It is our pleasure to interview Dr Rafael Bernabeu M.D; Ph D, Medical Director of Instituto Bernabeu in Spain. He is a Doctor of Medicine, Specialist in Gynaecology and Reproductive Medicine. He has many qualifications including Director of the Community and Reproductive Medicine Chair at the Miguel Hernández University.
Instituto Bernabeu is very popular with people travelling abroad for egg donation treatment. Can you explain why this is so?
There are many and very personal reasons for this. The experience we have gained from our egg donation programme, which has been running for over 25 years, has allowed us to understand our patients’ needs and to design personalised lines of treatment for each case.
It is also because of the demanding screening process which we put all egg donors through and which rejects over 40% of the candidates wishing to participate. However, without a doubt, what our patients value most is our in-depth understanding of their emotional and medical needs and, above all, the exceptional care with which we undertake each phase of their treatment.
What do patients need to do before they begin receiving treatment at your clinic? Do they need to attend an initial consultation in person or is it possible to proceed without a prior visit to your clinic?
It depends on the study carried out beforehand, because each case is different. In order to get the very best results, it’s essential that we begin by studying the case before personalising the treatment. On the whole, an initial appointment is recommendable, whether it be in person or via video conference facilities over a private platform that uses encrypted data and ensures privacy over the Internet.
Do you offer only fresh donor eggs or are frozen eggs an option, too?
In 2015, 97% of treatment involving egg donation was carried out with fresh eggs obtained exclusively from a donor who had been synchronised with the receptor. In other words, there was no egg sharing. The remaining 3% in which fresh eggs were not used were down to the patients’ specific request to use frozen ones.
What kind of support is available for patients who travel to your clinic from abroad?
We are aware of the special needs the patients who come to our clinic from abroad have and our international support department is put at their disposal. We have a team of staff of different nationalities so that, whilst always maintaining strictly professional standards and ensuring that we do not neglect emotional care, our patients are treated in their mother tongue at all times.
Right from the outset, each patient is assigned a head gynaecologist and an ACI (care assistant) who has received specialised training in order to provide support during each stage of the treatment. Along with all the staff at Instituto Bernabeu, this person will be available for the patient at all times and will have information on their case and will accompany the patient and provide assistance throughout in their mother tongue. This support can be provided in a very wide but very necessary range of matters such as information on local accommodation or managing the free, private chauffeur service which picks patients up at the airport and brings them to the clinic.
There is a mobile phone number, e-mail address and a 24 medical emergency service which breaks down geographical barriers and makes each patient feel special.
How do you screen your egg and sperm donors to ensure that they are healthy and, in the case of egg donors, that their welfare is also taken into account?
The donor selection process is very thorough and there are 4 stages to it:
1 An evaluation carried out by our psychologist in a personal interview and donor psychological and socio-cultural profile questionnaires. Around one third of all donor candidates are not accepted.
- An evaluation of the donor candidate carried out by our doctor who is a specialist in general health and reproductive health. Personal and family medical history is also covered.
- A screening process to detect infectious diseases and which includes the most common sexually transmitted diseases:
- Gonococcus (Neisseria gonorrhoeae),
- Syphilis (Treponema pallidum),
- Chlamydias (Chlamydia trachomatis), chancroid (Haemophilus ducreyi),
- Genital herpes (herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2),
- Trichomoniasis (Trichomonas vaginalis),
- Non-gonoccocal urethritis (Micoplasma hominis, Micoplasma genitalium and Ureaplasma urealyticum).
- Hepatitis B, C, HIV.
- Karyotype and a study of 600 of the most common autosomal recessive diseases and those linked to the X chromosome which, despite being rare, can be present in the donor without them being aware of it.
This screening process needs to be completed with an evaluation of the partner in order to ensure genetic compatibility between the donor and the receptor’s partner.
Why should patients come to Spain rather than other countries for egg donation treatment?
It’s not a question of which country but of which clinic.
A child is for life and genetics and epigenetics are essential for good health during and following pregnancy.
Patients that choose to put the responsibility of achieving pregnancy in the hands of Instituto Bernabeu do not do so because of where we are located. They do so because of the results we get. It’s down to the guarantee that goes with everything we do. They feel that we evaluate their case and personalise the treatment and that we use our understanding and professionalism to achieve a common goal: their child.
What is the pregnancy guarantee that so many British patients are requesting?
In 2014, we were pioneers in offering a complete and absolute commitment providing a 100% guarantee of a successful pregnancy and, should this not happen, all your money back.
Our goal as doctors of medicine is to achieve that child that our patients are hoping for so much. We share the risk throughout and the joy when pregnancy is confirmed.
Belief in the quality of our work and in the excellent results it gives, as well as our desire for the emotional wellbeing of our patients and to eliminate doubts about the outcome, led us to create a revolutionary service in which pregnancy is guaranteed or you get all your money back.