Why is IVF so popular in Denmark? (2023)

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Why is IVF so popular in Denmark? (1)

By Lucy Proctor

The Changing Face of Procreation, BBC World Service

Despite previous attempts to limit access to treatment, Denmark now has the biggest proportion of babies born through assisted reproductive technology (ART) in the world.

Visit any park in Denmark and the chances are many of the children playing there were born using IVF or donor sperm. Denmark leads the world in the use of ART to build families - an estimated 10% of all births involve such techniques.

Everyone in Denmark knows someone who has gone through IVF and talking about it is no taboo - chats at the schools gates or even church frequently revolve around the origins of people's children.

Pia Crone Cristensen - mother to two-year-old Sara, thanks to IVF and donor sperm - is one of a growing number of single women making use of Denmark's liberal IVF rules. After failing to find a suitable partner to father her children, she decided to go it alone, when she was 39.

"I think it's great that women finally have the upper hand - we can choose to become pregnant if we want to. I think that the problem is not necessarily that women don't want the men but that the men don't want to commit to having children. It's either doing it solo or not having children at all.

"I was lucky to become pregnant in the first round of the IVF. I remember giving birth and was just so grateful. I sat in the chapel of the hospital crying. I just needed to be grateful somewhere.

"People are very open about it. I went to a baptism not too long ago and I guess because people know that I got Sara the way I did, they were telling me, 'Oh, we're trying for another baby. You know, we got this one with IVF and we're trying again.' You don't necessarily have to be very close to have that conversation."

In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF)

  • An egg is removed from the woman's ovaries and fertilised with sperm in a laboratory
  • The fertilised egg is then returned to the woman's womb to develop
  • IVF worked for the first time on 10 November 1977. On 25 July 1978, the world's first IVF baby, Louise Brown, was born
  • On average, IVF fails 70% of the time
  • The highest success rates are for women under 35, one-third of treatment cycles are successful
  • On average, it takes almost four-and-a-half years to conceive with IVF

Source: Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority/Fertility Network UK

(Video) Why Is IVF So Famous In Denmark?

The birth of Troels Renard Østbjerg in 1983 marked the start of Denmark's journey from just another developed country trying to make the fledgling technology work better to becoming the world record holder for ART births.

Today, only Israel challenges Denmark's IVF crown. It has far more cycles of IVF per million inhabitants - about 5,000 compared with Denmark's 2,700. But a much lower natural birth rate and higher IVF success rate means that Denmark wins on the proportion of babies in the population born thanks to reproductive technology.

Prof Claus Yding Anderson, at Copenhagen's University Hospital, was part of the team that bought IVF to Denmark. He attributes its popularity to generous state funding.

"We had this national discussion that the public health care system takes care of a nose which is bending to one side, or ears which [stick out], where basically you are not sick, so it was pretty straightforward to say, 'Well of course we need to include IVF.'

"Money doesn't grow on trees in Denmark but this is the Scandinavian system. Everybody is willing to pay a lot in tax but everybody is benefiting."

Find out more:

Image source, Science Photo Library

The Changing Face of Procreation was broadcast on the BBC World Service.

Click here to listen to the first part and here to listen to the second part. Or you can download the programmes via the BBC World Service Documentary podcast.

Dr Sebastian Mohr, from Sweden's Karlstad University, has followed the growth of reproductive technology,

"Denmark has reproduced itself as a certain kind of nation. The state financing it, the people using it, the medical professionals lobbying around it - reproduction has become a national project rather than just a project of the individual."

But he points out that along with generous state funding comes state control of access to IVF.

Detailed criteria are not published but only people deemed to be "fit parents" are approved. Women over 40 don't get state-funded treatment and those over 45 are also barred from accessing IVF privately.

(Video) What is the difference between Mini IVF and Denmark Mini IVF

Dr Mohr argues that the decision-making process should be more public. He is investigating records of IVF funding decisions and says he has seen evidence that people who are considered "too disabled" are denied state funding.

It didn't used to be this way. During the 1980s and 1990s, IVF and other reproductive technologies went largely unregulated in Denmark. Doctors decided who should get treatment, initially only offering heterosexual couples the chance to conceive.

However, private clinics were free to treat anyone, and anything was possible: surrogacy (now banned in Denmark), IVF using donor sperm, and access for lesbian women.

