Fertility treatments such as IVF have become increasingly popular in recent years, with a number of well-known mums like Brooke Shields, Christie Brinkley and Nicole Kidman all speaking openly about how it helped them to conceive.
However, Dr John Waterstone, Medical Director of the Cork Fertility Clinic, believes that while a small number of Irish people may be travelling for IVF, the biggest draw are overseas egg banks, which are not available here.
"The Czech Republic is a big destination for that, but by the time you factor in travelling and staying somewhere, then it may be that it's not actually that much cheaper at all. The big reason why women from Ireland are going abroad for fertility treatment is for egg donation, where their eggs are not of a good enough quality to conceive.
"Egg donation is one thing that we can't do adequately in Ireland at the moment because we don't have a supply of anonymous egg donors," Dr Waterstone added.
"So we have a link to a clinic in Spain, where our patients go. Some of our patients will also go to the United States because the success rate is extremely high for egg donation there. We are linked with a clinic in the States where they will actually guarantee you a baby or your money back."
"What's making them go abroad mainly is to access services, which they could not avail of in Ireland up to quite recently, such as donor sperm. So they were travelling abroad to access the sperm banks, but that is all accessible in Ireland now through ReproMed and clinics like us," Mr Keane said.
"There are no egg banks in Ireland, but certainly we can assist those services through Spain," Mr Keane added.
"I feel that you are better off staying in Ireland for IVF services and then for donor eggs, we can now freeze the man's sperm, fly it out, create the embryos and you can even have your embryos brought back into Ireland."
Mr Keane disagrees with a perception that Irish people are travelling overseas because they feel these clinics have more experience and expertise than fertility clinics in Ireland.
"It's not that they see the services as being better outside, I think people see it as being cheaper or they are accessing a service they cannot get here," he explained.
"I think the services in Ireland are excellent."
However, Mr Keane did concede that there are treatments available elsewhere, including IVF-related procedures, which have not yet been introduced in Ireland.
"In Ireland, we kind of watch what happens; are they successful? Are they viable? Is there any increased risk of abnormalities in the babies? Then we'll take on those research services. And some people will say 'look, I just need to access those now, so I'm going.'"
According to one 33-year-old woman, who had two failed IVF procedures in Ireland before going to Spain, where the procedure was finally a success, Irish people are travelling for more than financial reasons and egg donation.
"There are lower numbers doing IVF here, you get the sense that the expertise and the most up-to-date treatment options might not be available.
"I know a few girls my age, who like me, went abroad after two failed cycles. All of us conceived abroad using our own eggs."
Another woman (37), who is 20 weeks pregnant after travelling to Prague for her third IVF treatment, is more critical of Ireland's fertility sector.
"It was for male fertility that we went. I always felt that my husband needed a procedure done and they wouldn't listen to me here, so I asked them in Prague to do it. That operation is the only reason I'm pregnant," she said.Source: Sunday Independent