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10 things to consider when choosing IVF treatment abroad

An increasing number of couples consider travelling abroad for fertility treatment. Sometimes because certain types of treatment are not available in their home countries - egg donation - or because of long waiting lists or simply for economic reasons.

Choosing a good IVF center is not easy and people need to know that medical intervention abroad is not free of risk; medical, financial or safety risks need to be considered.

There are many countries now offering IVF treatments, with a few destinations standing out. About 35% to 40% of European IVF treatments abroad take place in Spain, according to the European Society for Human Reproduction (Eshre). There are many reasons for this, including its record as the leading European country in fertility treatment with the best results. Also, it has an excellent tourist infrastructure and, according to the WHO, the world’s seventh best medical system (important if there is a complication in the IVF clinic). Other countries attract patients by price, like the Czech Republic or Cyprus.

What do couples consider when looking for IVF treatment? According to surveys, opinions on internet forums and qualitative research, those are:

  • clinical results
  • patient care
  • convenient destination
  • price

But in order to make a meaningful choice, there are some specific points to consider when choosing a clinic abroad.

1.Your medical practitioner or gynecologist knows best

He or she is the one who knows your case, your history and your evolution. Often couples have too many sources of information and too many opinions from the internet and this can be confusing. Share your information, doubts and questions with your medical practitioner. In some countries, like Germany or Austria, he or she cannot recommend you for certain treatments that are forbidden in these countries, but may suggest sources of neutral information.

2. Choose quality internet sources

In order to avoid getting “infoxicated”, follow your medical practitioner’s advise about the treatments that best suit your case and take the time to understand them. Read about the latest IVF treatments and technologies, the science and medical field is continually researching and developing new products to improve it’s results - the Early Embryo Viability Assessment (Eeva) Test is one of the latest developments in IVF. Use videos available on YouTube and serious medical or patient sites, but do not trust every opinion in a forum.

3. Patient experience

Doctors are the best source for answers to medical questions, but experienced patients know about quality of care, pros and cons of clinics, evaluation of physicians, labs and teams, as well as prices.  When consulting other patients go to specialized forums, instead of the generic ones and also try to look for medical answers to patients’ questions. If you need more clarification after your internet research, ask your medical practitioner again; you do not necessarily need a new appointment, many doctors are present online and can answer via twitter.

4. Price is not everything

Although IVF treatments are expensive and price is a barrier for many couples, choosing a low cost location may be risky or more expensive in the end, because more cycles might be needed. If you are looking for a budget destination, like the Czech Republic, Cyprus or Ukraine, look for the individual results of every clinic considered, ask what happens if things go wrong, search for medical and safety standards and also ensure the local medical system will take care of you in case of complications. Also look for the standards and practices of embryology labs: half of the success of IVF will depend on them!

5. Organize your information to help you with decision making

Once you have read enough about the range of treatments, medical issues, processes, technologies, quality of care, etc.  make an Excel spreadsheet where you include pregnancy results, external evaluations of physicians, the lab and the team. Also, ensure the clinic tests donors and couples for genetic disease with preconceptional screening, so that risk of hereditary diseases is reduced to a minimum before pregnancy.

6. Science and research

A clue is also how much science and research clinics are doing. Clinics that do no research offer standard solutions and often do not know about the latest medical developments; they are also usually too small to afford the latest technology. Size matters also in the opposite direction: is the clinic too big or even a chain? You may well end up in a medical ‘factory’, rather than in a center with personal attention and follow-up of your case. And of course, this table should also have fields for the prices, the number of days you have to stay abroad (check for clinics that offer online first visits and online follow ups) as well as associated travel costs.

7. Compare centers using this table

The best website does not necessarily mean the best option for you. It shows that the marketing budget is high, but try instead to get to know the physician who may treat you. Ask for online consultations and dare ask what happens if first attempts fail. Does the clinic also share the risks? Ensure prices are inclusive and that there will be no extra charges. Check not only the medical team, but also the embryology lab and search on LinkedIn and patient forums for the profile of the chief embryologist. 50% of the success depends on the lab. Last but not least, ensure that the team does speak your language or at least an international language like English or French.

8. Select 4 to 6 clinics

Using the table, make a final selection of 4 to 6 clinics and focus on specific results for cases like yours, for transparent prices (without surprises), personal care, honesty (read complaints in patient forums), experience of doctors and embryologists and make an appointment for an online consultation.

9. Arrange for an online consultation

During the online consultation you can appreciate if the physician is not only professional and competent, but also empathic. During a first consultation a good doctor will discover important medical questions that might help you improve your success chances in becoming pregnant. After the online consultation, ask yourself: “would I recommend this doctor to a good friend?”

10. Trust yourself

If you follow the previous 9 steps you will have completed some in-depth medical and market research. You have now enough data, opinions, impressions and experience (especially if you had a first online conversation) to take a qualified decision.

 

Author profile

IVF-Spain is modern, patient-focused infertility clinic in Alicante, Spain. Offering a full range of fertility treatments including natural cycle IVF, ICSI and IMSI, the clinic has an emphasis on the international egg donation programme and specialises in special IVF cases such as recurrent miscarriages, implantation failures and genetic diseases.

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An IVF clinic in Thessaloniki, Greece offering a range of fertility and assisted reproduction treatments including IVF, ICSI, egg, embryo and sperm donation, PGD, IUI and micro TESE.

One of the most advanced assisted reproduction units in Europe, there are no waiting lists for sperm, egg and embryo donation treatments.

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