IVF abroad or UK?
If you’re thinking about undertaking IVF abroad there is a lot to consider. We look here at some of the elements you might want to think about to help you with your decision. You will also find lots of information on the HFEA’s website here.
Is it cheaper to have IVF treatment abroad?
According to fertility.treatmentabroad.com, the average cost of IVF abroad can range from £1000 to £4,500. So, it could be cheaper to undergo abroad. However, you need to make sure you do your research and find out exactly what is included in the price so you don’t get stung by unexpected ‘extras’. You will also need to bear in mind that, if you are using donor eggs or sperm there will be additional costs to your treatment.
Some clinics offering IVF abroad may not include fertility drugs in their prices (which vary in price from between £400 to over £2,000, depending on the country) or other essential procedures such as blood tests or an initial consultation. Make sure you’re comparing like with like and that you get the whole package cost.
Another element with IVF abroad is that you’ll need to factor in accommodation and living costs, flights, specialist medical insurance (for unexpected medical emergencies) and the cost of taking time off work if you need to take unpaid leave. It’s usually best practice to get as detailed an idea of costs as possible from your IVF clinic but then ensure that you build in a healthy contingency fund in case anything goes wrong.
Factoring all this in, while still potentially cheaper than UK clinics, you’re still looking at a pretty big overall bill and you may find that there isn’t very much difference in cost to a UK clinic after all. It is also worth comparing prices with the multi cycle treatment packages offered by organisations like Access Fertility, where you get discounted rates for multiple cycles of IVF so this may be another option for you where cost is a factor in your decision.
IVF abroad – clinics have better success rates
There are clinics offering IVF abroad which claim to have very high success rates. It’s important to be cautious here as there are lots of different ways to present success data so doing your research is key. For example, they may only be presenting data for women under 35, who have higher success rates, or their data may relate to pregnancies rather than births.
Success rates can also be affected by the types of patients a clinic treats. If a clinic treats a large number of younger women with mild fertility problems, their success rates will inevitably be higher than IVF clinics treating older women or those with more complex diagnoses.
In the UK, the HFEA (the fertility industry’s governing body) provides impartial data using the same success criteria for all licensed UK fertility clinics so it is much easier and more transparent when comparing IVF clinics. It’s crucial that you research thoroughly and only consider using a clinic you’re 100% happy with.
Comparing IVF clinics
Many clinics offering IVF abroad will be of a high standard and lots of people from the UK travel overseas for cheaper IVF treatment. However, you still need to be careful and do as much research as possible.
If you come across a foreign fertility centre you like the look of, find out the consultant’s name and look into their background.
When you’re researching and contacting IVF clinics it’s worth checking:
- The safety record, standards and success rates of each
- Whether they offer the type of fertility treatment you need
- If they’ll give you a treatment plan (and costs) upfront
- How often you’ll need to travel there
- If they have English speaking staff or can provide translators (IVF treatment is complex so you need to have confidence in what the medical team are saying and ensure there is no barrier to understanding your treatment).
- What they do with your medical records
- Which regulatory body do they report to and what laws do they have to abide by
You can also check fertility forums, chat rooms and discussion boards to find out about IVF clinics abroad other people have used and would recommend.
The benefit of a UK IVF clinic is that you can actually turn up and see the facilities, speak to the staff and ensure you are happy with everything. You can do this with multiple clinics until you decide upon the right one for you. This is harder to do with IVF abroad.
Choosing a country for IVF treatment abroad
Before you even get to thinking about a clinic, you will need to decide on a country. You might consider the following:
- Does the country legally allow the treatment you require?
- Do you fall within the legal age limit?
- Does the country have laws regarding who they can treat?
- Are there easy and cheap transport links to that country?
- Is there robust IVF regulation in place?
- Are you happy with the laws on anonymity for donors?
- Is the potential cost of treatment within your budget?