IVF became controversial. Radical feminists complained that it meant medically trained men were commodifying women's bodies, while social conservatives also objected to the technology.

But in 1997 the government passed the Act on Artificial Fertilisation. Single women and lesbians - who for years had been able to pay for IVF and donor insemination - were now barred.

The new legislation sparked a fight for equality of access - but in the meantime, others spotted a loophole.

The law only banned doctors from carrying out the procedures, which led to a boom in specialist midwife-led clinics.

One such facility, the StorkKlinic, named after its midwife founder Nina Stork, became a big draw for single and lesbian women from across Europe wanting to start families. Just 5% of its clients today are Danish.

"The law opened up the possibility for entrepreneurs to establish a clinic where people could use these services even though the actual intention of the law was to exclude people," says Dr Mohr. "These clinics showed that it could be done responsibly."

In 2007 the current ART law was passed, granting access to state-funded IVF regardless of a woman's marital status or sexuality.

It marks Denmark out as one of the most permissive countries in the world in terms of who can get IVF and the decades of debate have moulded Danish society into one in which most people support the government's position.

The fertility industry is now one of Denmark's most successful exports and the country is is also home to the world's biggest sperm bank, Cryos International, which deals with customers around the world.

However, as the number of Danish women accessing IVF and insemination to have children has grown, so has the backlash.

Rasmus Ulstrup Larsen says that last year he was the most hated man in Copenhagen.

A 28-year-old high school economics teacher, he has become the unlikely figurehead for a section of Danish society that remains deeply unsettled by the social changes brought about by Denmark's liberal assisted reproduction laws.

In particular, some worry about the growing number of single women, such as Pia Crone Christensen, having children.

(Video) EBART 2018 | Anja Pinborg (Denmark)

"This increase of solo mums is a result of a sociological evolution. We see here in Denmark an individualistic ethics of self-realisation. It's the same as the high divorce rate. It's the same kind of culture that cultivates both things.

"We need more common goals, a more shared way of living instead of this individualistic way of perceiving life."

But he accepts he's fighting a losing battle.

Increasing numbers of single Danish women are having babies with donor sperm. The proportion of babies born in Denmark thanks to reproductive technology is steadily rising.

And as long as Denmark's fertility rate stays low, the government is likely to keep supporting treatment that helps the population to grow.

More on this story


Is Denmark good for IVF? ›

Denmark is regarded as being one of the forerunners in providing accessible, successful IVF treatments supported by a liberal legislative framework. It is estimated that as many as 8 to 10% of all babies born in the country are as a result of assisted reproduction, the highest proportional rate of any country.

What country has the highest IVF success rate? ›

  • TURKEY. Turkey is home to some of the finest IVF centers and JCI-accredited hospitals that boast high success rates in infertility treatments. ...
  • INDIA. India is a popular and established destination for a variety of fertility treatments abroad. ...
  • SPAIN. ...
  • UKRAINE. ...
14 Oct 2021

Where is the best country for IVF? ›

High success rate

Prague is the right place for you to have a fertility treatment done because the Czech Republic is well known for its great health care thanks to the well-educated medical staff and especially world-renowned for IVF treatment's quality and success rate.

What is the best IVF in the world? ›

Best IVF clinics list
IVF ClinicCountryRating
CRA Barcelona BarcelonaSpain4.8
ProCrea Swiss IVF Center PragueCzech Republic4.1
UNICA CLINIC Prague, BrnoCzech Republic4.6
GYNEM Fertility Clinic Prague PragueCzech Republic4.4
34 more rows

How fertile is Denmark? ›

The current fertility rate for Denmark in 2022 is 1.769 births per woman, a 0.11% increase from 2021. The fertility rate for Denmark in 2021 was 1.767 births per woman, a 0.06% increase from 2020.

What age is IVF most successful? ›

Studies show that women in their 20s and 30s have the most success when getting pregnant through IVF and other reproductive technologies. According to the CDC, the average percentages of assisted reproductive technology (ART) cycles that lead to a live birth are: 31% in women younger than 35 years of age.

