What to Consider Before Going Abroad for Fertility Treatment

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Susan Seenan Chief Executive of Infertility Network UK

Susan Seenan Chief Executive of Infertility Network UK

I’m pleased to have Susan Seenan,  Chief Executive of Infertility Network UK write a blog for us on things to consider before going abroad for IVF.


Over recent years, more and more people are opting to travel abroad for fertility treatment.  There are no statistics to confirm exactly how many choose to go overseas for treatment, and whilst most of those who do choose this option have a very positive experience, there are a lot of issues to consider before deciding whether it’s right for you.

There are lots of reasons why people go abroad, but the key reasons seem to be the price of treatment, lack of waiting lists and the availability of donor eggs.  Overseas clinics tend to have much shorter waiting lists for donor treatment, and in fact many have no waiting times at all due to the availability of donors.  A survey carried out by Infertility Network UK a few years ago confirmed that around half of those who responded had made their decision because of the availability of donor eggs.  What was interesting was that only around one in five who took our survey chose to go abroad due to the fact that they could access anonymous donors.  The availability of donors in the UK is, however, increasing thanks to changes in compensation rates for donors and clinics actively trying to recruit local donors. Although it’s still difficult to access donors in some areas, many clinics now do have a good supply of egg donors and I hope that this situation will continue to improve and eventually mean that no one will feel they have to go abroad because they can’t access the treatment they need in the UK.

Going back ten years or so, going abroad for treatment was very much out of the ordinary, but as more people choose this option and return to share details of their experience on line and at local support groups, more and more people start to consider this option.  In general, overseas clinics are rated very highly with most patients returning having had a good experience of fertility treatment overseas.  For some, the fact that you can leave home for short break, relax in a different environment and not have to juggle clinic appointments with work commitments, is a big benefit.

The very fact that you are away from home though means there are a lot of things to consider, and I would urge anyone thinking about going overseas for treatment to do their homework first.  Different countries have different regulations regarding treatment, with one of the major differences being the fact that many countries only use anonymous donors.  It’s really important to think carefully about the fact that any children born as a result of anonymous donation will never be able to access any information about their donor, and in the UK the importance of being able to know who your donor was can be very significant for some donor conceive children after they grow up.

Something else to consider is the regulation around the number of embryos being replaced.  Here in the UK we work on the principle that the best possible outcome from fertility treatment is one single health baby, and for that reason clinics consider as a first option only transferring one single embryo particularly where patients are at risk of multiple pregnancy.  Twins can be nice, but there are much higher risks to both mother and baby from twin (or triplet!) pregnancy, and the issues don’t stop at pregnancy and birth. Many babies born as a result of multiple births have complex on going health needs right through school age and beyond, and no one wants to have that outcome from their fertility treatment.  So when looking at success rates, I would recommend you also look at the multiple birth rate of any clinic you are considering.

There is a free factsheet on treatment overseas on the Infertility Network UK website, as well as information on single embryo transfer. Just visit www.infertilitynetworkuk.com or get in touch with me directly – I’m always happy to answer any questions I can!

Susan Seenan, Chief Executive of Infertility Network UK

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