Guest Blog by Dr Caroline Phillips, Fertility Clinics Abroad
Last year we teamed up with Fertility Network UK to look at the main drivers behind fertility tourism from the UK. You can find a link to our research here. We have some of the best health care in the world, both privately and through the NHS and yet many couples are turning their backs on the UK when it comes to having IVF.
We asked 250 couples who had undergone or were undergoing treatment to share their experiences. What they said painted a worrying picture of the state of affairs. 76% of respondents were leaving the UK because of the high cost of private fertility treatment, with three quarters saying it was twice as expensive as they were able to pay. People were generaly willing to pay between £1000 and £5000 for IVF using their own eggs, yet this treatment is often in excess of £10k in the UK when additional expenses are taken into account.
We also found many people were disappointed at the standard of care provided by some NHS funded fertility clinics. The majorty felt standards were either passable or substandard, with 44% believing it was average and 25% saying it was poor. Only 3% of respondents felt it was excellent. Most people were aggrieved that access to NHS fertility treatment was a postcode lottery, with 35% saying waiting lists were too long.
What is abundently clear from our research, is fertility tourism is a trend that is on the rise and probably here to stay – for those of you who are considering going abroad for treatment, we’ve put together some top tips to help you make the right choices before taking the plunge.
Do your homework
Like anything in life, careful preparation is key to success and this is especially the case when planning your IVF trip abroad. Always consult with your GP and/or fertility specialist in the first instance and seek out advice from recognised bodies such as Fertility Network UK when you can. Desktop research is also an easy and affordable way of gathering useful information. Check out the forums on Mums.net or Fertility Friends or ask someone you know who has been abroad for IVF. What were their experiences?
The country you choose could be down to something as simple as personal preference or as critical as IVF age legislation. One of the more common considerations is anonymity. In the UK, the identity of egg and sperm donors is not protected by law, which can have far reaching consequences in the future. If this is a concern to you, you should look at countries where egg donations are anonymous, such as Spain, the Czech Republic and Greece.
Other considerations may include the cost of living, expense of travel or accommodation costs. Different countries also have different age limits for IVF treatment, or there may be specific laws on the number of embryos that can be transferred. These could be a deal breakers before you even step on the plane, so make sure you do your research.
Choosing the right clinic
Choosing a clinic can be a daunting prospect, so having ‘must have’ check list can be a useful tool. Jot down your must haves and use these to help you make your choice – if the clinic isn’t ticking the right boxes, then you can discount it from your list.
Some useful starting questions include:
How long is their waiting list?
How flexible is the clinic to your specific needs?
Do they offer help with translation and travel?
Are they accessible?
Do they offer complementary therapies?
Do they offer guarantees or shared risk plans?
What does success mean?
Success rates are often the major determining factor for people choosing a clinic, but be warned – you need to be careful when interpreting what success actually means. For example, some clinics base their success rates on transferring more than one embryo into the womb. This can not only result in multiple pregnancies, it presents a higher risk to the patient. Always ask for a clinic’s ‘success rate per embryo transferred’ to give you a more accurate picture. If in any doubt, always seek advice from a professional before setting your heart on a clinic that promises the world.
Keeping a lid on costs
Treatment costs tend to be fairly transparent but watch out for any “hidden” extras. For example, is the first consultation deductible from the final treatment cost? Is sedation included in the price for egg collection? Is sperm or embryo freezing included? Are there any guarantees e.g. pay for two cycles and get third free. We have developed a useful new calculator tool to help you determine the full cost of your treatment.