There are lots of clinics, websites and patients raving about the financial savings when traveling abroad for fertility treatments. HOWEVER, when considering this option, you need to be aware that there may be some hidden costs that you need to consider before you pack your suitcase. For instance:
MEDICATIONS: A fresh IVF cycle for under $5000. Sounds great, right? But does that include the medications? Some clinics will figure them into your total fee, but others don’t since they assume you’ll purchase the medications at home. If you have to buy them in the U.S. – you are probably adding about $3000-5000 to your bottom line (unless you are lucky enough to have insurance coverage.) Some clinics will give add in the costs of medications in their local country (which are typically much less expensive than in the U.S.) – but it is often difficult to ship them and some patients worry about the quality or temperature variations during the shipping process. Still, you can consider purchasing some of your medications in your home country (to start the cycle) and purchasing the rest once you arrive in the location where you will do the cycle. This will help to cut down the overall cost. More importantly, when figuring out your bottom line do make sure to ASK whether or not medications are included in the IVF cycle fee.
AIRFARE: When budgeting an IVF cycle at home, typically your travel costs will only include gas mileage. If you have to go one or two or more times to the clinic per cycle, for repeat ultrasounds or lab work, it’s not usually a big financial drain. But when looking to go abroad, some clinics request that you come two times at a minimum – once for the initial evaluation and again for the egg recovery and embryo transfer. Sometimes you can ship sperm but some clinics request that the sperm “donation” be made at the clinic. Also, as difficult as it is to think about, you have to consider the possibility of what happens if your cycle doesn’t work on the first try. Will you be able to go to your overseas clinic for another attempt – and if so, how much is that going to set you back in airfare costs? Of course, you may be lucky enough to have loads of frequent flier miles (so many of us have by putting most of our fertility charges on credit cards!), but you usually have to book those trips way in advance and that may be inconvenient to your IVF cycling plans. Still, there are plenty of low-fare websites and travel agencies that you can check for last minute (or close to last minute) deals.
TRAVELING COSTS: Okay, we talked about airfare, but that’s just getting in the air and landing at the airport. What happens once you’re on the ground in this foreign country? So, don’t forget to add in car rental or taxis to and from your clinic (or anywhere else you might want to go), food (check the exchange rate and the cost of an average meal), plus hotels or accommodations. There are some countries where great food is cheap, but others where a cup of Joe can run you $12. If you do your research, you can typically find a more reasonably priced place to stay – and perhaps one that has a kitchenette so that you can cut down on food costs by eating a meal or two at home. Your clinic may even have a discounted rate at some local hotels – so don’t be too shy to ask. You should also remember to budget in a day or two of sightseeing – yes, you are here with the specific goal of making a baby, but you might as well do some sightseeing in your time off.
GETTING AWAY: Even though you may be using a passport and going to an exotic location, it’s not really a vacation. So if you work, how are you going to handle it? Are you going to use some of your vacation time or will you be giving up a paycheck? Is your employor okay with you taking the time off or will you have the extra added stress of checking in from overseas? These are very personal decisions but not ones that are necessarily dealt with when the initial decision to travel for IVF or ART is made. Also, you are most likely going to be monitored at a local clinic near your home or work (if you are using your own uterus and/or own eggs), so don’t forget to figure in some time away from work for that.
LOCAL MONITORING: Speaking of local monitoring, it is more than likely that you will need to find someone (either an RE or your OB/GYN) to assist in some local monitoring and tests during your cycle. The costs for these vaginal ultrasounds, hormone level blood work checks and any other testing needed prior to your travelling is another thing to consider in your overall costs. Sometimes your insurance will cover this – so don’t forget to call and ask.
MORE THAN ONE ATTEMPT and SUCCESS RATES: Sadly, this is something you must think about (even for the most positive amongst us!) – what if you don’t get pregnant on the first try? It is sometimes very hard or even impossible to get accurate information on the clinics success rates. “Telling” you their success rates and actually seeing them documented in a reliable source may be two different things. If you’re using a gestational surrogate and you have left over embryos then this is a non-issue, you won’t have to go back for the second try, your gestational surrogate will most likely already be in place for the second attempt. But if you have used your own eggs or an egg donor’s (and putting them back into your own uterus), then you’ll be faced with deciding what to do next. Should you go back? Should you ship the embryos home? Each choice comes with its own set of costs, and even with a clinic with a great success rate, there is no guarantee it will work on the first try.
FREEZING: So, let’s say your first try works (Yeah! You’re pregnant!), but you’ve left behind some frozen embryos that you may very well like to use in the future. We can guarantee you that your distant (as well as your home) clinic is going to have a freezing and storage charge (also for sperm). So don’t forget to ask what it is and factor in paying for it for a couple of years. Okay, so by now you may be thinking, maybe this seems like we’re saying traveling for treatment isn’t such a good idea. I guess that you need to decide. ACFS does not encourage this option but if you “must” make sure to check it out thoroughly. There have been a lot of “scam” clinics offering deals “that seem to good to turn down” and although there are overseas clinics that are highly reputable; if choose this option, please do your homework. When considering this option, you need to know all of the plusses and the minuses and not get blind-sided when you’re too far in to turn back. A happy patient is an informed patient (and of course a pregnant patient!)
by Global IVF
Visit us at www.acfs2000.com to learn more about infertility treatments.