Contemplating IVF abroad can feel like a leap of faith. Research is the key. The better informed you are, the more empowered you’ll feel. One of your key sources of information will be the clinic you’re considering for your treatment. Reputable clinics abroad will give you the opportunity to ask all of your questions in advance of travel. Let’s explore what those all-important questions should be with the help of some handy print-off and keep checklists
The BEFORE TRAVEL essential questions to ask your clinic
Will the clinic treat YOU?
Different countries have different regulations re: who they will treat. For example, some countries won’t treat same-sex couples or single women. There are also restrictions based on BMI (Body Mass Index) and other physical factors such as age – some countries are more relaxed than others. In Russia the upper age limit for treatment is 50. In Turkey there is no law restricting the age limit, with 46 being the recommended cut off point. Others offer treatment up until the age of menopause. The good news is there are over 500 clinics offering treatment in excess of 50 countries, so it is likely whatever your circumstances, there will be a high-quality clinic able to offer you the treatment you are looking for.
What are the full costs of YOUR testing and treatment?
IVF abroad can be cheaper than the UK but it’s imperative to get a full picture of all costs involved in your testing and treatment plan. Ensure that there are no ‘hidden’ costs. Bear in mind that advertised clinic costs may not include the cost of initial consultations, blood tests and medications. Ensure that you find out what the entire package cost will be. Keep in mind that your costs for IVF abroad will need to include your flight and accommodation costs. Ask your clinic for accurate dates/timings of your treatment cycle so that you have a clear idea of how many nights’ accommodation you’ll need to cover. Also note that accommodation costs can quickly spiral if your treatment is extended for any medical reason. It’s worth asking your clinic if they have any special room rates/deals agreed with local hotels in their area.
What are the clinic’s success rates and how are they calculated?
Some people choose to go abroad because they think that they’ve found a clinic which claims to have very high success rates. You should be cautious in these cases as there are lots of different ways to present success data. For example, they may only be presenting data for women under 35 or their data may relate to pregnancies rather than live-births. Success rates can also be affected by the ‘types’ of patients a clinic treats. For example, if a clinic treats a large number of younger women with mild fertility problems, their success rates will inevitably be higher than clinics treating older women or those with more complex diagnoses.
What is the clinic’s record on standards and safety?
In the majority of countries, a basic standard of quality is regulated by the ministry or department of health, and all infertility clinics in these countries should be registered. Be aware that the level of inspection and testing required for registration will vary from country to country, so you should check out the details to see exactly what national registration means and what reassurances it gives you when comparing quality.
The essential BEFORE TRAVEL ‘treatment’ questions to ask your clinic
- What initial testing will happen and when?
- Can any of the initial testing happen in your home country? If so, how and where will that be arranged?
- What is your full treatment plan? And what are the full costs?
- How many embryos will be transferred? Do they have a ‘single’ or ‘multiple’ transfer policy?
- What are the embryo freezing and storage options? And what are the ongoing costs of storage?
- If you’re taking the donor route, ensure you have the full-picture regarding every stage of the process. For example, are there early stages that can be completed from your home country? Exactly how long will you need to be abroad for? And which of the later stages can be carried out once you’ve returned home? For example, how long after embryo transfer do you need to remain abroad? Can you return home prior to the pregnancy test?
- Also if you’re taking the donor route, what assistance will the clinic provide in terms of donor matching services? And what are the costs and waiting times involved?
The ‘handy to know’ Questions to your clinic
- Are the majority of clinic staff English-speaking?
- Do they have previous UK patients who you can chat to?
- Can they recommend good, convenient local accommodation?
- Do they offer online consultations and who are those consultations with? For example, are they with a treatment coordinator, a midwife or doctor?
As an experienced International Patient Manager, my key advice is to ask a wide selection of questions prior to going abroad for treatment. Please also remember that there’s no such thing as a ‘silly’ question. Ask for clarity if it’s required. Reputable international clinics will always take the time to answer your questions fully. I wish you well on your fertility journey.