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What to consider when choosing infertility treatment abroad

Infertility is a deeply distressing experience and going through ART (Assisted Reproductive Technology) treatments can be mentally draining and physically exhausting.  Initially, the thought of having treatment away from your home country can be daunting so the first thing to do is lots of research.  An informed patient is more able to make an informed decision - so trawl the internet and library to read up as much as you can about the procedure(s) you are interested in having.

Choosing the destination for infertility treatment

You should consider the pros and cons of travelling to long haul or short haul destinations. India, for example, is a renowned centre for reproductive expertise but while treatment in India may be attractive on the wallet perhaps a fertility centre in a city which is nearer to your home country and served by frequent flights and easy airport connections would be more practical.

Compare services, treatments, costs and credentials of a handful of providers and read some patient testimonials before committing.  Speak to the medical team in your selected country to ascertain whether there might be any language barriers.  IVF and other infertility treatments are highly complex and there is no space or time for misunderstandings.  There are often multi-lingual medical staff in clinics and hospitals, but some clinics hire translators.

Treatment abroad from well equipped and state of the art clinics

Find out how well equipped the fertility clinic/centre is - you will want to visit a clinic with state of the art technology and a medical team which has years of experience in handling fertility problems to enable you to benefit from top quality treatment.

Medical advancements are constant.  There are many new and different methods appearing all the time so keep up to date so that you know what to ask for, what to expect and where to get the latest and best treatment for you.  You may well find that by having your infertility treatment abroad you will benefit from the latest advancements not yet available in your home country - and save money!

Ask the clinic whether they use current techniques like vitrification technology to freeze eggs/embryos to extend fertility in healthy women, and PGD and PGS (Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis and Preimplantation Genetic Screening), which are used to identify genetic defects and handicaps in embryos before pregnancy, only planting back the best quality.

Know your infertility clinic and consultant

Aim to speak to the consultants before arrival in the country and ask them about their policies on issues such as embryo transfers. Some IVF clinics use several embryos per treatment cycle to increase likelihood of a successful treatment, but this increases the risk of a multiple pregnancy which is associated with potential complications for both mother and baby.

There are pros and cons of small and large practices. A smaller practice may be able to give you more dedicated and personalised programme, but may not be as well equipped as a larger practice. However, while a larger clinic will be dealing with more cases and potentially have broader expertise it may have more of a ‘mass production’ approach. Finding a happy medium is the goal.

Look for specialist centres which are ISO (ISO9001 standardisation status is a voluntary standardisation run by a non-governmental body in which hospitals must pass rigorous tests to be certified) or JCI accredited (Joint Commission International USA is the Gold Standard accreditation for US and European hospitals which represents the highest levels of patient care and patient safety) - see choosing an infertility clinic and questions to ask the fertility clinic doctors.

The consultant you speak to or your endrocrinologist should make you fully aware of the risks concerned with infertility treatment.  As women become older the risks of miscarriage and chromosomally abnormal pregnancy increases.

Some assisted conception techniques carry an increased chance of ectopic pregnancy (when the fertilised egg implants in the fallopian tubes instead of the uterus), and the fertility drugs used to stimulate egg production can produce side effects.  In rare instances, the ovaries cannot cope with the increased number of eggs, leading to a condition known as ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome.  In mild forms this causes pain and bloating, but more severe cases can lead to blood clots, and kidney and ovary damage.

Deciding what infertility treatment is right for you and your partner

You and your partner can easily be overwhelmed by a busy schedule of medical check-ups and infertility tests.  Some important questions to consider before going ahead might be how much time and money you are able to spend on infertility treatments and what support systems are available to you.  Will you pursue more than one fertility option?  If you are going abroad for donor eggs, donor sperm or cryopreservation, how do you both honestly feel about the use of donor semen or eggs (oocytes, also known as gametes)?  Best to be sure before committing to spending a substantial amount of money.

You should also check that your chosen infertility clinic doesn’t have restrictions which might affect you. For example, some countries do not wish to treat same sex couples who wish to have a baby or couples over a certain age, and some countries do not allow donor treatment.

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