When I tell people I travelled to the middle east for IVF treatment, their eyes usually become really big and they ask if I’m joking. When I tell them I’m serious, they usually ask if I’m crazy.
But it’s not crazy. In fact, thousands of women each year travel outside of their home country to pursue IVF treatments, both for the level of care and for the affordability of it. Fertility tourism is a growing practice and one that should be seriously considered when looking at fertility treatment options, especially for those who are unable to afford treatment in their home country.
To the surprise of many, IVF around the world is fairly standardized: the level of care is similar to what you might find at home. Pursuing IVF abroad does not have to be a complicated, intimidating experience — it can be a positive and fun one! With affordable treatment costs, competent reproductive endocrinologists, and the opportunity to see the world while you grow your family, it might just be the way to go for your impending IVF treatment needs.
Wondering how to pursue IVF abroad? We’ve got you! Before we take a look at how to get started with IVF abroad, let’s first dive into why many patients pursue IVF abroad in the first place: the cost.
IVF costs vary significantly around the world.
Reproductivefacts.org reports that the average cost of one IVF treatment in the United States is $12,400 USD1 — and this figure does not include additional compulsory charges, such as medications, embryo testing, sample freezing, and other fees, which can make the total for one round of IVF well over $20,000 USD (17,690 EUR).
In many countries, IVF clinics are free to set whatever treatment prices they wish. This is especially true in the US where IVF is not covered by health insurance and the patient must pay out of pocket for each part of the treatment. In some countries with a high cost of living, IVF prices reflect that.
On the contrary, some clinics around the world offer IVF at rates that many patients can afford. The following list outlines what you might expect to pay for IVF around the world:
All figures are in USD.
This list is not exhaustive, however. Keep in mind that there are dozens of countries with affordable IVF rates. Many clinics abroad even cater to international patient with English-speaking staff and travel coordinators available to help patients with every aspect of the process, from booking flights to making hotel reservations. You will find these types of IVF clinics in locations like Athens, Greece; Cancun, Mexico; Madrid, Spain; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Prague, Czech Republic; and Istanbul, Turkey.
Of course, it’s not just the cost of IVF that encourages patients to pursue IVF abroad. Some patients are interested in taking a vacation during the very stressful life event that is IVF. Not only is IVF physically exhausting, but it takes a toll on the mental health of the patient. Growing a family in a location where you can relax and fill your time with distractions is a great way to help with the mental strain of IVF treatment. For example, one IVF clinic in Cancun, Mexico offers an all-inclusive IVF package which includes a 20-night stay at a five-star beachside resort, airport transfers, and unlimited food and beverage — and a round of IVF, of course!
This all sounds great, but is IVF abroad really comparable to IVF at home?
Many IVF centers around the world have the same standard of care as what you might find in your home country. That’s not to say that their methods and procedures will be exactly the same as your experiences, however. Pursuing IVF abroad comes with its own obstacles. For example, language and cultural barriers could complicate your experience. Perhaps the clinic operates differently than your home clinic and the unfamiliarity with this adds to your stress. Maybe you feel more comfortable in your own home while undergoing the lengthy process of IVF, rather than being in a foreign land for a period of time.
Indeed, there are pros and cons to pursuing IVF abroad, but it is an option that’s worthy of exploring. Lauren B. from Texas, USA is one such patient that explored IVF abroad once she heard about how affordable it would be to pursue IVF outside of her home country. She describes her experience at an IVF clinic in Barbados as comparable to care she received in the United States.
“When you are inside the clinic, you would never know that you were in another country,” Lauren said. “It feels like a clinic back home. The only visual difference is we don’t have the Caribbean sea across the street from our clinics here in the US.”
Although she describes her experience undergoing IVF abroad as overwhelmingly positive, Lauren can see how pursuing IVF abroad would deter some from pursuing it.
“It can be hard to know where to stay, what to do for transportation, where to eat, where to buy groceries, and it can also be difficult to adjust to an entirely different culture if travelling isn’t something people do very often,” she said. “Our clinic was very helpful with all of those things, so I would just encourage couples going abroad to really lean on their clinic for guidance on all of those things.”
Christina C. from California, USA is another patient that pursued IVF abroad — this time, in Mexico. She encourages all couples to look into IVF abroad as an option to save money on treatment costs.
“Do your research and pull the trigger on it,” Christina said. “I have zero regrets.”
Christina stayed at an all-inclusive resort while undergoing IVF and she said resting on the beach was instrumental in staying relaxed during her protocol.
“We ended up with vacations all while doing this major life-changing procedure,” she said. “Medical tourism isn’t as scary as you may think!”
Although it seems like it’s an intimidating process figuring out how to have a major medical treatment in another country, many women and couples pursue it every year and consider the benefits to outweigh the risks. If you’re wondering how you can get started pursuing IVF abroad, read on to discover how it can be done!
First, determine where you want to travel for your IVF treatment. If you are considering IVF abroad as a way to lower the overall cost of treatment, research destinations with inexpensive flights from your home location. Also, consider the cost of lodging at destinations you are researching: patients will need to be in-country for 10 to 20 days. Depending on your lodging situation, those hotel nights add up quickly!
Of course, and arguably most importantly, don’t forget to locate an IVF clinic in the cities you are researching. Many IVF clinics offer free consultation for international patients via Skype or other video call services. Take the time to contact the clinic doctor to help you feel at ease with the procedure. This will also give the doctor a chance to assess your suitability as a patient for IVF.
Once you have selected a location and IVF clinic, begin following the treatment protocol your doctor provides and book travel arrangements based on your protocol timelines. Treatment timing depends on the start of your menstrual cycle, so speak with your doctor about ways to control your cycle. For example, some patients are temporarily placed on hormonal medication to better predict menstrual cycle start times. If your cycles tend to be unpredictable, consider booking an airline ticket that allows for reservation changes.
As you approach your treatment start date, remember to book your lodging, car rental, and tourist activities. This is the fun part of planning IVF abroad, so enjoy it! Your treatment protocol given by your doctor will give you an outline of days you will be needed in the clinic versus days you can enjoy being a tourist.
Once you have arrived in-country, remember to be flexible and patient. It can be frustrating at times when travelling outside of your home country, but the experiences can be enriching and unforgettable. Lean into the fact that not everything will go perfectly smooth, but instead realize that it’s all part of the adventure. As you continue with your treatment, enjoy making memories with your partner as you remain hopeful that your treatment will be a success.
IVF treatment is frustrating, taxing, and emotional whether you pursue it at home or abroad. It’s a major life event that takes a toll physically and emotionally. My wish is that you pursue IVF in a place that brings you hope, whether that’s in your hometown or at a destination far from home. Remaining optimistic will carry you through your procedure and, hopefully, lead you to a successful pregnancy.