IVF: Cycling Home or Abroad?

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This is the million-dollar question for a lot of couples…where to cycle for IVF. A few years ago, this was a question only for the very wealthy. With the main options, at the time, being Europe or the United States, it was bound to cost a pretty penny. But the common thinking then was that Nigerian hospitals were not able to properly handle an IVF cycle.

The year before I got married, a colleague’€™s sister cycled in one of the popular Nigerian fertility clinics and suffered such a bad case of ovarian hyper stimulation (OHSS), that she had to be flown out of the country. Her subsequent cycles were abroad. As this was the closest I had ever been to an IVF case, the impression that formed in my mind was that if you wanted a successful cycle, Nigeria was not the place for you. Of course, I didn’€™t give it too much thought as I didn’t expect to be on that road myself. But a few years later, there I was. Thankfully, by the time I opted for IVF, there were more than enough local success stories to dispel the gloom and doom myth. It was just as well, as financially, cycling abroad would not have been an option for me. And I’€™m glad I did cycle here, as it worked out well for me (albeit the second time around). Throw in the fact that some people I knew who did cycle abroad, had failed cycles, it further cemented my theory that it made no difference where you cycled, your odds where your odds…period!

Cycling Home or Abroad

I have to say that today, it is a rather different story. It is no longer the case that cycling abroad is more expensive than cycling locally. The prices from some fertility clinics in such places as India and Israel are rock bottom, to say the least, some of which are as low as a quarter the cost of a Nigerian cycle. And these clinics in question are not some backyard squats, but instead appear to be standard clinics, with fairly impressive success rates. Even some European locations, like Greece, Cyprus, and Prague (to name a few), have clinics with fast growing popularity, all of which seemingly work out cheaper than cycling in Nigeria. Apart from these lower prices, they offer just the same cutting edge technology as you would find in the big fertility clinics in the UK and US, with the most impeccable customer service you could imagine. Quite a number of my friends have cycled with this popular clinic in Greece, and I have been blown away by the stories I have heard about its Medical Director, who cultivates a close relationship with her patients and monitors them all the way. On the face of it, it’s almost a no-brainer to go for these options. But there is much more to consider than just that.

If IVF was just a 1-day event, it would be a different story. But you are talking of a process that could last up to 8 weeks, not inclusive of preliminary consultations and testing. Some might argue for consulting via telephone and e-mail, and only travelling for the main event. Whilst this is possible, it is not advisable. Besides, a lot of these clinics refuse to accept Nigerian test results so, at some point, the intending couple will have to make its way to the clinic before their cycle actually commences. And when the process starts, you start the first round of injections. True, there are typically 3 weeks of inactivity until your period starts. But when your period starts, you have to have a scan to confirm that you are fully down regulated, and your womb lining is sufficiently thin. Almost immediately, you start the next round of stimulating injections, which require frequent scans to monitor follicular growth, and to prevent OHSS. This usually takes about 10 – 14 days. Then you have your egg extraction, wait a few days, have the embryo transfer, and then you have two weeks before a pregnancy test can confirm if the cycle has been successful or not. So basically, you either have to make multiple trips abroad, or commit to spending about 3 months of your life in this location, both of which options immediately cancel out the benefits of a cheaper cycle. Some people choose to make vacations out of the process, and plan their holidays around this schedule, especially for those cycling in exotic locations. If you can afford this, hey why not?! There has to be something for tempering the strain and stress of an IVF cycle with some sun and sand. But if not, then it’s just an additional expense to what is already an expensive process.

For me, I think that there is an added benefit to being in your own comfort zone through this process. Thankfully, there are a good number of Nigerian hospitals that have kept updated with cutting edge technology and offer almost the same quality of treatment you would get abroad. That makes it easier for people like me who prefer being around the familiar, especially when going through something as hard as IVF. The converse could also be the case, especially for people who are surrounded by stress. Being able to get away for this period could work out better in their favour. For the self employed, there’s nothing wrong with this, especially if you can afford it. But for the vast majority of people who are employed, taking multiple and/or extended time off is towing a very thin line. If you are lucky enough to get an extended leave of absence, it is important to also take into consideration the possibility of a pregnancy resulting from the process, which will also demand time away from work. For even the most understanding of employers, this will not be an easy sell.

My personal opinion is that unless you have extenuating circumstances, such as a complex medical history and/or condition, requirement of medical care not available locally, or have a hostile living environment, it is not worth the logistical nightmare to cycle abroad, even if you can afford it. If you’€™re worried about the quality of care and outcome, there are hospitals here that have excellent track records and success rates. If you think you will be saving money by going abroad, don’t forget to factor in travel and living expenses into your budgeting. At the end of the day, and this brings to me to my earlier opinion on the matter, regardless of where you cycle, your odds are still your odds.

Have a great week, everyone! Baby dust to all!

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7 COMMENTS

  1. Enjoyed reading this article. Am currently cycling in Abuja away from my base in Lagos. Am amongst the lucky ones who got the opportunity of leave of absence with pay from work.

    I was thrilled by the care given to my Aunty who had a first success rate, that’s what attracted me to the clinic.

    Even though am going on my second attempt in the clinic, no regrets so far. Am enjoying the process.
    I really pray this second attempt be successful.

  2. @nicole, What a short detailed analysis you have written here on medical tourism. Well done to you and more grace to you. I can’t wait for T…..

  3. Nice piece…never had the intention of trying road….bank job and all that…but ild like to know if aids ivf..cos I used it for about 3 months with dh..even tho he serfertilaidwasn abt it but I jus wasnt getting pregnant…

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