27 Feb Olivia Cerezo of Barcelona IVF
When and why was Barcelona IVF founded? Who was behind the project?
Barcelona IVF was founded in 2010 by a team of doctors and an embryologist who had worked together in the past. There common wish was to add a personal approach and touch to this growing industry and hence decided to get together and create their own clinic. Six years down the road we have grown quite quickly but maintain the same family feel.
Can you explain exactly what IVF is?
In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) is an assisted reproduction treatment where the female eggs are removed from the stimulated ovaries and fertilized with sperm in the laboratory. The In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) consists of three main phases: Ovarian stimulation, Retrieval of the eggs for fertilisation and embryo culture & Embryo transfer into the uterus.
Do you offer other treatments aside from IVF?
We offer Egg freezing, IUI, Frozen embryo transfer, and Egg donation. Sperm bank for single women and severe male dysfunctions.
Since its foundation, how many successful pregnancies can Barcelona IVF boast of?
We have obtained an 86% pregnancy rate for an egg donation cycle and percentages vary for IVF as age plays an important role but from 35-42 year for example the rate is between 45-58%.
What are the main advantages of having IVF treatment in Spain as opposed to other European countries?
Spain is the country in Europe where most people from abroad come to carry out an IVF treatment, and most specifically, Barcelona. One in 3 egg donation treatments in Europe, is carried out here. This is due to various factors, of which three stand out; the legal conditions (egg donation is allowed, and donors are anonymous so there are more of them), no waiting lists, and the price (it is less costly). This, accompanied by the fact that the country is very advanced in medical technologies, boasts of good weather and is of easy access by plane, train or other, makes it even more appealing.
Why in particular is Barcelona so popular with couples thinking of having IVF?
Barcelona is a wonderful cosmopolitan city, which offers patients the opportunity of making the most out of such a complex moment in their life – nerves and stress are always involved during this time and if they are able to turn it into a mini-break there are more chances of calming the mind and body. The fact it is by the sea and has such good weather makes it a perfect destination. Barcelona also counts on a large international community, which means there are more possibilities of obtaining a donor with similar characteristics to the patient, something they highly appreciate.
How respected is the practice here and is Barcelona IVF certified by the Catalan Government?
The practice of assisted reproduction is highly respected in Spain in general and our clinic is a certified health center with its data audited by the Catalan Government (Generalitat de Catalunya) insuring quality and transparency. It is interesting to know that Spain is the number one country in Europe for donations.
Approximately what percentage of women who come to Barcelona IVF have travelled to Spain for this treatment?
At Barcelona IVF we have both national and international patients. Aproximately 50% come from abroad. We have had about 100 different nationalities out of which many are from UK, France and Italy.
Are prices for your treatments significantly lower than in other countries of the EU?
Despite our clinic being of an exclusive nature, and quality being our priority, we offer treatments such as egg donation for 7,000€ and IVF for around 5,000€, which is the medium price in most known fertility clinics in the country. Comparing with prices in the UK the difference is quite noticeable though. For instance, an egg donation is on average 11.000€, and also does not include extras such as the medication or the use of an embryo scope when observing the embryos in the culture. The use of the embryoscope (450€) and blastocyst stage (450€) can both help improve implantation and have been proven to be effective. If you were to carry out an egg donation costs would be the same but you would have to add on the donors treatment, which is about 1000€ as well.
Embryoscope is a highly developed embryo incubator containing image technology for continuous time-lapse record. This allows obtaining a complete video of the embryos since their initiation of life and blastocyst is the transfer on day 5 since retrieval. This means a better selection of the transferred embryos. More time with the embryos under observation in the laboratory means more information about their quality. Usually not all of the embryos reach the blastocyst stage due to their insufficient quality to produce a pregnancy. On the contrary, embryos reaching day five at blastocyst stage are those with higher probabilities to lead to pregnancy
Can you tell us a bit about the process once a potential client has contacted you for advice?
When a patient makes contact they either call our customer service number or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org. A first contact assistant will return your enquiry and will ask a certain amount of questions to determine what process would fit best in your case. She will also answer any questions the patient has. After this first contact, and if interested, a first appointment is programmed – this can be carried out at the clinic or else via skype, from the comfort of your home, and is complimentary. Both appointments last 1h-1.30h and the doctor and patient talk about past history in the field, concerns, queries and a treatment is determined. This doctor will be the one to follow that patient until the end of communication is reached. A patient assistant is then assigned and she will act as an intermediary between patient and doctor throughout. However, any medical issue will always be decided by the doctor. The assistant is simply there for support. And should the patient have a doctor in her home town who wishes to be informed of the developments, this would also be possible, hence avoiding any misunderstandings or confusion.
Do you assess a couples emotional as well as physical wellbeing before they embark on IVF treatment?
Yes we do. The doctors get involved in the health department, and our psychologist is available for any consultation, as well as for emotional support throughout the procedure. A visit with the psychologist is also included on the first visit.
How much emotional and psychological support do you offer couples when undergoing treatment?
As much as we can. Our specialists in that department are experienced and have dealt with many women undergoing assisted reproduction so they are of great support.
How many attempts would you advise before a couple gives up trying to conceive?
This question is difficult to answer as each case is personal, and it is up to the patients to decide whether they want to continue or not. The only limitation we can put is age, which we have marked at 50 years.
Are there any long term effects from the fertility drugs?
During the treatment there are some side effects such as bloatedness, but up to date there are no long term effects, especially if the protocol is adjusted to the patients profile.
There was a time when it was seen as taboo to talk about infertility, do you think society has changed and that it is no longer the case?
Society is changing and you can feel it – we assisted the Fertility Show in London in November 2016 and it has become much lighter than 4 years ago when I went last. I believe this is due to people talking a bit more about it, because it is very common in our society now a days. I also believe that thanks to egg freezing, fertility treatments have become accessible to a younger more open minded generation who is less wary about the stigma around infertility, and they are less scared to talk about it. This said, I still believe there is a lot of taboo to be shed on the matter and that there is a huge need for more information and support. That is why we are offering small Q&A’s around Europe where patients can come and ask our doctors any questions in a cosy and intimate atmosphere.