Vietnam has potential to be top infertility treatment destination

SUNDAY, 05/02/2023 07:05:55

Vietnam has emerged as a beacon in infertility treatment, offering both domestic and foreign patients access to modern technology, high success rates, and cost-effective solutions, according to health experts.

Doctor Le Long Ho, acting Head of My Duc Hospital’s My Duc Phu Nhuan Fertility Support Department, gives infertility treatment counselling for patients at My Duc Hospital in Ho Chi Minh city. Photo courtesy of the hospital

Furthermore, compared to other regions and countries, the cost of infertility treatment in Vietnam is significantly lower.

A 35-year-old French-Vietnamese woman, who wished to be anonymous, was desperate for a baby after years of marriage.

In 2019, she and her husband decided to return to Vietnam for infertility treatment in a hospital in Ho Chi Minh city.

Their first attempt at performing intrauterine insemination (IUI), a fertility treatment where sperm were placed directly into a woman’s uterus, failed.

In 2022, the couple tried again, fearing they were running out of time to be parents.

On this second try at My Duc Hospital, they were advised to apply in vitro fertilization (IVF). This is the most effective form of assisted reproductive technology in which eggs are combined with sperm outside the couple’s body in a lab in five steps, including ovarian stimulation, egg retrieval, sperm retrieval, fertilisation and embryo transfer.

Their efforts paid off. The woman is 26 weeks pregnant and has some frozen embryos for her next pregnancy.

IVF technology in Vietnam is very good. My process was painless and went smoothly. We were surprised to see it happen quite quickly, she told Nguoi Lao Dong (Labourers) online newspaper.

“The cost of performing IVF in Vietnam is lower than in Singapore or Thailand. I want to thank the hospital's medical staff for making our dream of having a child come true,” she said.

N.M.L in central Thanh Hoa province had experienced an uncertain journey to become a father after six years of travelling around to have infertility treatment.

The man suffered from Klinefelter syndrome, a genetic disorder in men that leads to low or no sperm counts.

Dinh Huu Viet, Head of Andrology and Fertility Hospital of Ha Noi’s Department of Andrology, said in the past, most of these cases had to accept child adoption or ask for sperm donors.

But the application of Microscopic testicular sperm extraction (MicroTESE) is a procedure that takes sperm directly from the testicular tissue of the man's reproductive system.

The doctors spent hours searching for sperm using an operating microscope and implemented IVF for the couple.

Viet said MicroTESE is currently considered one of the great advances in assisted reproduction treatment. This method is indicated for male infertility due to testicular atrophy, Sertoli syndrome, and mid-sperm spermatogenesis syndrome.

Advanced technology

In addition to IVF and MicroTESE, many advanced infertility treatments have been applied at medical facilities, such as artificial insemination (IUI), intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), and autologous platelet-rich plasma (PRP).

Modern treatment regimens in embryo culture and embryo storage have increased the success rate of an IVF cycle up to 60-70 per cent.

A newborn baby under special treatment at A Thai Nguyen General Hospital, which provides assisted reproduction such as IVF and MicroTESE. Photo: Hoang Nguyen

Ly Thai Loc, Head of Hung Vuong Hospital’s Infertility Department in Ho Chi Minh city, said Vietnam had begun research on artificial intelligence in embryo diagnosis and monitoring.

“In this field, we are still slower than the world because Vietnam's artificial intelligence foundation is not high," Loc said. "However, with the development of computer science in Vietnam, this technique will develop stronger and bring more practical achievement to infertile patients in the future."

Hung Vuong Hospital receives between 50-60 cases from abroad for infertility treatment every year, despite COVID-19.

Ho Sy Hung, Deputy Director of the National Hospital of Obstetrics and Gynecology’s National Centre for Reproductive Support, assessed that Vietnam’s techniques and procedures in assisted reproductive technology are not as good as those in developed countries, but are getting closer to many health facilities in the region.

“Developed countries have invested a lot of resources to research and develop new techniques in assisted reproduction so that they will be ahead of us. But the world is flat, so approaching, learning and applying these techniques is fast and convenient,” he said.

Ho Manh Tuong, Head of My Duc Hospital’s Fertility Support Department, said assisted reproductive technology in Vietnam has developed very rapidly in the past ten years.

Currently, Vietnam has successfully implemented all modern assisted reproductive techniques in the world. It is the country that performs the most IVF in the ASEAN region with the highest success rate but the lowest cost, he said.

Tuong cited a number of techniques such as frozen embryo transfer and IVF without ovarian stimulation (IVM technique) as examples that Vietnam is leading the region.

Vietnam is also the country with the most international scientific publications related to assisted reproductive technology in the ASEAN region. Many colleagues in the region and the world regularly visit IVF centres for expertise exchange,” he said.

A couple shares their story of taking an IVF course at the Andrology and Fertility Hospital of Ha Noi

Potential top destination

Le Long Ho, acting Head of My Duc Hospital’s My Duc Phu Nhuan Fertility Support Department, said previously an IVF course took about 10-12 days, using 15-20 injections to stimulate ovaries, preventing ovulation and causing oocyte maturation and 2-3 ultrasounds and blood tests.

Besides long treatment times, patients suffered multiple injections of ovarian stimulation, posing risks of many complications such as pain, ovarian torsion, and even death.

Ho said the biphasic in vitro maturation (CAPA-IVM) technique, also known as IVF without ovarian stimulation, reduces treatment time to only eight days and lowers the treatment cost.

“The cost of performing IVF in Vietnam is rather low compared to that in many countries in Southeast Asia and around the world," said Ho. "Foreign patients coming to Vietnam for treatment can save a portion of their costs. This is one of the important reasons why overseas Vietnamese are choosing to return home to perform IVF.”

However, he added, the cost remains quite high for domestic patients and is not covered by health insurance.

The cost of performing an IVF is up to US$25,000 in the US and about VND250 million ($10,660) in Southeast Asia nations such as the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand. Meanwhile, the cost in Vietnam is only VND70 million ($2,980).

At Hung Vuong Hospital, an IVF case only costs about VND80-100 million with a pregnancy rate of 55-60 per cent and live birth rate of about 30 per cent. Meanwhile, the cost of IVF in developed countries is $10,000, with similar pregnancy and live birth rates.

Head of My Duc Hospital’s Fertility Support Department Tuong also said that in recent years, more and more overseas Vietnamese and foreigners have come to My Duc Hospital to perform assisted reproductive techniques.

Vietnam has the potential to become a leading destination in Asia and the world for assisted reproductive techniques,” Tuong said.



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