How many times did Celine Dion do IVF? ›

Celine Dion gave birth to her miracle twins, Eddy and Nelson, after enduring six rounds of in vitro fertilization (IVF) and suffering a miscarriage. Before the twins were conceived, the singing sensation opened up to Oprah in 2010 about her fertility struggles, and what was on her mind through several failed attempts.

What country has cheapest IVF? ›

Cheapest IVF country
  • Czech Republic. IVF cost in the Chech Republic starts at €2,100 and egg donation IVF packages range from €4,600 to €5,500 – however you may find clinics where egg donation packages are cheaper – around €4,300.
  • North Cyprus. ...
  • Poland. ...
  • Ukraine.

Why is IVF becoming more common? ›

IVF is the most common fertility treatment used when the fallopian tubes are severely damaged or absent, or there is unexplained or male-factor infertility. Due to its high success rate, IVF has been used more frequently in recent years as a first line of therapy for all causes of infertility.

Which country in Europe has the most fertile land? ›

Description: The map below shows how Arable land (% of land area) varies by country in Europe. The shade of the country corresponds to the magnitude of the indicator. The darker the shade, the higher the value. The country with the highest value in the region is Denmark, with a value of 59.80.

In which country was IVF first successful? ›

It wasn't until 1978 that the first successful IVF pregnancy and live birth occurred. Dr. Patrick Steptoe and Dr. Robert Edwards performed the procedure in England, resulting in the birth of Louise Brown on July 25, 1978.

Which city is best for IVF treatment? ›

Metro cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Pune have some of India's best IVF centers and some of the best IVF clinics in the world. While service and treatment quality is top notch in India, the cost is an essential factor making India more and more preferable for IVF treatments.

Which country is best for egg freezing? ›

Which are the most popular destination in Europe for egg freezing? According to the latest figures produced by ESHRE (European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology) the European countries which perform the most assisted reproduction cycles are Spain, Czech Republic, Greece and Russia.

Do any countries ban IVF? ›

Costa Rica is the only country in the world that has banned the practice of IVF. Sanctions for the practice of IVF were those equal to homicide. Because the Supreme Court is the highest court in Costa Rica, no further appeals were possible.

Is IVF a designer baby? ›

In many ways, designer babies—sometimes called genetically modified babies—are the obvious result of decades of advancing IVF technology. Once scientists discovered how to create babies in the lab, embryo editing to produce a healthy GMO baby (also referred to as GM baby) was perhaps a natural next step.

Are most IVF babies healthy? ›

Having considered all the facts, IVF is still a boon to those who are unable to expect a baby in a normal process. The majority of the babies born through this process are healthy both physically and mentally. This, itself, assures the success of the process.

Is IVF better in Europe? ›

Europe leads the way in assisted reproduction services. Figures from the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology support this. Not including Asia, over 70% of worldwide fertility cycles are carried out in the EU. That's over 500,000 cycles a year.

Why does Denmark have a low fertility rate? ›

The low fertility rates we have witnessed in Denmark during recent decades are similar to those seen in many other industrialized countries. They have been associated with falling induced abortion rates, particularly among the younger birth cohorts.

What race has the highest fertility? ›

The fertility rate in the United States in 2020 was 56.0 per 1,000 women ages 15-44. Of all live births in the United States during 2018-2020 (average), 23.7% were Hispanic, 52.1% were white, 15.2% were black, 0.8% were American Indian/Alaska Native and 6.8% were Asian/Pacific Islander.

What is the divorce rate in Denmark? ›

In 2020, 104 divorces between women and 26 between men were registered in Denmark.
Number of divorces in Denmark from 2011 to 2021.
CharacteristicNumber of divorces
7 more rows
23 Feb 2022

Is 37 too old for IVF? ›

The Argument for Allowing IVF for Older Patients

Most fertility clinics set an age limit, often between 42 and 45 years old, for a woman to use her own eggs. However, the ASRM committee opinion concludes that "limited treatment may be provided after a process of explicit education and examination of values."

How successful is IVF on first try? ›

The national average for women younger than 35 able to become pregnant by in-vitro fertilization (IVF) on the first try (meaning, the first egg retrieval) is 55%.

What age is the cut off for IVF? ›

IVF isn't usually recommended for women over the age of 42 because the chances of a successful pregnancy are thought to be too low.

