Britain has the worst record in Europe as far as fertility treatment and safety are concerned, new figures published by the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology have revealed.
What would shock most Britons on World Health Day (April 7) is that women in the country face a four times higher risk of developing serious complications than in any other European country engaged in fertility treatment.
Experts have warned that British women's lives are being jeopardised in order to improve the numbers of successful pregnancies ccording to a report in The Independent, Britain has the highest levels of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), the most serious and potentially fatal side-effect of IVF treatment. At least two women with OHSS have died in the past three years, and there are fears of more cases going unrecorded.
Complications from IVF treatment from the use of drugs to stimulate the production of eggs can range from severe bloating and vomiting, to kidney failure, and even death in rare cases. Fertility experts say they fear many serious cases are not being recorded, because women go straight to casualty or end up in intensive care, the cause of their symptoms going unnoticed by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA).
This alarming statistic has been compiled on the eve of a major international fertility conference, which opens in London on Thursday. It will debate how fertility treatments should be made safer, which would include the use of less intensive drug treatments.
Many European doctors believe the figures reflect the UK's emphasis on results - successful conceptions - over patient safety. They say the UK achieves average to above average pregnancy rates, but lags behind Europe when it comes to safety of women undergoing treatments.
The HFEA said: "Women considering IVF should have a full and frank discussion with their clinician about the risks involved and about what other treatment approaches might be suitable, such as newer techniques like in vitro maturation (IVM) or soft IVF (using fewer drugs)."
An HFEA commissioned report found severe OHSS occurs in about one per cent of treatment cycles in the UK.