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Assisted Reproduction

Types of Assisted Reproduction

World population has gone through remarkable changes in the last century. It has quadrupled in size — from about 1.6 billion in 1900 to 6.5 billion today — leading many to fear the effects of overpopulation. However, looking at world population as a whole obscures the real picture: while growth continues in the poorest countries, the industrialized countries of Europe, North America, and elsewhere have shown much less growth. In fact, many European countries have a negative growth rate, and actually depend on immigrants to maintain the work force.

The reason for this disparity is, of course, the many career options open to empowered and educated women. In industrialized countries, women tend to have many fewer children — often just a single child — and to postpone childbearing into their 30s and often into their 40s. However, this postponement means that many, when they do decide to have a child, face difficulty in conceiving.

Assisted reproductive technology (ART) is a relatively new field of medicine in response to the tremendous demand from women who need medical help to conceive a child. There are many such technologies. The one factor they have in common is that they are all expensive. This is a natural industry for medical tourism. Many countries now offer not only all the ART available in the U.S., but also a few additional techniques that are not available outside of experimental settings in American universities.

Because of evernewer technology, this sort of medical tourism is not a oneway flow. The U.S. continues to hold a certain cachet around the world, attracting many “reproductive tourists” from overseas, especially to the highstatus clinics of Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, where some 2,400 doctors reap a windfall for the local tax base. For example, these women can select sperm or eggs based on the donor’s appearance — from height, hair and eye color, right down to the shape of the mouth and eyes, IQ, talent for sports or music, and so on. Those who don’t want to travel to the U.S. can order sperm on the Internet. Donated, frozen human sperm has become an American export trade product.

Women can also purchase eggs from a Mailorder Babies from Romania donor. Attractive and academically ac The GlobalArt clinic in Bucharest, Romania, ofcomplished American college students — fers fertilized eggs, ready for implantation. A woman especially if they are also gifted in sports, can therefore choose her baby’s features. Frozen music, or other arts — are being offered sperm is sent to the clinic, which then fertilizes an $10,000 and more for a single extraction egg taken from a young Romanian woman in her 20s of ovarian eggs. This is also happening, to who has the desired features. The fertilized egg is some extent, in other countries. then sent back to the woman. Dr. Illya Barr, a fertility By far the most common ART service specialist from Israel, established GlobalArt in Romadesired by medical tourists is in vitro fernia because of the lax regulations there. tilization. Cost is the primary reason:

Each attempt at IVF costs about $10,000 to $12,000 in the U.S., and it is generally not covered by health insurance. Data from the National Center for Health Statistics shows that IVF is successful only 17 percent of the time. That means a woman can expect an average of six cycles to conceive. The final cost can therefore easily approach $100,000. In contrast, overseas clinics are far cheaper and usually offer further substantial discounts on multiple cycles.
Additional popular ART services include:
Transvaginal ovum retrieval
In this procedure, a small needle is inserted through the back of the vagina and guided via ultrasound into the ovarian follicles to collect the fluid that contains the egg. Assisted hatching
Sometimes, the fertilized egg is perfectly healthy but has an abnormally thick wall and cannot implant into the uterus. This procedure is done during IVF, after the egg is fertilized but before it is inserted. It involves cutting a small opening in the outer layer surrounding the egg. Gamete intrafallopian tubal transfer (GIFT)
In this procedure, a mixture of sperm and an egg is placed directly into a woman’s fallopian tubes. It is a surgical procedure, following transvaginal ovum retrieval. When the egg is fertilized before the placement, it is zygote intrafallopian tubal transfer (ZIFT). Autologous endometrial coculture
For patients who have failed previous IVF attempts, or who have poor embryo quality, this procedure involves placing the fertilized eggs on top of a layer of cells taken from the patient’s own uterine lining, creating a more natural environment for embryo development. Gestational carrier and surrogacy
This is the final option for a woman who simply cannot achieve and complete a pregnancy, but still wishes to have a child with her DNA. There are many reasons for this: A woman may have a medical condition that does not allow a safe pregnancy, or has no uterus, or any number of other conditions. A “surrogate” woman is found who agrees to have the fertilized egg implanted and then carry the pregnancy to delivery, after which she hands over the baby to the genetic mother. In the U.S., this process is fraught with legal and ethical concerns, and therefore strongly discouraged. Even when the most clearcut agreement is made, problems arise when the birth mother decides to keep the infant rather than give it up. It is also, naturally, extremely expensive. These factors combine to make such an arrangement far easier to accomplish overseas, particularly in poorer countries. Several procedures are also possible when it is the man who is the cause of infertility:
Epididymal sperm aspiration (ESA) and testicular sperm extraction (TESE) These are types of surgical sperm retrieval (SSR), in which the reproductive urologist (a specialized surgeon) extracts sperm from testis, vas deferens, or epididymis. It is a short outpatient procedure, which often can overcome cases of extreme male infertility. Intracytoplasmic sperm insertion (ICSI) Also called intracytoplasmic sperm injection, it involves the injection of a single sperm into an egg, which is then further managed as IVF. This involves an astonishingly fine needle and dexterity to accomplish the maneuver under microscopic visualization. ICSI is a very useful technique when the sperm count is low. Even if the sperm count is zero, ICSI can be performed with the use of ESE or TESA. Remarkably, ICSI allows the use of even malformed or immotile sperm, since even nonfunctional sperm may still carry the genetic material. Overseas ART clinics also offer preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). This involves the use of fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) or polymerase chain reaction (PCR). DNA amplification is then used to help identify genetically abnormal embryos and improve healthy outcomes. The idea, in short, is to identify undesirable traits before implanting the embryo. The undesired embryos are destroyed.

Content taken from the book MEDICAL TOURISM TRAVEL GUIDE

Book cover Medical Tourism Travel Guide by Paul Gahlinger Sunrise River Press

The Medical Tourism Travel Guide is the essential guide for anyone considering a medical trip overseas. It tells you everything you need to know to get top-notch medical care in world-class medical facilities at a cost far less than treatment in the United States. The author, Dr. Paul Gahlinger, has personally visited a great number of the facilities described in this book, and here he shares information on hundreds of clinics, hospitals, and spas in about 50 countries, as well as important tips on how to travel, how to pay, how to prepare, what to do, and what to avoid.

With kind permission of Paul Gahlinger. For more information visit Sunrise River Press