Fertility tourism – keeping a lid on costs

From Dr Caroline Phillips, founder of Fertility Clinics Abroad 

Fertility tourism


Last year we teamed up with Fertility Network UK to look at the main drivers behind fertility tourism from the UK. We have some of the best health care in the world, both privately and through the NHS and yet many couples are turning their backs on the UK when it comes to having IVF.

Through our research, we discovered that the high cost of private IVF treatment in the UK was the primary driver behind fertility tourism from this country. In fact, 76% of the people that took our survey felt private fertility treatment in the UK was too expensive, with nearly 80% believing it is twice as expensive as they are able to pay. According to the survey, people were willing to pay between £1000 and £5000 for IVF. In the UK, IVF can often exceed £10K when additional expenses are taken into account.

The research also shows that people often have to resort to desperate measures to fund their treatment. 62% were using their life savings, putting added pressure on their ability to fund pensions, pay for educational fees or support other family members. Some of the respondents had to re-mortgage their houses, sell personal belongings, ask for help from family and friends or even start crowd funding campaigns.

The result is that many couples are going abroad for treatment, which in some cases, can be up to 50% cheaper than the UK equivalent – we have put together some useful tips to help couples reduce their fertility costs, both at home and abroad:

  1. Know your costs: Always take the time to calculate additional expenses such as medical insurance, flights, accommodation and living expenses before you leave. If you are taking time off work, this may result in a loss of earnings for the period you are away. We have put together a handy tool to help you consider all the associated costs of IVF: http://www.fertilityclinicsabroad.com/ivf-cost-calculator/;


  1. Get your tests done early: Most clinics will expect you to have undergone tests before your trip – mammograms, sperm analysis, HIV – so make sure you find this out before your trip. Clinics will charge extra to have these tests done on site;


  1. Watch out for hidden costs: For example, if you have surplus embryos which can be frozen, check to see if freezing them is included in your treatment price. If you are having IVF treatment, you will require sedation and time in theatre. Make sure you find out if this is included in the overall price;


  1. Seek out any cost saving opportunities: It’s worth having a look for clinics that offer a ‘shared risk programme’ to mitigate possible failures. For example, some may allow you to pay for two cycles, and if they don’t work, offer the third round for free. At the very least this could save you some money;


  1. Ask about egg sharing: Egg sharing is not everyone’s cup of tea, but it can significantly reduce the cost of IVF. Egg-sharing is an IVF treatment that brings together women who produce surplus eggs (an egg sharer), with those unable to produce eggs (an egg recipient);


  1. Do you really need ‘add-ons?’ Add-ons such as embryo glue, time-lapse monitoring or endometrial scratching are often offered by clinics, but aren’t always necessary. There is a lot of talk about fertility add-ons in the news. In fact Fertility Network are running a survey about them here http://bit.ly/2xrlS0p. Consult with your GP and/or fertility professionals and ask about any add-ons being offered by your clinic. Cut out anything that is unnecessary to save on cost;


  1. Country research: Investigate different countries across Europe. Some ‘less popular’ countries are actually cheaper than destinations such as Spain, Greece or the Czech Republic that are regularly visited by couples from the UK;


  1. Hotel recommendations: Many clinics have deals with local hotels where reduced room rates are offered to patients. Some clinics even have their own hotel e.g. IVF Zlin in the Czech Republic.


Dr Caroline Phillips biography

Between 1992-94 Dr Phillips worked at the Roslin Institute, responsible for the cloning of the first sheep, affectionately known as Dolly (Dolly was born 1996). At the time, Caroline was a post-doctoral researcher in the team having completed a PHD in mammalian embryology between1989-92. After completing her PHD and post-doctoral placement she worked as a clinical embryologist at the London Fertility Centre, Harley Street and senior embryologist at the IVF Unit at the Chelsea and Westminster hospital. In 2012, Dr Phillips set up an information portal called ‘Fertility Clinics Abroad’ http://www.fertilityclinicsabroad.com/ which provides advice and clinic reviews for people considering fertility treatment outside of the UK.


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