Parents Via Egg Donation: My Czech IVF Experience
It is a fact that our patients have a great IVF vacation experience and they want others to know about it. I am constantly referred to blog posts, interviews and news articles they write and share with the world.
Here is another one for you to explore from PVED.
My Czech Experience
By: Lesa Lewis*
After several years of treatment for secondary infertility, I began to research some lower-cost options. Having completed more than a dozen own-egg cycles with no success, my husband and I decided to move on to donor eggs. When one fresh and three frozen donor egg cycles left us with still no baby, we were feeling both desperate and broke. We knew we were not ready to give up our quest for another child, but at the same time, money was starting to become an issue. We had spent close to $40,000 on our fresh donor cycle in the U.S. using an outside egg donor agency and my friendly and reliable reproductive endocrinologist. We just did not feel like we were willing to spend that type of money a second time. So, I started doing some research.
With a few simple searches on Google, I was introduced to the world of medical tourism. Who knew there were so many choices? I dashed off emails and hoped for some replies. I did not have to wait long. Within 24 hours, I had loads of people offering to educate me on IVF clinics far away. We considered clinics in the Ukraine, the Czech Republic, Spain, Turkey, and South Africa. In the end we decided to concentrate on the clinics in the Czech Republic, feeling that they had the best combination of donors and high medical standards.
At that point, we had to decide if we were going to book a cycle with our clinic of choice on our own, or if we would use an outside agency to coordinate our donor egg cycle. While I felt I was capable of coordinating my own treatment even in another country, I decided that I liked the perks of using an outside agency. For starters, the agency was able to get me an earlier treatment date—something that mattered a lot to me. Also, the agency is based in the U.S., which made communications much easier. Plus, my husband felt safer sending money to a U.S.-based agency rather than to a clinic in another country where we had not yet actually met anyone.
I quickly decided that I had made the right choice in using an agency. I was assigned a U.S. coordinator who answered my many questions and literally walked me through the entire process. She was able to explain the details to me, to help me pick flights and hotels. and to keep me informed along the way.
The first big difference I found between U.S. treatment and treatment abroad was the types of donors available. Unlike in the U.S., where intended parents pour over donor profiles and see current and past photographs of potential donors, in the Czech Republic (and several other countries as well) donors are completely anonymous. This presents a problem for many women who would like to maintain control over selecting a donor. For me it was less of an issue, and it comes down to willingness to let go and trust the clinic I chose. I also had very few “deal breakers” when it came to what I was looking for in an egg donor. I wanted someone who was in good medical condition and shared my basic coloring. I sent the clinic photos of myself and listed my basic requirements in a donor. The clinic then emailed me with my potential donor’s stats and I was to approve her or not.
Had I not been satisfied with the donor the clinic selected, they would have offered me a second donor. I was only given minimal information on my donor, which included: age, height, weight, blood type, coloring, and brief medical information (including whether she was a first time donor or proven.
We also needed a sperm donor. The clinic handled this for us by asking again what we were looking for in a donor and sending me three possible anonymous sperm donors. Again, we were only told blood type, age, height, weight, and hair and eye color. I picked one and emailed my choice to the clinic.
With the ball rolling nicely in the Czech Republic, I set out to take care of things that still needed to be done at home before I traveled. My long-time reproductive endocrinologist (RE) was more than willing to do my pre-cycle monitoring and prescribe the needed medications. Having cycled many times, my test results were recent enough that I did not have to repeat anything for the Czech clinic. The doctor in the Czech Republic sent me a treatment protocol that I passed on to my local RE. Not much was required of my local RE after the meds arrived. The clinic wanted one ultrasound lining check a week before donor egg retrieval. If I had been using fresh sperm, the clinic would have done another ultrasound the day of donor egg retrieval. Fortunately, my lining was a nice 8.9 with a triple pattern, just right.
Traveling to the Czech Republic was much easier than I had expected. Since I live in a major west coast city, there were many flights to choose from. I made a connection in New York and was quickly on my way to Europe! After landing in Prague, we were greeted by our prearranged driver who delivered us to our hotel. We had decided to spend a few days in Prague sightseeing before our actual embryo transfer. This is the beauty of medical tourism: a trip to Europe AND an embryo transfer!
While in Prague, I was able to speak to the clinic and the doctor to get updates on my embryos and to confirm my day-five transfer. We stayed in Prague until the day before transfer and then took a very smooth bus ride into the city of Brno where the clinic is located. In Brno we met the local Czech coordinators who would take over the job of seeing that things went smoothly. The local coordinators provided tons of information as well as acting as chauffeurs and tour guides to and from the clinic for procedures. This was very comforting, as I did not have to worry about getting around the city or even communicating with the clinic staff. The clinic staff I dealt with did speak English—but this is not always the case so it is best to ask in advance.
The day of my transfer, the coordinator picked me up at my hotel and escorted me to the clinic. I had a sit-down with the doctor in his office to discuss my embryos and decide which ones we would transfer. We also discussed what to do with extra embryos. We agreed to freeze the remaining embryos, and then it was time for the transfer. I was introduced to the embryologist in the transfer room and was able to view my embryo on a large flat-screen monitor. The transfer was quick and easy, and I rested on the table for 15 minutes before returning to the hotel to rest. I stayed off my feet in the hotel for two days before heading back to Prague via private driver. Not wanting to over-do it, I elected to stay one night at an airport hotel before flying home the next morning.
My experience in the Czech Republic was amazing. My entire investment for this cycle was around $9,000 and that literally included everything. Travel expenses, meals, medications, IVF treatment and donor expenses are all included in that $9,000—quite a savings! Would I do it again? Yes! Do I suggest this to my friends? Absolutely. The only regret I have is not exploring medical tourism sooner.
*The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Parents Via Egg Donation or My IVF Alternative