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How I saved more than 50% by Traveling out of the U.S. for In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF)
Research and Comparing the Cost for Each Country
In-Vitro fertilization (IVF) can be a very emotional and expensive process, and if you don't have an unlimited supply of money, you may need to look for unconventional ways to accomplish your goals of becoming a parent. I first learned about traveling out of the country for IVF, from a friend I met in an on-line infertility group. There are many countries that offer these services from India to Mexico to Greece at a significantly lower cost, sometimes saving well over 50 percent. Here is a web page containing the cost for IVF for many countries, including the United States ( U.S.). (Cost of IVF Around the World) Scroll half way down the page to reach the table showing the cost for each country. The data is from 2008, but that is the most recent I can find.
After doing some research, I found out that the Czech Republic was a leader in In-Vitro fertilization. I learned that there were packages called IVF vacations, that allow you to "take a vacation" while undergoing your IVF procedure for a fraction of the cost in the United States. There are companies in the U.S., that specialize in providing IVF packages to these countries. Some packages can include IVF- related procedures at the clinic, assistance with travel, accommodations, and an English-speaking guide who is available to help with everything you need during your stay.
Choosing a Company
I narrowed my search down to two companies: IVF Vacation using The Clinic of Reproductive Medicine and Gynecology in Zlin Czech Republic, and My IVF Alternative using the Reprofit Clinic in Brno Czech Republic. I wanted to make sure that the clinic I chose was "state of the art" and International Organization for Standardization (ISO) certified. This is a certification in Europe that demonstrates consistent quality control in all levels of departments (clinical, laboratory, administrative) leading to higher success rates and patient satisfaction. These rules first gained popularity in Europe, then spread to America in the 1990s.
I decided to go with My IVF Alternative. I emailed the owner and started the process. There are several laboratory tests you have to take before you begin your travel. Through email and phone calls, they will walk you through the process of obtaining the lab tests, making your arrangements, telling you what you will need, and generally getting you ready to travel out of the country.
I was advised to try and plan my trip between March and early November, due to the harsh winters in the Czech Republic. I was assigned a US coordinator and a Czech Coordinator to help me with each step of the process.
Since, my journey, I have also had a friend recommend IVF Traveler. They have a concierge service to several clinics, and the price is very affordable. There are flat flees for each service you might need, and a lot of options.
Cost and Accommodations
In September 2010, when we left for the Czech Republic, the out-of-pocket cost was significantly less than the $25,000-$30,000 we were quoted for IVF in Seattle, Washington.
My IVF Alternatives told us that medication costs ranged from $1500 to $2500 depending on the protocol the doctor sets up for you. Our final bill, for the entire IVF package was a little over $6000, not including air fare ($1500 per person), food, and the cost of the apartment.
We paid a $700 deposit with $500 being refundable after our return to the US, if we stayed at one of the contracted apartments. The apartment was very modern, nice, clean and livable. We had a full kitchen, a living room area, and one bedroom. My mother went with us and slept on the couch, but I would highly recommend paying a little bit extra and getting that second bedroom if more than two people are going. The apartment had cable tv and DVDs to watch. They provided a laptop with high speed internet, including a MajicJack . We could make and receive free calls to the US and Canada. We stayed for three weeks. My husband was able to telecommute, in the evenings, back to his job in Seattle. The apartment was in a nice location, with two restaurants in the building, and it was within walking distance to the light rail, which made getting around the city a breeze. After receiving our $500 refund, the cost of the apartment was around $1100 for 3 weeks rental. We really couldn't have asked for better accommodations.
Our IVF Package
This is what our package included:
- Coordinate and make payments on behalf of the Client for all appointments and meetings with the Clinic an in vitro fertilization clinic located in Brno, Czech Republic (the “Clinic”).
- Medical history review by the clinic.
- Protocol establishment by the clinic.
- IVF coordinator in the US and Czech.
- Protocol understanding and medical administration guidance as prescribed by the clinic.
- Monitoring ultrasounds (and blood/urine tests if necessary) at the clinic.
- Assistance with applying for free medications – US citizens and residents only (majority of the patients get approved).
- Egg retrieval, anesthesia, anesthesiologist, fertilization with Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI), extended cultivation over 48 hours.
- Assisted hatching, embryo transfer at the clinic.
- Freezing of surplus embryos and first year of storage at the clinic.
- Assistance with currency exchange and payments abroad.
- Assistance with travel arrangements.
- Assistance with personal driver airport transportation arrangement: from Brno – free, from Prague - $170, from Vienna - $150.
