Making a decision about fertility treatment involves countless questions. We know them well and we might have some of the answers you are looking for. The guest speaker of this webinar is Aleksander Wiecki, Chief Marketing Officer at IVF Media, who talks about IVF Treatment Abroad and asks if popular IVF destinations in Europe are as safe as they should be
IVF abroad or at home?
Although the topic of this webinar is IVF Treatment Abroad, Aleksander starts with admitting that it is always best to have IVF treatment as close to your home as possible. However, he realises it is not always possible and there are different reasons why fertility patients decide to go to another country for their treatment. If you are one of them, this webinar provides as much support as possible and helps you to dispel any doubts or hesitations you may have.
At the beginning of his presentation, Aleksander tells about the ‘IVF Abroad Guide
’ that was launched at London Fertility Show. You can now download it here
. He admits that most of his presentation will be based on that particular publication which involved in-depth research on the part of IVF Media team and is a reliable source of information on IVF treatment abroad.
Safe IVF treatment abroad
Alexander goes on to explain what the term ‘safe treatment’
means. He believes there are a few factors that may be important when choosing both the right destination and the right clinic to have treatment. The first one is IVF law and legal requirements. It often happens that clinics interpret the existing legislation indifferently. Another factor is clinics’ certification.
Alexander says there is a national body in each country that certifies clinics, cryobanks and embryology labs and in this way assures they operate according to the existing law. Additionally, there are other global certifications for IVF clinics
like the ISO. Then there is also the medical quality of the treatment and clinics’ experience. When it comes to the latter, Alexander mentions two areas in which IVF clinics may attract their patients in the most visible way. One of them is the time the clinic is present on the market and the number of patients they support yearly. However, the more important here is the experience and qualifications of the clinics’ doctors and embryologists
. These are really the people who are behind each patient’s success.
According to Alexander, ethics is also one of the most important factors relating to ‘safe treatment’. It’s best when patients can find it on the clinic’s website. Presumably, the best would be to have it accompanied by sufficient and reliable information on the clinic’s services and prices. Customer service is very significant as well. It should relate not only to the time before the treatment but also more importantly to the time afterwards. Honesty between the clinic’s doctors, customer service, IVF coordinators and patients is crucial in order to avoid misunderstanding. As IVF treatment is a long and complex process – both from a medical and emotional point of view- the experience that patients derive from the cooperation with the clinic is of highest importance. Moreover, it does not refer only to the time spent at the clinic but also to post-treatment service and care. In Alexander’s opinion, the way the clinic behaves towards the patient after the embryo transfer has been conducted (and the bills have been paid) is what really counts.
At this point Alexander makes an important statement, namely: IVF abroad in the most popular destinations in Europe
is safe. However, there is still a lack of information on the IVF law, legal limits, restrictions and the organisation of the whole treatment. It may differ greatly, depending on a country. The most important area of miscommunication (and as a result – misunderstandings) is the way IVF law and international IVF guidelines are interpreted by different clinics. It refers mostly to the issues such as IVF age limit, the number of embryos to transfer, phenotype matching and gender selection. Some information such as IVF age limit and information about donors per country can be checked on eggdonationfriends
. Unfortunately, such procedures reflect negatively on the way the whole IVF industry is perceived and result in describing ‘IVF abroad’ as dangerous.
Alexander says that it was the will to clear up the mentioned misconceptions that made him and his team start working on the ‘IVF Abroad Guide’. The Guide compares 8 popular IVF destinations in Europe in terms of, among others, IVF law, prices and success rates. When it comes to the latter, it is important to mention they are based on the data published by ESHRE (European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology)
. ESHRE is an international body that collects the IVF data from different countries and thus, their reports are much more objective and reliable than, for example, the data published on IVF clinics’ websites.
Generally speaking, clinic websites do not seem to be informative enough. Alexander says that, in most cases, they are more like a marketing tool rather than the useful source of information for inquiring patients. For example, it is a common practice in Spain not to publish any pricing lists on IVF clinic websites. According to Alexander, it is difficult to understand as such information would be the best proof of clinics’ professionalism and transparency. The same refers to the doctors’ experience. Alexander cannot understand why so few clinics present their fertility specialists in a detailed way, together with the lists of their publications on specialised fertility problems. It is a well-known fact that the more data patients gather during their website experience before coming to the clinic, the better.
Alexander says that while working on the ‘IVF Abroad Guide’, they were trying to look at the accessibility of information from a patient’s point of view and their findings were less than satisfactory. The most important information (such as IVF legislation, certified IVF clinics, IVF/egg donation success rates per IVF centre or national average success rates) was only available online in English in a few cases. Generally, most of the information was provided in a country’s national language – what is quite useless from an English-speaking patient’s perspective.
IVF abroad – the research
So, what to do when you can’t find the answers you’re looking for? Alexander’s advice is: start asking questions. However, it may not be a satisfactory solution either. Alexander admits that, when collecting the information to include into the Guide, they also sent e-mails to the ministries of health in all 8 IVF destinations. And – what came as a huge surprise – they did not receive any answers from the three biggest players on the European IVF stage: Spain, Greece and Russia. Others sent typical marketing replies (although that was better than nothing) or answered after a significant delay. Comprehensive answers were delivered by a few countries only.
In the last part of his presentation, Alexander reminds us that success rates of IVF treatments
and low prices are not the main factors one should take into account when choosing their IVF destination and IVF clinic. In fact, there is always a combination of factors that cannot exist without one another. If one expects high success rates, they have to realise that their treatment won’t be quick and cheap. If their goal is low price, then the treatment won’t be quick and – most importantly – effective. And when the treatment is expected to last shortly – then, neither low price nor effectiveness are possible. In case of treatment prices, Alexander advises to always add 30% of what is advertised on the clinic’s website.
Finally, there is one very important thing to realise in relation to the clinics’ success rates – they’re just the average and because of that they do not matter to an individual patient. What each patient should do is to ask IVF clinic about their own chances of getting pregnant
– based on their own individual medical history, diagnosis and genetics. That’s why it is always highly advisable to contact clinics and discuss one’s specific medical situation before making the actual decision. IVF abroad is safe when you prepare to it in a meticulous way beforehand. Be careful and not suspicious – these are the words that perfectly sum up the advice Alexanders gives the viewers of this webinar.