International IVF: What You Should Know

International IVF: What You Should Know International IVF: What You Should Know

Choosing to seek medical services outside the U.S., also known as international medical tourism, is on the rise. As healthcare costs increase, many people are hoping to save money on their health and medical costs. For some dealing with infertility, this means going out of the country for in vitro fertilization (IVF) and other fertility treatment options. However, before you head overseas for IVF, know what you are getting yourself into. Here is some information about the risks and potential rewards of international IVF.

Educate yourself on medical tourism for IVF
There are many international medical tourism websites that offer tips, ratings, and reviews for fertility clinics around the world. These sites are as easy to navigate as a shiny, glossy travel guide. Still, it is difficult to find reputable sources offering educational information about international IVF clinics. If you choose to go abroad for fertility treatments, make sure that you know what you are paying for. Educate yourself about the risks and benefits that are involved.

Plan a safe trip for IVF treatment abroad to prevent complications
If you decide to go abroad for fertility treatments, have an action plan in place in case serious complications occur. Dr. Drew Moffitt, a fertility specialist at Arizona Reproductive Medical Specialists (ARMS) says it is important to keep the following in mind when seeking IVF treatment abroad:

  • The most serious complication of IVF is ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS). This can manifest as late as three weeks after the egg retrieval.
  • Another complication that could occur is a pregnancy in the fallopian tube or some other location outside of the uterus, which might not be identified until five weeks after the egg retrieval.
  • You will need to make sure that you either stay abroad at the international clinic for up to five weeks after the embryo transfer, or identify a doctor in the U.S. who is willing to take care of any complications that arise.

How much does international IVF treatment cost?

Be prepared for fertility side effects
If you suffer any side effects from fertility treatments abroad, or require hospitalization, your insurance may not cover those costs, since you are outside of the U.S. You may be personally responsible for all expenses related to potential complications. Check out your options and look into travel health insurance to see if a travel insurance plan will cover any costs that you might incur. Dr. Moffitt recommends that you consider the following regarding complications of your treatment abroad:

  • Usually, the doctor who did the procedure would be responsible for taking care of your complications.
  • If you come back home, it could be difficult to find an infertility specialist locally in the United States willing to deal with complications that have occurred from treatment you received abroad.
  • You should therefore make sure that you stay abroad at the clinic long enough to make sure that you are not having a complication of IVF.

Locate a fertility specialist in your area

Understand the international IVF success rate scale 
Some international IVF clinics boast high IVF success rates, but when comparing international IVF success rates to IVF success rates in the U.S., you may be comparing apples to oranges. IVF clinics outside of the U.S. may use different guidelines to report their fertility treatment success rates. This may make it more difficult to understand just how successful those clinics are in helping couples get pregnant with IVF.

Maureen Gill Higgins RN, MSN, WHNP, director of clinical operations for Attain Fertility, says, "IVF statistics and IVF success rates from international clinics are not standardized the way they are in the U.S. Countries outside the U.S. may or may not have government regulation and reporting requirements for IVF and other fertility treatments."

Dr. Moffitt also weighs in on the issue: "There are good and bad IVF programs in all countries, but in general, IVF success rates are higher in the U.S. than in other countries. The reasons for this are unclear, but it is something to consider when traveling outside the U.S. for IVF."

Look into regulations for fertility treatments abroad
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), international medical tourism is common, with cosmetic surgery, dentistry, and heart surgery among the most common medical services sought outside the country. Since U.S. citizens frequently seek cosmetic and dental surgeries abroad, health organizations have come up with tips and recommendations for those seeking medical care overseas. Check out the following:

  1. American Medical Association (AMA) – Medical tourism guidelines
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Medical tourism, advice for travelers and locating a doctor abroad

The AMA also refers medical tourism consumers to the Joint Commission International and the International Society for Quality in Health Care. Both organizations provide information about accreditation of international medical care providers. As of 2009, the Joint Commission International has accredited more than 300 hospitals outside of the U.S.

Research international IVF doctors
If you are interested in international medical tourism for IVF, Maureen Higgins offers you some final words of advice, "Before you finalize your decision, try to find out if your doctor has been brought up on malpractice charges in that country." You may be able to find details about his or her education, training, clinical success and other details online, but it may take a lot of time and research to make a safe and sound choice.

Reviewed 2012 by Dr. Drew Moffitt with Arizona Reproductive Medicine Specialists