IVF abroad – is it a good idea?
In a nutshell: for most women seeking IVF it’s a brilliant idea; thousands of people do it safely and successfully every year— but the logistics are challenging. There are a myriad of reasons why couples choose this option, some mythical, but many solidly based on the facts. Cost is the main driver followed by the shortage of egg and sperm donors, particularly in the United Kingdom. Higher success rates however is one of the myths. The expertise abroad is comparable to the best in the West, but a “higher rate of success” is a fiction resulting from the fact that Western clinics usually transplant 2 embryos per cycle whereas many facilities overseas are comfortable implanting 3, 4 or even 5 embryos per cycle. This increases one of the IVF risks; multiple births.
Travel is by no means one-way traffic. Many people choose a country for fertility treatment to circumvent restrictions in their country of birth. Fertility remains a controversial subject as can be seen by the recent furore in the UK on the issue of prenatal sex testing. The NHS uses such a test to detect the risk of hereditary defects. Some desperate women, under pressure to produce a male child, are using the results of the freely available kits to request termination of female foetuses.
Other documented travel reasons include:
- Further options for those who have exhausted everything available in their country
- Shorter waiting lists
- Wider range of treatments available
- Preference for donor anonymity/identifiable donors
- Wanting more personalized and culturally sensitive treatment
- Avoiding restrictions in terms of what is available to the LGBTQ community
- The ability to choose sex and traits
- Desire for experimental treatment
Examples of a few popular destinations include:
SPAIN. Average IVF cost ₤3 723. Egg donation: anonymous ₤5 553
CYPRUS. Average IVF cost ₤2 517. Egg donation: anonymous ₤4 388
CZECH REPUBLIC. Average IVF cost ₤1 795. Egg donation: anonymous ₤3 687
How to choose the best facility
An important cost factor is whether you need a donor agency. The first thing to check about a facility is that it has ISO accreditation which is over and above the regulations that their countries regulatory body insist on. Use reputable sources like:
- The European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE)
- Patients Beyond Borders
- Joint Commission International (JCI)
It is very important to involve the Doctor who will be taking care of you once you return home in your choice of facility. He can advise you on what medical records to take and even liaise with the facility you chose.
Other indicators to check when choosing a clinic.
- NB. Interrogate the way they present their statistics until you can answer this question: HOW MANY PATIENTS WHO USE THE FACILITY GIVE BIRTH TO A HEALTHY BABY?
- How long has the present Director been in place?
- What are his qualifications? How up to date is his accreditation?
- Is there a reproductive surgeon on the staff?
- Is there an endocrinologist on the staff?
- What exactly is included in one cycle? Medication? Anaesthetist? Monitoring the eggs? Freezing extra eggs? Blood tests? Do not make any assumptions.
- Can you talk to the doctor who will care for you before you travel there? Via Skype, conference call, phone or email? Is the initial consultation free?
- Are there any insurance or refund options?
- Can you talk to previous patients?
- What language is spoken? Is there a translator available if you don’t speak the language?
- Do they help you with the extras like travel arrangements including visas, accommodation and transport?
On that last point…do not forget the extra costs. They are not inconsequential. Of course, instead of doing all the work yourself you could rely on a professional planner from the burgeoning “Medical Tourism” sector. This is outside the scope of this article but for those interested see: https://www.oecd.org/els/health-systems/48723982.pdf
Weighing pros and cons of IVF treatment abroad, there is no real reason why you should not solve your problem, have a memorable, 3 week vacation in a spectacularly beautiful destination, arrive home rested and happily expectant…all for less money than visiting a fashionable, up-market Harley Street Infertility Clinic.