S1E13 - On Considering IVF Abroad

Episode 13 April 19, 2023 00:22:43
S1E13 - On Considering IVF Abroad
Start to Finish Motherhood with Aisha
S1E13 - On Considering IVF Abroad

Apr 19 2023 | 00:22:43


Hosted By

Aisha Jenkins

Show Notes

In this episode, I discusses my journey with donor egg IVF and how I eventually ended up choosing to undergo IVF procedure in the states. I want to emphasize that I am not a doctor so all medical decisions I made and that you'll make, was and should, be made in collaboration with your medical team. 

I researched extensively to find a clinic that would cater to my specific needs. I recommend listeners do the same type of extensive research.  I provide general tips for people seeking IVF abroad, including researching the quality of clinics, understanding the constraints of working with an international clinic, and being aware of laws and regulations surrounding reproductive health in the chosen country, and monitoring options.

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Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Hi everybody. Today's topic is IVF Abroad. I will state upfront that I am not a medical professional. And all medical decisions should be made in collaboration with your own medical team. While I was trying for my second child in around 2015, through the 2018 time period, I tried almost everything. I tried, IUI I tried IVF, I considered adoption. I considered donor embryos, I considered donor eggs, and I even considered [00:01:00] IVF abroad this was a super expensive period of my life, When I finally got to the end of my IVF cycles with my own eggs and I was running out of money, I eventually had to switch to donor egg IVF, and then I had to open my mind and explore, a wide variety of options, including international options for being able to find the lowest cost, highest quality highest success rate with donor egg IVF. This kind of took me on this journey and it took a couple of months. I started asking questions in the various Single Mother by Choice forums that I was a part of, and folks raved about the clinics in Europe, Greece, Spain, Denmark, the Czech Republic for their low cost and their efficiency in high success rates with IVF and in particular, donor egg I ivf, the only problem that I had was that many of these clinics have regulations around race, [00:02:00] race of the sperm donor, race of the egg donor, and as a black woman, race was at the top of my list in terms of what my needs were. Not my wants, but what my needs were for using donor egg and donor sperm. I just needed brown. So I really had to do my homework. When I realized that race would be an issue, I wanted to use black genetic material, especially if I was using donor egg. I wanted to make sure that the egg donor was black because the egg donor was supposed to be a stand-in. Physically and phenotypically appearance wise for me. And so that was really important. I knew that I needed to speak with black people, black Single, Mother by Choice, who also did IVF, who also did donor egg IVF. And so I sought out, black Single Mother by Choice who used donor egg and donor sperm and also had success. I'm happy that I knew a few people that were in this boat because [00:03:00] it's like the one half of 1%. Right? So in general, when considering donor eggs, the best place to find the largest pool of black donors is by working with a clinic that is located in an area where black people. So you're going to typically get more black eggs. So after doing my due diligence, I came very, very close to working with the fertility clinic in Barbados. It's an international clinic with a relatively low cost I V F program and a significant pool of black donor eggs. I also considered this clinic because I had a close Single Mother by Choice friend. Who used them with success their program and the coordination of their travel patients was all top-notch. They gave me a pamphlet. I could choose where I wanted to stay. I could choose any add-ons like acupuncture, massage that I wanted to add onto my procedure when the time came. [00:04:00] So the only thing Is that at the time the clinic was responsible for choosing the egg donor, so they would do egg donor matching for me, and they would find the donor that matched my physical appearance and then that would be the egg donor that they would use with the sperm of my choice. I was not 100% okay with this, but I was okay with it mostly, especially for where I was mentally and emotionally on my fertility journey. So I was okay moving forward. But I did not go with them because I could not work out childcare logistics for my young daughter. So I eventually decided to look for a US based clinic. I ended up going with C N Y. Their prices were comparable. There was no international travel. It was fairly straightforward. And since they're located in upstate New York, they would have access to a nice pool of black donors. I eventually got my baby! [00:05:00] And I will say that that was probably the last time that I was going to be able to take a grand vacation. So I still long for that vacation to Barbados and I had the miles to do flight for both me and my daughter and hotel, but I could not work out the childcare logistics, so I did something different. Now let me take a step back and backtrack just a little bit iVF vacations that's what they were called when I was trying, they fall under the umbrella of medical tourism. So you'll wanna do your research so that you can make informed decisions. People will typically seek out IVF abroad because it is cheaper. The quality. You find a range. You have high quality clinics to clinics that are okay. So do your due diligence and do your homework, but you'll also need to factor in travel and hotel. This is why most people will just make a vacation out of it, because if I'm gonna spend that kind of money, I might as well [00:06:00] go to a beautiful place, get my procedure, and then just relax for the rest of the stay. I was dealing with secondary infertility and I suspected that I had an immune issue. So when I started looking for clinics, I wanted a clinic that would do some immune testing, and I eventually settled on the clinic in Barbados because they had part of their preconception testing included an immune panel. So did CNY and so. The initial consultation was quick and easy to set up. It was a free consultation. I just needed to send them my medical records ahead of time. It happened over Skype. It was really informative. So I got a lot of information from the conversation. They were able to answer the questions that I had about monitoring. and about how they would get my medication to