40% back women receiving ova donations abroad: Survey

JAPAN - About 40 per cent of fertility clinics in the nation say they would support women planning to go overseas to receive ova donations, a recent Yomiuri Shimbun survey found.

Since only a limited number of domestic medical institutions conduct fertility treatments with donated ova, facilities are being urged to take a realistic stance on the issue as an increasing number of patients are going abroad, the survey results suggest.

The Yomiuri Shimbun sent a questionnaire in February to 588 medical institutions that reported to the Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology that they conduct advanced fertility treatments, including in vitro fertilization. Of these clinics, 282 institutions, or 48 per cent, provided valid responses.

Asked whether they support patients who receive ova donations overseas, 31 said they do, while 83 said they would on a case-by-case basis. This means 40 per cent of clinics support such patients and are willing to serve as "backup facilities."

Women must receive hormonal treatments, including a hormone drink, for a certain period of time before in vitro fertilization to increase their chances of becoming pregnant.

They usually arrange these treatments by themselves before going abroad, as their trip would be longer and more costly if they had the same procedure in the country where they plan to receive the ova donation.

To prepare their patients, backup facilities conduct blood tests to assess the effects of the hormone treatments and check if there have been any changes in the womb using ultrasound exams.

Many institutes are believed to only support their own patients, but there are others that publicly announce on their websites that they support all women in this situation, even those who are not patients.

In some cases, facilities also administer pregnancy tests after their patients return to Japan.

"We can't tell our patients, with whom we've worked hard [to achieve their pregnancy goal], to just figure it out on their own," said the director of a facility that displays brochures from an ova brokerage firm.

On the other hand, 162 facilities, or 57 per cent, said they do not advocate such backup measures.

One facility said this was because problems could arise if it is involved in any way.

Chiaki Shirai, an adjunct lecturer at Waseda University who studies infertile patients going abroad, requests medical facilities observe some general precautions.

"If a medical facility receives an inquiry about ova donation, I hope they first explain to patients the risk of receiving eggs in their late childbearing years and make them aware of possible challenges during the course of raising children," Shirai said.

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