By Sue Taylor
In today’s global society, it has become far more commonplace for patients to travel abroad for quality medical treatment – often for a fraction of the cost of receiving treatment in their own countries. Fertility treatments in particular are an area where opportunities abound to receive top-quality medical care at reasonable prices.
Why Do a Donor Egg Cycle Abroad?
Infertility patients hail from many different countries and have a variety of reasons for leaving their home countries for fertility treatment. Sometimes treatment is not available or not legal in their country of origin, or waitlists are years long, or success rates are low. But very often there is also a financial advantage to traveling abroad – the total cost for a donor egg cycle (not including travel) can be as low as $6,000 - $9,000. This is dramatically less than the typical overall cost of a donor egg cycle in the United States, which can range from $30,000 - $45,000.
What Can I Expect Regarding Donor Selection Abroad?
In the case of fertility tourism, or any kind of medical tourism, it is imperative for patients thoroughly research their options so they can make well-informed decisions.
Firstly, it is important to know that in most European countries, legally egg donors must be completely anonymous. Patients are not allowed to see a photo of the donor. For patients who want control over donor selection, this fact might be a deal breaker. For others, it may be seen as a relief, as it is no longer the their responsibility to pick the right donor. They can leave it to the doctor to select a donor for them based on features, character traits, or other requests.
In the United States, patients have many options regarding donor selection, ranging from totally anonymous donation to having access to a donor’s full medical history and photos to having an open, on-going relationship with a donor. But there is a price for this sort of flexibility, because the cost for a donor egg cycle in the United States tends to be the highest of any country offering donor services.
Therefore, it is important to fully understand the scope of anonymity required across Europe and to consider what, if any, information will be provided to you about the donor when you seek treatment abroad. The information may range from age and coloring only to a more complete set of details and medical history. However, it is most common to receive only very limited information. Each clinic’s policies are different, so it is best to verify in advance the exact information you can expect to receive.
Choosing a Clinic Abroad
There are a variety of ways to arrange for treatment with a clinic abroad. In some cases, you can contract directly with the clinic. Or, you may be able to use an agency (usually based in the United States or the United Kingdom) that will guide you through the entire process. Some patients feel more comfortable having a contractual relationship with a company based in their home country. Regardless whether you contract through an agency or directly with the clinic, it is important to understand the laws of the country, the guidelines of the treating clinic, and the set of standards clinics in that country use for selecting donors. It is also important to research practice guidelines (such as ASRM guidelines, ISO certifications, etc.) and the clinic’s success rates for your age group/treatment type. The guidelines or laws of some countries can make it slightly more challenging for certain patient populations to find a treating clinic. This is particularly true for patients over 50 years old, single patients, same sex couples, or patients who need a gestational surrogate. But with a little research, you will find good options available to treat each of those types of cases.
I Chose A Clinic, Now What?
Once you have selected your treating clinic, you can expect that they will ask you to fill out a number of forms and provide them with a variety of tests results along with copies of medical records. This allows your treating clinic to understand your medical history, approve you for their program, and prepare you for treatment. This will also allow for a treatment protocol tailored to your medical history. Additionally, to optimize your time abroad, clinics will usually ask you to make arrangements with a local reproductive endocrinologist or your OB/GYN to provide monitoring prior to travel – which usually consists of ultrasounds, blood tests, and perhaps assistance with obtaining prescriptions under your insurance.
Most clinics offer the option of you obtaining the necessary medications locally under your insurance (provided your local doctor is willing to prescribe based on orders from your treating clinic). They may also provide an option for you to obtain medications from a foreign pharmacy. Make sure you know whether these medications are covered in your treatment costs, or if you are expected to pay for them separately. Most clinics seem to charge separately for medications, since they are individual to each patient and may be available at low or no cost through insurance or other health programs.
Once you have selected your clinic, are assigned a treatment date, and have your medication protocol, it is time to start planning the fun part – the vacation! After all, you might as well take in a bit of the local sightseeing at your destination and truly make this a trip to remember. Usually your agency or clinic can provide recommendations for local accommodations. Many agencies will also help you plan additional sightseeing to other local cities and nearby attractions, or even arrange massages and acupuncture to help relax you prior to treatment.
It can be quite relaxing and a good distraction to be vacationing while having donor IVF treatments. Just remember, try not to over schedule yourself – particularly after transfer. After transfer, you should be relaxed, pampered, and not doing strenuous sightseeing.
Usually, a few days after transfer you will be released by the clinic to return home for the duration of your two-week wait and the all-important pregnancy test date. It is important that you continue to keep the clinic abreast of any concerns or questions and update them with your results (including pregnancy test, heartbeat(s), and delivery date). Normally your treating clinic abroad will provide instructions related to how and when in the pregnancy you will discontinue medications – but you will also rely on your local doctors once you return to manage your care as a pregnant woman.
Perhaps fertility tourism will be your recipe for success: Take one vacation, add sperm and donor eggs, a top clinic, and a little good fortune – and voila! Hopefully, you will come home pregnant with the long-awaited child(ren) you are meant to have… definitely the souvenir of a lifetime!
**Sue Taylor is an experienced IVF consultant with a passion for helping others on their journey to parenthood. With over 27 years’ experience in the healthcare industry, she now assists patients with selecting a clinic, or going abroad for more affordable IVF and donor egg IVF treatments. Ms. Taylor can provide assistance for prospective patients deciding if IVF treatment abroad is a good choice for them, assist with clinic selection, and can provide treatment & travel coordination services. She has assisted hundreds of donor IVF patients from all over the world in seeking treatment abroad. Her blog, www.ivftraveler.com/blog, offers practical details for patients traveling for IVF services or an IVF vacation. Sue Taylor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.