Waiting times, support and flexibility
UK private IVF clinics don’t have long waiting lists. They also have flexible appointments so you can attend at weekends etc if needed. You have 24 hour access to a patient portal, full of information and are able to contact the clinic at any time through an out of hours contact number. This is because the staff understand the timing of your medications does not neatly fall between 9.00am – 5.00pm.
Nurses and doctors have also told me stories about the numerous times they have come in to do a procedure at 1.00am because the patient took the trigger injection at the wrong time, or have been on the phone with a distressed patient at 9.00pm at night who had dropped their injection all over the floor.
These things can happen, and timings can change, so it’s important to find out what support and flexibility is available in your clinic abroad both before, during and after your fertility treatment.
Making a complaint
In a UK IVF clinic, if you aren’t happy with the service, or something goes wrong, you have the HFEA, and the clinic’s own complaint process, to call on to raise any issues. However, if you have a negative experience with IVF abroad it may be more difficult to make a complaint.
As the HFEA does not have any powers overseas it can’t deal with a complaint about treatment carried out abroad and so won’t be able to help. It’s also unlikely that the HFEA would be able to take action against a UK clinic who referred you to an overseas clinic.
It is hopefully very unlikely that you will experience any issues, however it is very important that you are as prepared as possible and find out in advance how a complaint will be handled in the event that something goes wrong. You might also need to seek legal advice to check that any contracts between you and the clinic would be legally enforceable, just in case.
Is it safe to have IVF abroad?
Lots of people have safe, effective IVF abroad but it’s important you, again, do your research. Fertility treatment isn’t regulated in the same way outside of the UK and, as mentioned above, the HFEA has no powers overseas. Whilst some countries will have a similar government body or laws to oversee fertility treatments, not all of them do. Therefore, you need to find out about the regulatory bodies in the country/countries you are interested in and ensure your clinic is following the relevant regulatory requirements and laws. You can ask your clinic about this as part of your research.
There is legislation within the EU which sets standards for quality and safety. However, not all EU countries have implemented this legislation and clinics in these countries are not necessarily accredited by a national body.
Communicating with the IVF clinic
Each clinic will have their own preferred means of communication. It’s worth bearing in mind any time differences that you might need to work around. Using email can help overcome any time difference. Before you have treatment you’ll need to have various tests which your clinic will be able to guide you through. Some will be able to carry out tests for you, or you may need to have these done at home, either privately or via your GP.
Crucially, you’ll need information from your clinic to arrange treatment windows. Timing the treatment well can give you the best chance of success so close communication is essential.
Preparing for the travelling
You may get so caught up in the IVF treatment side of things that you forget about the actual travelling, but it’s just as important. Going abroad for fertility treatment will mean you have to arrange and pay for flights, hotels, food and drink, transfers and travel insurance.
If you travel abroad specifically for fertility treatment it’s unlikely standard travel insurance policies will offer the cover you need. Instead you’ll need to choose a specialist travel insurance company that provides cover for overseas fertility treatment. It’s likely this will cost more but the cover it provides will be worth it. If you’re travelling within Europe for fertility treatment you’ll need an EHIC too.
You may need to travel at short notice as there’s the possibility that your dates may change depending on your test results. It’s worth looking for flights and accommodation that allow you to change or cancel your booking at short notice without incurring a penalty. Some IVF clinics have a relationship with local hotels that could allow you to book at a preferential rate, or change your booking easily if necessary.
If you need to book time off work you’ll need to consider how much information you want to give your employer. Can you arrange leave easily and vary it if your plans change?
Paying for IVF abroad
You’ll need to ask how the clinic wants to be paid – in full upfront or in instalments. If they offer instalments you’ll need to make sure that they don’t charge you interest.
If they want full cash payment you’ll need to make sure that you’re certain they are a legitimate business and that you’re happy with the treatment plan they’ve suggested. You’ll then have to look around for the best possible foreign exchange rate when you make your money transfer.
It could be easier and cheaper to get a no foreign transaction fee credit card although you’ll need to check whether the clinic charges a credit card transaction fee – if they do then you’ll need to factor this in when you work out the cheapest way to pay.
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