me. They were pretty much a well-oiled machine. So just to explain to you a little bit about what monitoring is, [00:07:00] when you go through fertility treatments, you are consistently getting blood work done so that they can check your hormone levels and then you're also getting ultrasounds done so that they can check your follicles your uterine environment, and the thickness of your lining. And. Now since I was considering them for a donor egg cycle, there was some additional considerations and conversations that I needed to have in particular. Typically with a donor egg cycle, they try to sync up your natural menstrual cycle with that of the donor, and so I needed to have those conversations to understand what that would entail for me. I also needed to have conversations about lodging. I know that depending on the procedures, like if they found anything and they needed to go remove something, or if you are considering going abroad for your own egg, IVF cycle, [00:08:00] then you will need to have the conversation about how do you get from the clinic back to your hotel. That was a conversation I had, and they had procedures in place. They would have a medical professional take you across the street to your lodgings. So the nice thing was that the lodging that they arranged, was close to the clinic itself. So I also needed to really sit down and think logistically how this would work out for me. As I mentioned, I had a young child who would be traveling with me, so I would need to arrange childcare. , which luckily I had my sister-in-law's families from Barbados, so I could have. Tapped into that network, but also, what if I needed to do repeat transfers, right? What if my first transfer didn't work and I needed to go back to Barbados, then it's no longer a cheap trip. It is now I'm taking multiple trips to Barbados to get my baby. What if I had leftover embryos and I needed to move those [00:09:00] embryos back to the us? That's an additional cost. So when I sat down to really run the numbers, it really kind of came down to I couldn't find childcare. So I ended up going with the clinic in New York. So some things that I learned from my experience and, and since then, because covid has changed everything some tips . You want to research travel insurance. This is an aside. When I was planning my family vacation for May of 2020, I actually had travel insurance that included some stipulations for unexpected medical things coming up. Now, my daughter did not end up with Covid, but I needed to cancel. Right before Covid actually hit, she had R S V, and so I was just keeping her away from public spaces, I needed to cancel our vacation and luckily I had trip insurance. But if you are traveling for a medical procedure like IVF, you do want to [00:10:00] specifically seek out trip insurance. That includes insurance for medical procedures. You wanna understand the constraints around working with an international clinic, does the clinic allow open id, egg and sperm donation. Can you use open id, sperm and egg where the donors can be identified? Some clinics do not allow that. Does the clinic work with single women or same-sex couples? Do they work with the surrogate? Some clinics do not. Work with single women. Some clinics do not work with same-sex couples. Some clinics do not work with surrogates. Does your clinic allow you to pick the donor or will they do the picking for you? I mentioned earlier that when I was considering donor eggs and Barbados, they were going to pick the egg donor for me, so I would not have that choice. And also in Barbados, their egg donors were anonymous. . Does the clinic allow you to use an anonymous donor? So some clinics in the [00:11:00] US some clinics in the UK are requiring that donors are open ID donors, so. it's illegal to use an anonymous donor. Do they work with US-based sperm banks? Or are there additional regulations? So do your research on the country's laws and regulations also around reproductive health. So what are their regulations around ivf, tissue donations and reproductive health? What is the max age for the patient that they are going to work with? In my case, I would be looking for what's the, the maximum age that a woman can be if she's using her own eggs or if she's just getting donor eggs. Right. Do they have a limit for B M I? Some clinics in the US will have B M I limits. Do they work with sperm banks in the us? I know from a Canadian perspective, Canadians who are getting I V F have to [00:12:00] use sperm. That's Canadian compliant. Whatever that means. I'm not sure, but it has to be Canadian compliant. In New York City where I was considering doing receiving donor embryos, there are specific FDA regulations that patient. In New York State have to adhere to, so it even varies within states in a country. So you do want to be aware of the laws if you're using a sperm bank in the us. Make sure. That they ship internationally. And then also ask about tank insurance because when they ship a vial of sperm, they ship it on dry ice and in a special tank and they want their tank back. So they will take out an insurance, and the insurance can sometimes be a shocker because it's between 200 and maybe $500 that you do get back once the tank gets returned. But that's a huge chunk of money to be surprised. About [00:13:00] understand how your medication will get to you and the procedures for filling your prescription. So if you are using an international clinic, are they also using an international pharmacy or are they giving you a prescription that can be. Filled at a US-based pharmacy and how that all works because medication is going to be key. You don't want your cycle to be ruined because you didn't get your medication on time and there was no backup plan. Okay? So find out if you get to choose your donor, how the clinic will deal with monitoring. Can you monitor locally? or do you have to be in the international location in order to do your monitoring in person? So remember, monitoring is pretty much getting your. Hormones, check through blood work and getting ultrasounds to check your follicle count your uterine environment, and the thickness of your lining. Last but not least, this, this does come up quite often [00:14:00] that you will do. an IVF cycle and you will get embryos and maybe one or two of those embryos might be a mosaic embryo. So what does your clinic do with mosaic embryos? Will they allow you to transfer them or will they discard them just because they're mosaics? Okay. So traveling or monitoring locally. I do wanna talk about this a little bit more. Most international clinics will allow. To monitor locally in your state, in