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A full guide to IVF in Greece

If you are in consideration of IVF, you probably have a lot of questions to address before deciding to proceed with the treatment. Trying to conceive is a journey that requires hope, courage, and plenty of pregnancy tests. 

Our role in MEDIPASS is to support you right from the start and we believe that one of the best ways to do this is through education. Having the knowledge and the awareness of the treatment will help you gain confidence and support while you pursue your dream. 

What is IVF?

IVF stands for In Vitro Fertilization. “In Vitro” in Latin means “in glass”, meaning that the fertilization of ovaries and sperm occurs in a laboratory dish, outside of the body. IVF can actually create the ideal circumstances for successful fertilization and growth of healthy embryos!

In Vitro Fertilization is not a single procedure: it’s a whole journey with several procedures that take place over the course of a cycle. IVF is a universal fertility procedure of assisted reproduction, a complex series of procedures that helps with fertility or prevent genetic problems and helps with the conception of a child. In the IVF treatment, the fertilization of the egg happens outside of a woman’s body, in a laboratory,  in order to create an embryo. 

Firstly, ovaries are stimulated to grow multiple follicles by administering “fertility drugs”. At the same time, ultrasound monitoring of the follicle number and growth along with blood hormone levels determine when a single injection matures the eggs. Then, while the patient is under light anesthesia, the fertility doctor, with a small needle, takes the eggs from the ovaries, and fertilizes them with sperm in a specialized laboratory. After the fertilization takes place, the eggs are developed into embryos and three to five days later the doctor places the embryos back into the uterus.

Stages of IVF

An IVF ‘cycle’ is the way we describe one round of IVF starting on the first day of your period.  As part of your fertility plan, you may start medication or injections before the first day of the cycle. The healthcare provider should be able to determine this for you.

  • Step 1: The first day of your period is the first official day of your IVF. Every woman’s body is different so the fertility nurse should be able to help you determine day 1.
  • Step 2: The second phase is “Stimulating your ovaries” which starts on day 1. In a  normal monthly cycle, the ovaries normally produce one egg. In this IVF stage, you will take medication that will encourage the follicles on your body to produce more eggs. The most common fertility medications are follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH).
  • Step 3:  Egg retrieval is stage 3 of IVF treatment. It is the day when the eggs are collected from the ovaries and you will get an anesthetic injection. You will stay asleep for approximately 30 minutes. The doctor will then be able to do an ultrasound and observe how many eggs there are before the retrieval. The recovery happens 30 minutes after the end of the procedure and you can walk away on your own. 
  • Step 4: If you are a couple, the male will produce a sample of fresh sperm on the same day of the egg retrieval. 
  • Step 5: This is the fertilization stage where the fertility specialist presents the eggs they have retrieved, still in the fluid from the follicles of the ovaries. The scientists use specialized microscopes to find the eggs in the fluid so they can be removed. It’s crucial that the eggs are fertilized quickly. The eggs and sperm are placed in the laboratory dish. They have the chance to find each other and fertilize as they would naturally within your body.
  • Step 6: On the embryo development stage the sperm fertilizes the egg and it becomes an embryo. The scientists place the embryo in the incubator where there are conditions that help the embryo to grow and develop.
  • Step 7: The nurse will contact you when the embryo develops in the lab so you are ready for it to be transferred into your uterus. 

The embryo transfer is a very simple process, very similar to a smear test and it takes approximately 5 minutes. It is happening while you are awake. 

IVF is a major fertility treatment performed when other methods of ART such as fertility drugs, surgery, and artificial insemination have been unsuccessful.

The treatment can be done using your own eggs and your partner’s sperm or may involve known or anonymous donor sperm, eggs, or embryos (known as egg or embryo donation).

How long does IVF take?

A single cycle of IVF can take up about four to six weeks. Occasionally, the IVF procedure is split into different parts and the process lasts longer. Although, that’s related to the success rates of the specific treatment and some people get lucky from just one round of treatment and others need to endure more cycles in order to achieve pregnancy.

How does age affect IVF treatment?

A woman’s fertility age has a significant impact on her ability to get pregnant naturally or with IVF using her own eggs. Generally speaking, women over the age of 38 or 40 years old have a very small number of eggs and their quality of them has been diminished over the years. A woman’s fertility actually begins to drop around the age of 28. The curve of decline becomes sharper around the age of 35 and accelerates again between the age of 39 and 42. In most cases, women’s ability to get pregnant naturally ends about 10 years before menopause. 
The reason for this is due to the quality and quantity of each woman’s eggs. Women are born with all the eggs they will ever have. Most of them never mature. Despite your prime fertile years, some of the eggs have chromosomal abnormalities, and the proportion of the eggs with genetic problems increases as you age. Ultimately, all viable eggs run out. This is happening earlier in some women than in others. 

IVF success rates are also affected by the woman’s age and decrease in a similar manner to natural fertility. According to the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, IVF success rates decrease dramatically after the age of 37. Therefore, after the age of 43, it has been suggested that donated eggs from younger women are often needed for a successful pregnancy.

Are you a good candidate for IVF?

A great candidate for IVF is a woman with overall good health. Apart from this basic requirement, it is really a question of each woman’s medical background.

