Fertility tourism becoming trendy and more affordable

In the world of assisted fertility, in-vitro fertilization (IVF) is nothing new, according to a recent story on voxxi.com

And for women 40 and over, donor egg IVF – where eggs from a younger, more fertile donor are fertilized with the partner’s sperm, cultivated and then transferred to the prospective mom’s uterus – is often the only hope for achieving pregnancy.

But for US couples whose health insurance doesn’t cover infertility, the costs of these treatments can be prohibitively expensive; IVF with an egg donor costs an average of $30,000. That’s per try, pregnant or not pregnant at the outcome.

So increasingly, in a trend labeled fertility tourism, more and more couples are looking outside the US in their quest for a baby, to countries where the medical technology is on par with the States and the costs are significantly less.

Take a vacation, come home pregnant

In Europe, clinics in the Czech Republic and clinics in Spain currently vie for English-speaking patients; those seeking blond-haired, blue eyed donors head east, while those seeking dark haired donors with brown or green eyes head for the Mediterranean.

Donors are mostly young college students looking for extra money to pay tuition. Clinics have English-speaking staff and are located, not by accident, in desirable tourist locales – in major cities like Barcelona, Madrid and Seville, and in coastal resorts such as Valencia, Alicante and even the Canary Islands.

So, foreign couples can mix purpose with pleasure by making the required clinic visits, taking time for some sightseeing and relaxation, and hopefully, flying home with a proverbial bun in the oven. And even with a week to 10 days’ travel costs and the US $ to euro conversion factored in, a fertility vacation can still shake out a lot cheaper than treatment in the US.

In Spain, IVF with donor eggs costs between €7,000 and €10,000 per cycle. Even at the worst currency exchange rate and peak season travel, a couple can save at least $10,000 by traveling to Spain for treatment.

Some clinics, like URVistaHermosa in Alicante, offer a refund program, where clients pay for three donor egg cycles up front (at a discounted rate). If no pregnancy is achieved after the third cycle, 30% of that money is refunded.

And the clinic claims it has never had to give a refund.

No Octomoms allowed!

In Spain, as in the US and other countries, current practice at most clinics is to transfer blastocysts, embryos that have been grown outside the uterus for 5 days. Though fewer fertilized eggs arrive at blastocyst stage, those that survive the 5-day growth period have a very good chance of implanting in the uterus and turning into viable pregnancies.

To reduce the incidence of multiple births (twins, triplets or more), Spanish law prohibits the transfer of more than three embryos, and most clinics strongly urge patients to transfer just two.

Virtually every Spanish clinic boasts a first-time success rate of 60-70% with donor egg IVF, so if those numbers are to be believed, couples opting for fertility tourism have a very good chance of bringing back an extra special souvenir.

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Tertia Albertyn is the founder of Nurture - South Africa’s longest-running and most successful Egg Donation Program. An accomplished speaker and an award-winning published author, as well as an ex-infertility patient herself, she is highly regarded in South Africa and internationally for the work she does in infertility. Tertia was instrumental in establishing the first FDA-approved frozen donor egg bank in Africa. Tertia has an MBA from the University of Cape Town and lives in Cape Town, South Africa with her husband and three children.