Due to the high cost of fertility treatment in the United States, more and more women are choosing to go abroad for treatments such as IVF, egg donation, and gestational surrogacy. Unfortunately, fertility treatment in the U.S. can be very expensive and it is not covered by most patients’ insurance plans. Fertility treatment can be cost prohibitive for many patients who are struggling to conceive.
Many couples are now travelling to countries such as the Czech Republic, Greece, Brazil, Spain, and India to seek the treatment they need to have a child. Many of the fertility centers in these countries have developed “all-inclusive” treatment packages to attract patients from all over the world. An IVF cycle in some of these countries may cost a patient half of what they would pay in the U.S., including their travel expenses.
While fertility tourism does provide a more affordable option for patients, I always caution patients to make sure they do their research before committing to any of these treatment packages. Many foreign countries do not have the same strict governmental regulations and oversight on fertility treatment as in the U.S. For instance, in the United States, the Food and Drug Administration strictly regulates human reproductive tissue, such as donated eggs and sperm. This means that prior to giving eggs and sperm, donors in the U.S. must undergo an extensive evaluation to make sure they do not have any risk factors that would increase their chances of transmitting a communicable disease. In addition, the donors undergo extensive medical testing for infectious diseases to make sure they are free of HIV, Hepatitis B and C, syphilis, etc. In other countries, this type of evaluation may be absent or limited.
For patients undergoing IVF in outside countries, it’s important to find out what types of medications are used, what the oversight on medication manufacturing is, to what standards the clinic and operating rooms are maintained, what type of technology is being used to to create and freeze embryos, etc. Many fertility centers in outside countries will provide outstanding care. It’s just important to do your homework to find the best centers, so that you get the best treatment.
In my opinion, what the surge in fertility tourism tells us is that something needs to change in the U.S. to make fertility treatment accessible to all patients. Fertility treatments should not be considered elective procedures. Infertility is a true medical condition and should be treated that way. Hopefully, legislation to mandate fertility coverage will be passed in more states in the near future.