Simon chose a clinic, and will soon begin her medication regimen at home (the drugs, purchased at Canadian prices, were sent to her by the Toronto clinic) and be monitored by a doctor in Rapid City, South Dakota. At the end of the drug cycle, she’ll travel to Toronto—with her mom—for a week’s stay. “My husband can’t leave the ranch because if it snows the cattle can get stranded and die, so his sperm is being frozen and shipped to the clinic,” she explains.
If all this sounds a little, well, complicated, Simon is nonetheless excited, hopeful, and grateful that she was able to find a way to afford IVF. True, she will have travel and hotel expenses, which may add another $1,000 to the cost, but since she lives in a remote area, she would have had to travel to Denver anyway. The savings—Denver, $12,000, versus Toronto, $4,000 plus travel—is still remarkable.
It’s not always safe to assume, though, that going out of the country means you’ll automatically be saving money, notes Pamela Madsen, founder and ex-executive director of the American Fertility Association (AFA), a patients’ advocacy group. “The dollar is not very strong right now and it costs a lot to travel. What you save on the procedure might get eaten up by the cost of the flight, hotel, and food.” And there are also other monetary considerations. Will a woman lose wages by missing work? Has she accounted for everything? Sometimes the cost of drugs, tests, and anesthesia get hidden in the fine print (or left out of the print entirely). And bear in mind that repeat attempts at IVF can mean repeat trips out of the country, which may eat into the savings even more via lost wages if you or your spouse use paid time off for the initial trip.
There is also another way that some foreign clinics are urging Americans to look at IVF abroad: as a vacation. Although “IVF vacation” might seem like an oxymoron—assisted reproduction isn’t most people’s idea of a good time—removing oneself from the daily grind while undergoing a stressful and emotional procedure might have its merits. Some women also hope being able to relax might help their chances. “And most people in the states work so hard, they don’t have time to both take vacation and take time off for IVF,” adds Anna Hosford, clinical director of the Barbados Fertility Centre. “When they come here they can relax, and if they don’t get pregnant, they can feel that at least they got a holiday. They don’t walk away empty-handed.” The cost: $6,000 for IVF, not including medications (which can be purchased from a low-cost international pharmacy) and pre-cycle tests, plus $6,500 for a 14-day beachfront vacation.
This is also the thinking behind In-Vitro Fertilization Vacation, a company started by Craig and Marcela Fite, an Ohio couple facing their own fertility issues. Astounded by the costs at local facilities, they visited a clinic in Marcela’s hometown in the Czech Republic, only to find a significant difference in price. A short time later, they launched into the business of helping others make the journey (and stay for 21 days) for a price of about $6,000; $8,100 when using an egg donor (both prices include hotel, air, and meds).
South Africa has become another hot spot for blended vacation-IVF travels. For the past three years, Robin Newman’s company, Renew, has been sending clients for IVF with egg donation procedures to Cape Town, a picturesque hamlet where the mountains meet the sea. Newman estimates that even with accommodations and meals, patients still spend about 50 percent less than in the U.S.