I had found a way to save thousands on my 100% out-of-pocket IVF treatment, and I felt I needed to share that story with as many people as will listen!
Deciding on IVF
Like most couples, we never thought we would be faced with IVF.
After 3 early losses by January 2018, my doctor broke the news to me. My best chances, because of my severe endometriosis and PCOS, would likely be IVF. She tried to soften the blow and said “We could try a couple more medicated cycles but your chances are between 2-5%”
Read that again:two to five percent?! That’s like the same chances of winning the lottery!
My next thought was How the heck was I going to afford IVF? I won’t be able to! My heart broke and I wondered if I’d ever be a mom.
In the US, the average cost of an IVF cycle (with medications) is $15,000-$20,000.
Guys. That is the equivalent to going to a car dealership, paying them cash for a mid-sized car and not being guaranteed a car. I don’t want to pay full price without a guarantee!
At this point, I turned to my online support group. We have been friends for about a year now. Some are in different countries and a few are in the States like myself. One of them had researched into this whole new world I had never heard of called IVF Tourism and did her IVF in Prague. To avoid the higher costs or long wait times for treatment, women and couples are traveling to other countries to enjoy affordable IVF.
Now, if you are like me, your first thought is that it’s dangerous and you’ll probably be greeted by a doctor in this van promising you babies…and it’s lower cost is probably because of lower quality (“You get what you pay for,” logic) with high school dropouts sketchy doctors and you’d wake up with missing organs that are now on the black market.
The US charges the most in the entire world for IVF and fertility treatments. By a lot. And no it is not because they are better. Because of lower costs of living and socialized health care, many of these countries can easily afford to charge less. I love my country and I think we are great, but when it comes to anything medical, it feels like we are awfully greedy.
I was intrigued! Now being faced with the IVF potential as well, I dove into research.
I was amazed! There was so much information about it and so many people, all over the world doing it! It was like a not-so-secret society that others who aren’t in realm of IVF don’t know exists! In addition, the costs were fractions less! I was beginning to think maybe had a chance after all.
Choosing a Clinic
The decision to travel abroad to do IVF did not come without LOTS of discussion, research and consideration. There was a lot to think about!
Where would we go?
Is it safe?
When? How long?
How do we choose a clinic?
How much will it cost?
Where would we go?
I took to the internet in search of both individual reviews as well as sites dedicated to Fertility treatments to find this information. There were lots of places we immediately knew we didn’t want to go. Whether it was for safety reasons or just not really interested in traveling to, we crossed out Turkey, Poland, India, Mexico, Russia, and Cyprus. That left us with Spain, Czech Republic and Greece.
We quickly eliminated Spain. The reason? Cost. It had nothing to do with anything else. They were very highly ranked, I would love to travel there and safety ranked high too. But the cost was building at or near $10,000. That is just too close to the cost here (albeit still 1/4 to 1/2 off) and we just didn’t think the already added stress of traveling was worth that much savings.
Is it Safe?
Next step was to look into safety. This included both safety of getting medical treatment in a foreign country as well as the crime in that country (both general and involving tourists).
In Prague, after looking into it, the biggest issue was petty crimes, such as pick-pocketers and people trying to claim that they will exchange your US dollars for Czech Euro, but actually give you counterfeit.
Greece: Pick-pocket-ers, up-charging you for food/drink, and avoid being in unlit areas and anywhere near protests.
All in all, we didn’t feel as though either of these things are really much different than anywhere in the United States, so we felt we could use our own common sense and be just fine.
Where? How Long?
Being a teacher, I am off work (in terms of contract times! All teachers know there is still plenty of work to be done during the summer!) From May 22-August 10.
We knew that summer was clearly the best time for us. My husband had a combined total of sick and vacation time of 2 weeks left. Our goal was to keep him from using unpaid time.
Most clinics recommend that you be there for the first ultrasounds (usually day 6 or 7 of your stim cycle) until transfer. However, they are used to medical tourists and let you have your ultrasounds and early blood work (if necessary) done in your home country, with the results emailed to them. If you have the time (or perhaps you are already in Europe so a day or two travel before egg retrieval and transfer are cheap and feasible) It would cost less to do it with your clinic.
However, that wasn’t an option for us. I had a doctors office here (that has competitive self pay pricing for ultrasounds.) do our first ultrasounds. We flew out on cycle day 11. Speaking on that for a moment- I strongly suggest calling around for self pay pricing for ultrasounds if you are doing this option. I only paid $300 for 2 ultrasounds, where it would have been double had I done it with my OBs office.
How did we choose a clinic?
Now we had two places we both felt comfortable going to, we needed to look at the clinics.
This is where I relied a lot on reviews and 3rd party clinic ratings such as Global Clinic Rating. I made a spreadsheet to keep track of location, ranking, live birth rates, costs and any extras.
Greece: We decided we only wanted to go to Athens as this would help keep our costs down. Through the rankings and personal reviews that I read on message boards we were down to IVF Serum and Embryoland. I emailed both clinics and both got back to me very quickly. I had to fill out some information to provide them with our fertility history and lab results. The doctor at Embryoland emailed me personally. Most clinics use an IVF Coordinator, so this was surprising. We set up a Skype interview with him and we felt very good about things.
About a week later I had a Skype consultation with IVF Serum. While I appreciate what they do, I didn’t have such a great feeling about going there. We were feeling pretty set on Embryoland if we chose Greece.
Prague:There were so many clinics either in Prague or Brno (a cheap train/bus ride of about 2 hours). It was very difficult to sift through them. In fact, I contacted almost all of them! Some I didn’t get a good feeling for during email communication and I just dropped them. One clinic had too recently gotten bad press for a mistake and I decided when it comes to medical and IVF, human error like the one that was made, was not a risk I was willing to take. Finally, I had two clinics narrowed down. One was the clinic my friend used, Gennet, (which has amazing reviews all over the message boards and is one of the top in the world based on Global Clinic Ratings) and another. This other one ended up 1. arguing with me over a treatment option that I wasn’t ready for and 2. they forgot who they were talking to and started talking to me about donor eggs. Um.. no. You’re out.
**side note- there are a lot of great clinics in Prague, but for the purpose of this post, I will not go into the other clinics. Gennet is not the only great clinic, it is just the one we felt best for us.
How much will it cost?
This was pretty important too, considering it was our main reason for searching abroad: how much will it cost?
IVF +ICSI+ 1 Year frozen embryos (all ultrasounds and blood tests are also included)
Flights :Average from our location $1,200 Per person/roundtrip
AirBnB: Roughly $30/a day
Meds: We also did our medication shopping overseas. We went with IVFMeds.comas we saved THOUSANDS. My Out of Pocket expense for the medication in the US would have been roughly $9,000. I paid $1,700 for the exact same medication. It took exactly one week to arrive. I’ve used IVFPharmacy.comas well- shop around!
Looking at all this, we decided Gennetin Prague would be our location of choice. We had our Skype consultation with the doctor on April 11 and I was able to start treatment when my next cycle started on May 14.
If you are faced with IVF and dreading the cost, I would highly recommend looking into IVF Tourism. Doing IVF abroad was amazing. Not only did we get to visit a BEAUTIFUL country and enjoy a vacation, but we were able to do IVF at a reasonable cost.The IVF coordinator was with us the whole time and answered all questions, walked us through all steps and interpreted when needed (only our embryologist did not speak English). Best of all, I have 8 babies on ice and one growing inside me right now! What a success!