How old is the oldest woman without IVF? ›

What is this? While Xinju Tian and Maria Rosaria Veneruso are significantly older, Dawn Brooke is widely recognized as the oldest confirmed women to conceive naturally. Brooke became pregnant when she was 58 and then gave birth after she had turned 59.

Are there more birth defects with IVF? ›

"IVF-conceived children are at about one-third greater risk of birth defects compared to their naturally-conceived counterparts, as well as at higher risk of childhood cancer, although in absolute terms these numbers are small," Luke told MedPage Today.

Are birth defects more common with IVF? ›

After an IVF cycle, the best current estimate is that the birth defect rate increases by approximately 1 percent. A number of studies have indicated that couples with infertility, whether conceiving on their own or through other non-IVF treatment, have the same increased risk of birth defects as those undergoing IVF.

How do poor people afford IVF? ›

If loans or credit cards aren't an option for IVF financing, there are foundations, organizations and some treatment centers that offer grants — money that doesn't need to be repaid — for infertility treatments. Some grants may cover a portion of IVF treatment, while others pay for an entire cycle.

Is IVF free in Sweden? ›

In Sweden, childless couples and single women can access publicly funded fertility treatment. But the legislation differs between different couples. In those cases where the couple requires sperm or eggs from a donor, the legislation demands a special assessment of their suitability as parents.

Why do people go to Greece for IVF? ›

One of the main reasons that couples choose Greece as a destination for infertility 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.

Why are IVF pregnancies more risky? ›

If you have IVF, you have a slightly higher risk of having an ectopic pregnancy, where the embryo implants in a fallopian tube rather than in the womb. This can cause pain in the tummy, followed by vaginal bleeding or dark vaginal discharge.

Why are IVF babies high risk? ›

IVF increases the likelihood of twins, triplets or high-order multiples, with accompanying risk for premature birth, high blood pressure, placenta abnormalities and other challenges. Advanced maternal age (often the reason for IVF) increases risk for miscarriage and birth defects.

How old is the first IVF baby? ›

Louise Joy Brown (born 25 July 1978) is an English woman who was the first human to have been born after conception by in vitro fertilisation experiment (IVF). Her birth, following a procedure pioneered in Britain, has been lauded among "the most remarkable medical breakthroughs of the 20th Century".

Why is European fertility so low? ›

Several factors are thought to be driving that decline in Western Europe: socioeconomic incentives to delay childbearing; a decline in the desired number of children; and institutional factors, such as labor market rigidities, lack of child care, and changing gender roles.

What is the fastest growing country in Europe? ›

In 2021, Malta had the fastest growing population in Europe, with a growth rate of 2.14 percent, with Andorra having the second-fastest growing population at 1.66 percent.
Population change upon the previous year in selected European countries in 2021.
CharacteristicPopulation growth
12 more rows
14 Jul 2022

Why is Ukraine so fertile? ›

Nearly a quarter of the world's most fertile soil, known as Chernozem, is located in Ukraine. Chernozem is black soil rich in organic matter called 'humus,' which is made up of decomposed plants. More than 65 percent of arable land in Ukraine is composed of Chernozem deposits, making it ideal for farming.

Who is the oldest IVF baby? ›

On July 25, 1978, Louise Joy Brown, the world's first baby to be conceived via in vitro fertilization (IVF) is born at Oldham and District General Hospital in Manchester, England, to parents Lesley and Peter Brown.

What are IVF babies called? ›

"Test tube baby" is a term sometimes used by the media to refer to children conceived with in vitro fertilization (IVF).

Who is the first IVF baby? ›

The birth of the world's first 'test-tube baby', Louise Brown, on 25 July 1978 in Oldham, northwest England has come to represent the origin story of technologically assisted human reproduction.

Is IVF more successful abroad? ›

There are several reasons why there has been a significant increase in success rates abroad: Legislation infertility treatment. Number of transferred embryos. The right egg donor.

How many rounds of IVF does it take to be successful? ›

The Greatest Percentage of IVF Success Occurs in Six Cycles

From that comprehensive analysis, which included results from both fresh and frozen embryo transfers, researchers found that the average live birth rate for couples participating in six IVF cycles was 65.3%.

Which embryo is best for IVF? ›

Typically an 8A on D3 is the best grade. These embryos show that there are 6-8 evenly sized cells, with no or less than 10% fragmentation. These embryos have more uneven or irregularly shaped cells with 25-50% fragmentation. These embryos show 50% or more fragmentation.

