Around one in six couples will suffer from infertility problems at some stage, and such problems can arise in either partner. But the number of couples and individuals seeking out IVF treatment is growing. According to a report by the European Society for Human Reproduction (ESHRE), this is mainly due to women looking to get pregnant at a greater age.
Standard IVF is when the sperm and eggs are mixed then left to fertilise. But three times as many Intra-Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) procedures are carried out worldwide as standard IVF procedures. The former technique involves a skilled embryologist injecting a single sperm into the egg.
Whatever the type of IVF treatment, the actual process can prove complicated and emotional, while having to go abroad for treatment can be disorientating and confusing.
The number of IVF treatments available on the NHS in the UK is limited, and since demand is high, this creates a waiting list for access. Depending on where you live in the UK, the waiting list can range from a few months to a few years! This is the primary reason why 60% of British patients seek private IVF treatment, either locally or overseas. Having IVF treatment in a country that you know well and where your native language is spoken can be comforting.
However, going private in the UK can prove too expensive for many couples and singletons. Others keen to have a child are unwilling to go on a long waiting list and will seek out overseas clinics first.
Where can you go for IVF treatment?
According to data published by ESHRE in 2016, Spain was the most popular country for IVF, with 141,000 procedures undertaken. The next most popular destination in Europe was France, with 105,000 cycles, then Germany at 99,000. Italy and the UK handled 78,000 and 68,000 treatment cycles, respectively.
In the UK, a patient will pay a minimum of £2,500 for a single IVF cycle using their own eggs, and in some top clinics, the price can reach around £4,200. In Spain, the cost of an IVF cycle is around £3,700; in Greece and Cyprus, it is around £3,200, and in Eastern Europe (e.g. Czech Republic) it is around £2,800 for each cycle.
At the other end of the price spectrum is the United States, where costs can reach £9,000 for each cycle. Private healthcare is more expensive in the United States, but the success rates of IVF are also high. Reports from CDC showed a 31% live birth rate per cycle and 45.7% per embryo transfer for women aged under 35 using their eggs and partner sperm. The CDC also has an online IVF success rate estimator based on data gathered from every fertility clinic in the United States.
Before you decide about IVF treatment abroad, it’s important to consider the following factors:
1. Eligibility for IVF treatment
- Are you eligible to have treatment at the clinic? Remember, the laws of some countries won’t allow single women or same-sex couples to have treatment.
- Are all the treatments being offered medically recognised?
- Does the clinic screen donors if you choose to go down that route?
2. Reviews by other patients
- What do other patients treated at the clinic say about their treatment experience?
- Did patients feel well-cared for, or just a ‘number’ on a list?
- Did patients receive everything they signed up for?
3. Cost of the entire IVF treatment
- There are likely to be extras that aren’t mentioned in the initial advertised price, so it’s essential to check what’s included in your quotation.
- Clinics commonly provide add-on services at a premium, such as assisted hatching, blastocyst cultivation, endometrial scratch, frozen embryo transfer costs, immunology tests and more.
4. Quality and safety standards
- How is the clinic licensed and by which accredited body?
- What standards are set for quality and safety?
- How does the clinic handle complications?
5. Facilities in the clinic
- Check out the clinic online – does it look like a place where you would feel comfortable?
- Do they have the latest medical equipment?
- Where is the clinic located in the foreign country? While location is not everything, there is some correlation between successful clinics and good accessible locations.
6. Reputation of the clinic
- Is the clinic known for its results?
- How did you hear about the clinic; was it from a reputable source?
- What industry awards has the clinic received?
7. Medical staff qualifications and experience
- Who will be carrying out the treatment?
- What are the doctor’s medical qualifications and experience?
8. Online consultations
- Does the clinic offer online IVF consultations?
- If they do, is it with the same doctor who will be carrying out your treatment?
9. Compassionate communication
- When you speak to your doctor online, do you feel reassured?
- Do they ask you about your medical history?
- Do they ask if you feel happy and secure about the process which you are starting?
10. Success rate of the clinic
- What success rate does the clinic have for IVF treatment?
- It can be helpful to dive into the success rate data to determine what is relevant for you. For example, ask the clinic what is the success rate for the age band you fall into (e.g. under 35s)?
- What is the clinic’s multiple pregnancy rate? It’s important to remember that twin and triplet pregnancies are the single biggest risk to the health of both mothers and babies.
Once you have considered all of the above, it is always worth consulting with your local medical professional as well. In the end, of course, it is your decision whether to pursue treatment in the UK or abroad. And certainly, judging by the number of medical tourists who do seek IVF treatment abroad, it’s an area that we are sure to see growing in popularity with each passing year.