Taking an IVF vacation, (travelling to a different country with the sole purpose to save on IVF costs) can be a tempting choice for some. By seeking fertility treatments outside the US, patients can save thousands on their IVF costs over what they would pay at home. These women are seeking IVF in places like South Africa, the Czech Republic, or India.
Even factoring in the airfare, a several week stay, and the actual costs of treatment it is still possible to save many thousands of dollars off the typical IVF cycle cost ($12k average) in the US. Sounds pretty good right? Well, there are more things to consider besides cost before you decide to do a little globetrotting for your treatment. Before you decide one way or the other, you should consider the following things
Safety and Standards of Care
One of the reasons IVF is so expensive in the US is the high degree of regulation. This regulation helps ensure that patients will receive a basic levels of quality care no matter where they go. Think of this as a quality control for the field, something that is often lacking abroad. Many of the countries that appeal to US patients have no overseeing body that enforces basic standards of care and treatment. This is not to say the clinic you are looking at will provide unsatisfactory care – just that it has no accrediting body that makes sure it follows any standards of care.
Success Rates Abroad
IVF success rates are reported using standardized methods in the US. This ensures that all clinics report their rates in the same manner. Even with these standardization practices, you will see a whole slew of different stats out there that clinics can use to promote their practice. Clinics abroad may report their statistics in different, more favorable ways. If you are comparing rates abroad with your local clinic make sure you are looking at the same rates. Otherwise you may be comparing apples to oranges.
Also worth noting that, overall success rates in the US are very high compared to other countries. While you may be saving money – less total cycles may be required if you are treated in the states.
All patients treated in the US can be assured a certain degree of privacy and have uniform standards regarding what information is available to which parties. Clinics in the US are required to keep all information about patients, donors, and any children born confidential. If you are looking at an IVF clinic abroad then there are a few questions you should obtain the answers to.
- What happens to the personal health information you provide during the treatment?
- Who will have access to it?
- What happens to the medical information if the clinic closes?
- If donor materials (sperm, eggs, embryos) were used in your treatment cycle, who will be able to access the information about the donor?
- Can you get your records transferred to the US?
What happens if something goes wrong?
The field of medicine is extremely regulated in the US. All doctors and facilities may not be created equal, but you can rest assured that they all answer to strict guidelines regarding ethics and standards of care. If something were to go awry with any medical treatment in the US, an unhappy patient would have methods of recourse. If something were to happen overseas, you may or may not have any recourse. It is advisable to do a little research on these worst case scenarios to see how complaints and concerns would be followed up on in the country you are looking at. You may also want to look into obtaining legal advice to clarify how enforceable the contracts or agreements between you and an outside clinic are.
Multiple Birth Rates
Multiple birth rates are a significant health risk associated with fertility treatments like IVF. In the US there are strict regulations regarding how many embryos that can be put back (thanks Octomom!). Many clinics might transfer additional embryos in an effort to boost the rate of success, however this also increases the risks for both the mother and baby(ies). There may not be any regulations in the country you are looking at so make sure the clinic in question has standards in place to reduce the risk of having multiples.
There can also be legal and ethical issues surrounding donor and surrogacy cases (I will get into those a different time).
Researching your IVF Vacation
Even though there are many potential issues with seeking medical treatment overseas, it doesn’t necessarilty mean that it is not a appropriate course of action for your particular case. If you decide you want to look into a specicf clinic a little more there are some guidelines you can follow to help you make an informed decision.
If possible, try to speak with someone who has been treated at the clinic, or the country in question. You will be able to find out a lot about the quality of care through their experiences, although, take it with a grain of salt. Look at the clinic’s website, and see what kinds of information and statistics they provide. Check the qualifications of the staff and if the clinic is accredited in any way. If it is accredited, look into the accrediting body to make sure it is legitimate, and not just a pay-for-entrance type of organization. Other things, like if they have English speaking staff, and how much time they will spend with you discussing their treatment can also be telling of the type of establishment it is. Be wary of any clinic that is not interested in your medical history. A good clinic will want to see all your relevant tests and medical history.
Some questions you should ask the IVF clinic
- What type of fertility regulations are present in their country? Are there regular inspections?
- What is the clinic’s record of safety, and do they follow any standards?
- Does the laboratory follow set procedures?
- How is patient’s medical confidentiality kept?
- Are there any possible language barriers to communication?
- What degree of travel is require? How many trips, and how long will you need to stay to complete your treatment?
- Does the clinic offer the treatment you desire?
- What are the clinic’s success rates and how are they calculated? You should get a few year average for your age group and also donor eggs.
- What is the multiple birth rate at the clinic? Do they follow any guidelines to reduce the risk of multiples?
- Does the clinic store embryos? If so, for how long?
As you can see, choosing to take an IVF vacation is not an easy choice to make. On one hand you will probably be saving money, on the other hand you will have to do a lot of investigating to make sure you will be receiving the quality of care that you deserve. If you are thinking about having your IVF done overseas make sure you do your due diligence to be certain that you are making as an informed decision as you can.