is still under debate, but I’m all for promoting relaxation, so if this theory provides added motivation, go for it!

CERVICAL TENTING

There is some suggestion that orgasm affects the shape and function of the cervix. These effects, which may include cervical ‘tenting could enhance the likelihood of conception by promoting the movement of sperm into the uterus and beyond. If you are curious as to what your cervix looks like during different stages of your cycle, check out these photos.

THE ‘UP-SUCK’ THEORY

One of the main ways in which female orgasm has been linked to fertility is something called the ‘upsuck’ theory (or, sometimes, the ‘insuck’ theory). This theory proposes that the female orgasm causes uterine and vaginal contractions that actively draw semen up into the uterus and towards the fallopian tubes, thereby increasing the chances of an egg being fertilized.

Scientific evidence to support this theory is rather inconsistent, but there’s certainly no harm in trying! One proposed underlying mechanism of this theory is oxytocin-mediated uterine peristalsis, i.e. the same mechanism that causes uterine contractions during labour could be partially responsible for increasing the likelihood of conception. Indeed, some research has found higher pregnancy rates in women shown to experience this ‘insuck’ phenomenon.

SPERM RETENTION AND FERTILITY

More recently, one small study found that orgasm may increase sperm retention. This study involved women using a syringe to insert a sperm simulant (lube) prior to external stimulation to orgasm. As such, the study’s findings may be especially applicable to anyone undergoing artificial insemination (IUI).

The take-away: Chances are that if you orgasm 1 minute before or up to 45 minutes after insemination (whether artificial or otherwise), you will probably retain more sperm, which may increase your chance of conceiving.

IN CONCLUSION

To sum up, the female orgasm might enhance fertility in a variety of ways, but it isn’t essential to conception.

The take home message is that orgasm and sexual arousal itself have many benefits to fertility, partner relationships and stress relief. Don’t worry though, if you have a low libido, conception can still happen even in the absence of arousal and orgasm!

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What Is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)?

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Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome or PCOS is a hormonal imbalance that affects 5 to 10 percent of women of reproductive age across the world, and results in irregular or absent periods, acne, excess body hair and weight gain. It is also a major cause of infertility and yet is frequently misdiagnosed and often missed completely.

PCOS gets its name because under an ultrasound scan, the ovaries can look like a bunch of grapes, each one covered in what look like multiple cysts. In fact, these aren’t cysts at all, but are small, undeveloped follicles.

Symptoms

Not every woman with PCOS will get the same symptoms, but common signs to look out for include:

  • Few or no periods
  • Excess hair on the face or breasts or inside of the legs or around the nipples
  • Acne
  • Oily skin
  • Scalp hair thinning or loss (male pattern baldness)
  • Skin tags (known as acrochordons)
  • Skin discolouration (known as acanthosis nigricans) where the skin looks ‘dirty’ on the arms, around the neck and under the breasts
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Lack of sex drive
  • Weight gain especially around the middle of the body
  • Difficulty in losing weight
  • Cravings and binges
  • Irregular or no ovulation
  • Difficulty in becoming pregnant
  • Recurrent miscarriages

PCOS creates a vicious cycle of hormone imbalances, which has huge knock-on effects throughout the rest of your body. With PCOS, the problem often starts with the ovaries, which are unable to produce the hormones they should, and in the correct proportions. But linked to this is the very common problem of insulin resistance. Women with PCOS very often have difficulties with blood sugar levels which can cause weight gain and the excess insulin can stimulate your ovaries to produce yet more testosterone. Half of all women with PCOS do not have any problems with their weight, yet they can still have higher insulin levels than normal.

How is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome diagnosed?

The most widely accepted criteria for the diagnosis of PCOS says that you should have two out of these three problems:

  • Infrequent or no ovulation
  • Signs (either physical appearance – hirsutism or acne – or blood tests) of high levels of male hormones
  • Polycystic ovaries as seen on an ultrasound scan

The Seven Nutritional Steps to beat Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Good nutrition is the foundation of your health and you should never underestimate how powerful it can be. It is the fuel that provides you with the energy to live your life and it gives your body the nutrients it needs to produce your hormones in the correct balance. The better the supply of those nutrients, the more healthily your body will function.

