As costs of medical procedures are on the rise, many Americans are looking abroad for more affordable care. In fact, a study conducted with collaboration between NYU, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and other global institutions, shows that US Citizens make up approximately 10% of medical tourists worldwide, with the numbers exponentially increasing every year (Lunt, 2011).
Though the most common procedures people travel for are cardiac-related or orthopedic surgeries, there is a growing population of women that opt to undergo IVF abroad.
Why do women seek treatment outside of the US for IVF?
Simply put, the cost of IVF in the US is sky-high. While medical insurance covers some expensive medical procedures, it is usually not required to cover IVF. This forces women and couples to pay out of pocket (NCSL 2018).
While the average cost of one round of IVF in the states is $12,000 to $15,000, costs of medication and hidden costs can push this number to well over $20,000. In fact, a study of 398 women that underwent fertility treatments found that their median cost of IVF was $24,373 (Katz et.al., 2010). Meanwhile, the cost of IVF in eastern Europe and Asia hover around $2500 (Whittaker 2010). Even including travel costs and accommodations for two weeks, which is the typical stay for medical tourists seeking IVF, the entire trip and the treatment combined may still be significantly cheaper than staying in the US.
Is traveling for IVF safe?
While some clinics abroad are safe, it is important to do your research before undergoing a medical treatment abroad. There is always a risk with undergoing a medical procedure in an unfamiliar country. Some research studies indicate that quality of service and treatment in other countries is rated superior to service at home. One such study cross-examined records from a hospital in Turkey, and records from the US, and found that patients reported more personalized care and cost-effectiveness ratio (Yildiz 2017). Though these types of studies are encouraging, there are also facilities that aim to scam medical tourists.
The most important factors to evaluating safety is determining if the clinic has proper accreditation and a good track record. Something good to look for is ISO accreditation, which evaluates business and management practices, as well as the EU Cells and Tissues Directive, which established quality standards for tissue implants across the European nations (Human Tissue Authority). It is critical to bear in mind that these accreditations do not ensure safety.
Follow online forums, read reviews, and contact fertility clinics of choice as you evaluate them.
Going to a facility that is renowned, respected, and properly accredited by international standards can reduce risk.
What additional factors should be considered when picking a clinic?
When picking a destination, you should first ensure that you’re going to a country with high standards for medicine and international health protocol. Reading forums, contacting clinics for success records, and analyzing cost are all critical steps. However, there are other things to keep in mind during your search:
* Easy access to the clinic from transit or via cab, and comfortable lodging nearby.
* When traveling to a foreign country, make sure that you speak the native language of the country, or your care providers speak English.
* Read through all the terms and conditions for undergoing treatment at that particular facility and know your rights as a patient.
* Pay attention to how fast the clinic responds to inquiries—slow or unprofessional responses may be red flags.
* Be wary of IVF package vacations or deals that seem too good to be true. The best clinics may not have heavy advertisement, and often have reputations that precede themselves.
* Success rates for clinics can be calculated in a biased manner, and clinics that report unusually high success rates warrant closer inspection.
Keep in mind that this isn’t an exhaustive list, and this is an incredibly important decision. A great resource as you begin to consider IVF abroad is the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority .
The Bottom Line
Traveling for IVF comes with inherent risk, but if the right precautions are taken, it can be worth it. Education, caution, and research are crucial. If you are considering traveling for IVF, confer with your doctor to see what your options may be. Avoid countries that lack stringent medical regulations, and pick clinics with a history of safety.