- A driver to transport you to all appointments at the clinic.
- Cell phone with doctor's cell phone numbers and other important numbers pre-programmed (Client is responsible for air time charges).
- Extensive Traveler's Guide that includes information like tips, advice, savings, comparisons, spa treatments, sightseeing, dining, movies, wine tasting, brewery tours, day trips, shopping and more.
- MP3 player or USB with IVF meditation to use while in Czech – upon request.
The Reprofit Clinic in Brno
Our European IVF Experience
We decided to hire a driver, which My IVF Alternatives arranged. We had a nine-hour flight delay in Amsterdam, and were worried that our driver wouldn't wait, but a call to our coordinator ensured that our transportation to Brno was still in place. The driver met us at the airport in Prague, and drove us the two hours to Brno. He took us to the apartment, where a coordinator gave us a cell phone containing the phone numbers to our English speaking coordinator (Barbara), the clinic, and the main doctors. Our coordinator, Barbara called the next morning and drove us a short distance to the Reprofit Clinic for my first exam. The clinic staff was very attentive every step of the way and Barbara was there the entire time, translating whenever necessary.
Barbara also took us for lunch at a local restaurant, and acquainted us with the local customs. Following lunch, she took us to the light rail station. She gave us a brief explanation of the currency, and showed us how to buy a book of tickets. We went for a light rail ride around Brno, where Barbara pointed out the major highlights of the city; including the big train station, mall, and the only two places in the city where you can buy souvenirs with the name of the city - "Brno" printed on them. Once we arrived back at the light rail station, we walked to the grocery store across from the rail stop. Barbara helped us find the items we needed, which included milk, bread cereal and other breakfast and lunch foods. It was a good thing that she was with us, because the milk looked like a large juice box and was not refrigerated. She was so helpful and ready to help us with any language issues or questions.
One night we even called her to order a pizza delivery, and to arrange for a taxi to take my husband to the Wash-a-teria (local laundromat), using the cell phone they provided.
We had some medical concerns after we returned to the states. My husband was able to quickly call the main Doctor of the clinic, even though he was at a medical seminar in Russia.
The English Problem & Words Worth Knowing
Whether you learn a few words beforehand or download an App to your phone, there are a few words we really used a lot on our trip. Basic survival words such as "Hello", "Goodbye", "Good Morning", "Please", "Thank you", "Where is the bathroom",...... and "Ice", and "Water", etc. were very helpful for us. In Brno, most people did not speak English. With the help of our concierge Barbara (whose English was very good), and the few words we learned beforehand, we got along with few problems. Most people seemed to appreciate the fact that we were trying to speak Czech. Navigating the train station was probably one of the most challenging experiences, by the time we got to the station we had forgotten some important instructions! We eventually bought the tickets and found our train. After a lovely train ride, we were able to spend the day in Vienna, Austria!
I was very lucky in that my medical protocol went very smoothly, and we had a lot of free time to sight see. The light rail makes it so easy to get around the city, and we spent most days walking through the city visiting historical and interesting sites during the day. We did a lot of shopping, and sampling the Czech cuisine. Food is very affordable, and the beer is less expensive than bottled water. My mom and husband enjoyed the beer, and we all enjoyed the food.
We also took the light rail to go grocery shopping. To save money we cooked some meals at the apartment. There was a grocery store right across the street from the light rail, so it was very convenient.
There were many other countries we could have visited, like Germany or Hungary, but we were nervous to go too far away. So, we picked Austria, which was beautiful, even on a rainy day.
In Brno, there was an awesome Thai Spa right on the light rail line, and we all had an interesting but awesome, spa day. It was unlike any massage we have ever had before, they are serious about working all those knots out of your back. We were a little concerned about going there, but it was highly recommended and it didn't disappoint. It was extremely clean, and the people were very nice. They spoke some English, and it was a completely above board kind of place.
Brno Czech Republic
Brno is the second largest city of the Czech Republic (Prague is the first one) and the cultural and administrative centre of the South Moravian Regio
What measures, or how far would you go to have a baby?
If i had fertility issues, I would.....
We thoroughly enjoyed the great level of service we received from our coordinator and the Reprofit Clinic. Our experience far exceeded the level of service we received in Seattle during our many Clomid cycles, and other fertility treatments.
I would absolutely recommend traveling outside of the country for IVF, to people who are under 35 years of age and who don't have any concerns about the age of their eggs. At the time we went, they only did limited testing of Chromosomes in the Czech Republic. That was back in 2010, and technology is always evolving. If you are over 35, I would check to see what type of genetic testing is available now.