your city, in the us this means that you can have your blood work and your ultrasound performed at a local fertility clinic with the results being faxed over to your international clinic for interpretation. So you're just showing up, you're getting blood work and ultrasound. They are sending it to your clinic in, you know, Greece or Spain or Mexico. So maybe you or you can take an I V F [00:15:00] vacation where's you're onsite and you're doing monitoring locally. And so while I did not take a beautiful, lovely IVF vacation, I did work with a clinic in Connecticut and I traveled to Connecticut. To have my procedures done and monitor locally. So I took vacation time, I got a hotel. I drove my daughter and myself up to Connecticut. We stayed there for two weeks at our Residence Inn, and I did my monitoring locally, and we just enjoyed a relaxed kind of vacation. Though it would've been nice to be in Barbados or maybe you live in an international location. Already, and then you can just go ahead and do your monitoring locally at the international clinic. A little bit more on if you monitor locally here in the US, you will want to find a local clinic that is near you because you want it to be easy to get to, that will do your blood work and your ultrasounds. You will need [00:16:00] to let that clinic know ahead of time that you are working with an out-of-state or an international clinic just to make sure that they will work with that clinic or they have knowledge and they're okay faxing over that information because they have to. Through that extra step, so that's a reciprocity relationship between the fertility clinics. I have yet to have a problem with that. Make sure that you get copies of your scans and that you have access to a portal where you can pull up your blood work just in case something goes wrong and your international clinic does not get your reports. The local clinic will need to fax over the results to your international clinic. Now when you show up for your monitoring appointment at your local clinic, Here in the US you will need to have a requisition from your international clinic stating what blood work and ultrasound they need. And it [00:17:00] should also have the fax number and all of that information. So your clinic will give you that. I would also recommend knowing where your local lab core is, or Quest Diagnostics. And local imaging center just in case to have a backup if you can't get to the clinic. These, these locations are Quest Diagnostics. LabCorp and an imaging center should also still take the requisition, but. , you're going to preplan this all ahead of time, so you are going to know for certain. I did actually have to, to use a lab corp. But I was so down the rabbit hole, I was just like, yeah, whatever. I went rogue just to recap, if you're considering IVF abroad, be sure to ask the questions that you need to ask in order to make sure you're making the best choice for you. Many clinics have a large supply of Caucasian egg and sperm, but if you're of another race or ethnicity, I would recommend [00:18:00] calling the clinic and asking to see if they have what you need. For my situation, I was specifically looking for black donor eggs. okay, some tax implications. One of the benefits of me staying locally when I had to do my donor egg cycle was that I got to write off on my taxes, all of the medical Stuff that was covered per the US tax law, so that meant that I could write off my hotel stay, I can write off a percentage of the mileage and tolls. I can write off the medication and the procedures. So what I did was I batched a whole lot of medical procedures, whether it was visits to the dentist, pediatric visits for my daughter. Dental work, I made sure all of that happened in that same year and that I kept all of those receipts and all of the tolls and all of that stuff because it wasn't just the [00:19:00] IVF treatment that I could write off. It's all of the medical procedures I had done in that year as long as I have receipts. And proof of payment, I can write it all off for that year. And then I did end up getting back a nice chunk of change in the end, but that is only the icing on the cake. I really just wanted the baby. So, in summary, in case you didn't catch all of the details, You want to research which international fertility clinics since I was doing a donor egg cycle, I was looking for clinics that had a good number of black egg donors. What I found was the fertility clinic of Barbados, some of the clinics in Mexico. Clinics in Portugal , clinics in Spain and clinics in North Cypress also had, black sperm and black egg donors . I would do my due diligence and call around and ask if they have what it is that you're looking for, if you're considering doing international IVF cycles, donor egg cycles and things of that [00:20:00] nature. If you're looking for open ID, whereas the child can find out the ID of the donor, if you are looking for clinics that cater to single women or same-sex couples, those will typically be the ones that are the most flexible, less religious driven and more just give me your money types of clinics where there's not going to be judgment. Those are the things that I would look for, but do your homework. Do your due diligence and call around and find out if the fertility clinic will take care of your individual and unique needs. I did have a successful donor egg cycle at 42 and I delivered my daughter at 43. I used the CNY clinic in Syracuse, New York. Had a wonderful experience. My cycle costs included donor egg. It included the I V F, it included the transfer and all of that was about $9,000. It did not cover medication. [00:21:00] And medication Might have been an additional $1,000 on top of that, so maybe 10,000 altogether. I did have to pay for a short flight or a drive up to Syracuse, New York, plus an overnight hotel stay. I did consider the fertility center of Barbados because they were low cost, highly regarded. They would do immunological testing. They had a large pool of black egg donors. They were highly recommended by a friend. They're all inclusive. Price may have been around 5,600 but I would've also had to pay for my flights and lodging for my daughter and I. On top of that, I did do a bunch of research for other clinics, but those were my top two choices now, just to note, I did end up having to do more than one donor egg cycle due to an issue with my sperm, so that would've added to the cost had I gone with an international clinic because I didn't know at the time. So there you have it. That's my experience [00:22:00] considering IVF abroad.

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