The fundamental aim of my nutritional approach to PCOS is to target a number of areas simultaneously so that you get the maximum effect in the minimum amount of time.

Here’s how:

  1. Switch to unrefined carbohydrates (eaten with protein) and never go more than 3 hours without food to keep your blood sugar levels balanced
  2. Eat oily fish and foods rich in Omega 3s to help your body to become more sensitive to insulin so it can overcome insulin resistance
  3. Cut out all dairy products for 3 months to bring levels of male hormones under control
  4. Eat more vegetables and pulses to which helps control male hormones
  5. Cut right back on or cut out alcohol for 12 weeks to allow your liver function to improve
  6. Cut down on caffeine to give your adrenal glands a rest
  7. Cut down on saturated fats and eliminate trans fats to help control the potentially damaging inflammatory processes PCOS causes in the body

PCOS Symptons

Best Supplements for PCOS

The use of certain vitamins and minerals can be extremely useful in helping to correct Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, along with a good diet.

Chromium

Chromium helps to encourage the formation of glucose tolerance factor (GTF), which is required to make insulin more efficient. A deficiency of chromium can lead to insulin resistance.  It also helps to control cravings and reduces hunger. Can help to reduce insulin resistance associated with PCOS

B vitamins

The B vitamins are very important in helping to control the symptoms of PCOS. Vitamin B2 helps to burn fat, sugar and protein into energy. B3 is a component of GTF which is released every time blood sugar rises, and vitamin B3 helps to keep the levels in balance. Vitamin B5 has been shown to help with weight loss and B6 is also important for maintaining hormone balance and, together with B2 and B3, is necessary for normal thyroid function.

Zinc

Zinc helps with PCOS as it plays a crucial role in the production of your reproductive hormones and also regulates your blood sugar.

Magnesium

Magnesium is an important mineral for dealing with PCOS because there is a strong link between magnesium levels and insulin resistance – the higher your magnesium levels the more sensitive you are likely to be to insulin.

Co-Enzyme Q10

Co-Q10 is a substance that your body produces in nearly every cell.  It helps to balance your blood sugar and lowering both glucose and insulin.

Alpha lipoic acid

This powerful antioxidant helps to regulate your blood sugar levels because it releases energy by burning glucose and it also helps to make you more insulin sensitive. It also has an effect on weight loss because if the glucose is being used for energy, your body releases less insulin and you then store less fat.

Omega 3 fatty acids

Omega 3 fatty acids taken in supplement form have been found to reduce testosterone levels in women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.

Amino Acids

Certain amino acids can be very helpful for PCOS as they can improve your insulin sensitivity and also can have an effect on weight loss.

N-Acetyl cysteine

In women with PCOS this amino acid helps reduce insulin levels and makes your body more sensitive to insulin. Study using NAC in women who were clomiphene resistant and had ovarian drilling.  After ovarian drilling, the women given NAC compared to a placebo showed a significantly higher increase in both ovulation and pregnancy rates and lower incidence of miscarriage.

Arginine

Arginine can be helpful in reversing insulin resistance. In one study, a combination of both arginine and N-acetyl cysteine were given to women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.  The two amino acids help to improve blood sugar and insulin control and also increased the number of menstrual cycles and ovulation with one women becoming pregnant on the second month.

Carnitine

Carnitine helps your body break down fat to release energy and can help improve insulin sensitivity.

Tyrosine

Tyrosine is helpful for women with PCOS who are overweight as it helps to suppress the appetite and burn off fat.

Glutamine

This amino acid is useful for helping with sugar cravings as it can be converted to sugar for energy and so takes away the need to eat something sweet.  It also helps to build and maintain muscle which is important for fat burning.

Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)

BCAAs include three amino acids leucine, isoleucine and valine. They are important in PCOS because they help to balance blood sugar and having good levels of these BCAAs can have a beneficial effect on your body weight

Inositol

A study used inositol (2,000mg) in combination with NAC (600mg), a significant increase in ovulation rates.

Having a good diet, regular exercise, controlling stress and taking key nutrients will help in getting your hormones back in balance and reducing the negative symptoms associated with PCOS.

More information can be found on www.naturalhealthpractice.com

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