12th May, 2014
The medical director of Waterstone Clinic, Dr John Waterstone, has called for the introduction of a new reporting system to increase transparency within the sector and help couples choose a clinic which has a proven track record for producing pregnancies. Dr Waterstone believes that more transparency is vital in the industry in order to protect patients.
"In Ireland, for the consumer – the person or couple who are looking for fertility treatment – we don't have a transparent reporting system for success rates in this country and I feel that one is necessary," Dr Waterstone told the Sunday Independent.
"If you live in the UK or you live in America, there are comprehensive reporting systems, so that every fertility centre in that country who carries out IVF treatment has to make returns – which means if you're a member of the public, you can look up the success rates for the clinic on the internet and it's all transparent," he added.
"I think it's only what the consumer deserves and in Ireland when we don't have that sort of mandatory transparent reporting system, it's too easy for clinics to claim that they are successful when, in fact, they aren't very successful," Dr Waterstone said.
"The consumer of fertility services needs a mandatory reporting system for success. I feel that's the biggest regulation change that needs to take place."
Dr Waterstone also differs from some of his colleagues in the Irish fertility sector, over the practice of social egg freezing, sometimes referred to as 'egg-surance'.
A growing number of young career women across Ireland are choosing to put motherhood on hold and are freezing their eggs while they are in their 20s and early 30s.
However, Dr Waterstone believes that this procedure is leading to many women putting all their hopes on a technology which has not been perfected here, as no pregnancies have resulted from the process in Ireland as yet.
"It's a new technology, which has not been successful until very recently," he said. "Over the last five years progress is being made, but most progress has been made, not in Ireland nor in England, but in countries like Spain in particular and in the USA."
According to Dr Waterstone, whereas embryos or fertilised eggs can be frozen with relative success, freezing eggs alone is very new territory in Ireland.
As a result, Dr Waterstone feels that social egg freezing should not yet be offered to women here, particularly as a commercial service.
"We are starting to do research on freezing or vitrifying eggs, but vitrifying eggs is more difficult," he explained. "I don't make any secret of concerns I would have about recommending that young women freeze their eggs. My advice to them is to just be a little bit careful, the technology is in its infancy in Ireland and we haven't really perfected it yet.
"I've got no doubt that this will be a big area in years to come and it makes perfect sense logically," he added.
"Every day of the week I'm telling women that as they get older, their fertility is getting less because their eggs quality and numbers are getting less, so freezing at an early age as an insurance policy makes perfect sense, but we need to be a careful before we recommend it to young women, who are then putting their eggs in that basket."
According to Dr Waterstone, the current method of social egg freezing available in this country may be misleading women.
"I'm a little bit careful about women being misled about how successful egg freezing is," he explained. "It has been successful in the US, and I'm sure in the future the technology will become more successful, but it hasn't done so yet in Ireland."
Up to 3,000 babies are born each year in Ireland as a result of IVF procedures.
Joanna Kiernan, Sunday Independent