Is it worth freezing eggs at 37? ›

"Studies suggest that women who freeze their eggs before age 35 have a better chance of a successful pregnancy than those who freeze their eggs after age 35." This is because the more eggs retrieved and frozen, the better the chance of a successful pregnancy.

Is it worth freezing eggs at 44? ›

Egg freezing typically works best for women in their 20s to 30s, and is not generally recommended for women older than 38 years. The biological clock cannot be reversed by oocyte cryopreservation in women older than 40.

Is it worth freezing eggs at 40? ›

“Freezing eggs after the age of 40 is not typically recommended but may be considered on a case-by-case basis,” says Cross.

Which country in Europe is best for IVF? ›

Top 5 Countries To Get IVF Treatment
  1. Greece. Greece has one of the lowest costs of IVF treatment abroad. ...
  2. Czech Republic. The Czech Republic has around 30 clinics scattered throughout the country and is well regulated by the Czech society for Assisted Reproduction. ...
  3. Spain. ...
  4. Turkey. ...
  5. Denmark.
2 Jun 2021

Why is IVF not allowed in Christianity? ›

Why is the Catholic Church against IVF? Catholic church states that assisted reproduction removes the child's conception through the sexual relationship between the couple.

What religions are against IVF? ›

On the contrary assisted reproduction is totally unacceptable to Roman Catholicism, while Protestants, Anglicans, Coptic Christians and Sunni Muslims accept most of its forms, which do not involve gamete or embryo donation.

Which country has cheapest IVF? ›

The most affordable destinations for IVF using your own eggs are the Czech Republic and Poland where the costs range from €2,100 to €3,500. In comparison, Spain and Portugal are the most expensive countries in Europe with a cost ranging from €3,600 to €6,700.

Does Denmark have fertile land? ›

Denmark has a temperate climate with plenty of rain, a flat land- scape and fertile soils. These are ideal conditions for agriculture. 61% of Denmark's total area is cultivated. The farms are large, with an average size of 77 ha.

Which hospital is the best for IVF? ›

CFC is one of the best Ivf centre or clinic in Nigeria. There are various causes for infertility, in both men and women which results in difficulties in conceiving. We offer latest reproductive technologies to decrease the rate of infertility in Nigeria.

What percentage of couples have successful IVF? ›

32% for women under 35. 25% for women aged 35 to 37. 19% for women aged 38 to 39.

Is Denmark overpopulated? ›

Population. With a population of around 5.8 million, Denmark is the most densely populated country in the Nordic Region. Roughly 1.3 million people live in and around the capital city, Copenhagen.

Why is Denmark the greenest country? ›

Through decades of extraordinary and sustainable efforts, Denmark has made a green energy system that delivers a cleaner everyday life and more green energy. All these efforts have helped Denmark rank first in Environmental Performance Index 2022.

How many IVF are successful first try? ›

The national average for women younger than 35 able to become pregnant by in-vitro fertilization (IVF) on the first try (meaning, the first egg retrieval) is 55%. However, that number drops steadily as the woman ages.

Are IVF babies born healthy? ›

The simple answer is yes. Millions of babies have been born using In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) and they are perfectly healthy. The procedure does not pose any short term or long term risk to the health of the child. The primary difference between IVF babies and normal babies is the way in which they are conceived.

What is the most eggs retrieved for IVF? ›

Fascinating research examining the link between live birth rates and the number of eggs retrieved in one in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle indicate that 15 may be the “magic number” to collect for the most successful outcomes.


1. Dr Silber – What is Denmark Mini IVF?
(Infertility Center of St Louis)
2. Inside The World’s Largest Sperm Bank, In A Denmark University Town
(CNA Insider)
3. My IVF treatment in Bulgaria. Fertility treatment abroad. My story.
(Penny Higgs)
4. Our New Center of Excellence is Launched in Denmark
(CooperSurgical Fertility Solutions)
5. The Success of Danish Sperm Donation | The Vikings Are Coming | Absolute Documentaries
(Absolute Documentaries)
6. How to choose "the best" IVF clinic abroad? What to ask before you go? #IVFWEBINARS
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