Specifically, IVF is very effective in treating many different infertility causes and it is a good option for : 

  • Women who have absent or non-surgically repairable fallopian tubes
  • Women who have endometriosis and haven’t been able to achieve pregnancy after medical or surgical treatment
  • Women who have ovulatory dysfunction who haven’t been able to achieve pregnancy after regular ovulation induction
  • Women with a history of DES exposure during pregnancy (T-shaped uterus)
  • Couples experiencing unexplained infertility
  • Couples for whom the partner or husband has a very low sperm count

IVF success rate by age

IVF is a treatment that depends on plenty of factors like the couple’s general health, women’s health, age, sperm and the quality of the embryo (whether is fresh or frozen), the clinic that undertakes the treatment, the embryologist and the person who does the retrieval and transfer. Based on these factors the universal average success rate for IVF treatment fluctuates between 30-40% percent overall. 

In Greece the overall success rate is 55%, making it a very popular destination for IVF.

According to recent research that took place in our cooperating clinic in Athens, focusing mainly on Greek and International patients, the success rates of IVF are 54% per cycle. However, much depends on the causes of infertility, the patient’s age, and the values of the partner’s seminal fluid.

Specifically, the success rate of IVF treatment in the year 2018, in one of our cooperating clinics in Crete, reached overall the level of 60.5%. More specifically: 

Rates for January-December 2018 Number of patients: 185
Patient ageEgg CollectionsEmbryo TransfersClinical PregnanciesClinical Pregnancy Rate per Embryo Transfer
Under 3542402665%
Over 4064521223%
Data from Crete Fertility Centre

Success rates 2019-2021

Patient ageClinical pregnancy rate per embryo transfer %
Under 3564.8
Over 4026.8
Data from Crete Fertility Centre

We can also observe some interesting findings from Assisting Nature, our cooperating clinic in Thessaloniki, which it consistently has high success rates.

A graphic describing clinical pregnancy rate and live pregnancy rate per age
Assisting Nature research

IVF side effects

In most cases, patients have reported that after IVF can begin with normal activities the following day. Some of the side effects that someone could experience after the procedure is the passage of small amounts of fluid. The fluid can be clear or slightly tinged with blood. Other mild side effects are cramping and bloating as well as tender breasts and constipation. 

Occasionally, some of the side effects might be coming from fertility medications, and they include mood swings, headaches, abdominal pain, hot flashes, and ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome (OHSS). 

IVF Greece – licensed fertility clinics

Greek IVF units work under license from the Greek National Authority of Assisted Reproduction, which controls compliance with legal requirements and Greek and European regulatory frameworks. Lately, the authority initiated a program of detailed checks, pointing not only to reassure IVF candidates that they will receive a secure and reliable service but to also obtain a clearer picture of the existing situation in the field of assisted reproduction in Greece. Thus far, Greece has more than 40 licensed assisted reproduction units that provide IVF treatment, micro-assisted fertilization (ICSI, a male infertility treatment), the transfer of cryopreserved embryos and egg donation, according to Population Medicine.

IVF in Greece

Greece is rapidly becoming a competitive destination for IVF, due to the combination of high-quality and advanced services at reasonable rates. Over the years, more and more couples from Europe, the USA, Australia, and Canada are placing their trust in healthcare professionals in Greece to support them to pursue their dream of childbearing. 

One of the main reasons that couples choose Greece as a destination for fertility treatments is the country’s progressive IVF legislation. It allows voluntary and anonymous egg donation; the transfer of more than one embryo; sperm, egg, and embryo freezing; prenatal checks, and surrogacy.

In Greece, the age limit that a woman is permitted to undertake IVF treatment and enjoy motherhood is 54 years old (according to the latest Greek government act) whereas other countries like the UK or USA are 42 and 40 accordingly.
Also, some of the factors that have contributed to the evolution of IVF tourism in Greece are that sperm donors can remain anonymous, egg donations are permitted, and single women can look for a sperm donor.

All the above has made Greece a top international destination for high-quality fertility services or the “Holy Land” for fertility treatment as some say!

Athens, Greece downtown

How long should you stay in Greece for an IVF cycle?

The IVF treatment could start from the country of your residence and you will have to come to Greece for the final scan. After your arrival, you will need to stay in Greece for approximately 10 days. During this period the medical professionals will carry out the egg collection, the eggs’ fertilization, and your embryo transfer. 
You can safely fly back home straight after the embryo transfer. Traveling will not have any impact on the embryo transfer and it will not influence the result of pregnancy.  

Also, in case your husband/ partner won’t be able to accompany you at the time you will be in Greece, the clinic should be able to arrange for him to fly out on an earlier time frame and freeze a semen sample so it can be used for fertilization.

And if you ever need to talk we are here. We have especially for this cause created a Facebook Group, for people struggling with infertility, a safe space for everyone to open up about their feelings, concerns, and experiences. And we will be more than happy for you to join us.

Your fertility journey is not the one you should do alone, and infertility shouldn’t be a taboo anymore.

Let’s fix that!

Request your quote and let the journey begin!

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A full guide to IVF in Greece