As we’ve determined previously, to us IVF treatments in the US are cost prohibitive, and that’s putting it mildly. And while we could turn our little piggy banks upside down and pay up, that’s just not the game we play. Not when we don’t even know how many IVF cycles/treatments we need or how long it will all take. We’re simply frugal by nature, always have been, always will be. To us, the risk/reward curve points in a clear direction: medical (IVF) tourism.
IVF tourism is quite popular. Driven by the high cost of IVF treatment in some countries (USA), and long wait lists and limits to covered treatments in other countries, many clinics have opened their door to foreigners. Many clinics offering affordable IVF treatment options are found in Central, Eastern, and Southern Europe. And who doesn’t like a nice vacation in a hip European city or along the Mediterranean coast? (I’m conveniently forgetting about the needles, hormones, and surgery here).
Treatmentabroad.com estimates the average cost of a single IVF cycle in countries with such tourist-centered clinics. Most are between $2,000 and $6,000. A far cry from what you’d be paying in the US!
The average cost between all these countries is about $3,000, while in the US, a cycle can easily put you back >$15,000. That’s about 1/5th the cost. You could do 5 cycles for the cost of 1!
As we’ve seen in this post, there’s a very high chance you need more than just one cycle. In that case, you’re looking to spend tens of thousands of dollars (without any guarantee of success)! This also means that for each additional cycle your savings increase exponentially: 5 cycles in the US? $15,000 x 5 = $75,000. 5 cycles abroad? $3,000 x 5 = $15,000. Even taking into account travel costs, that’s a big, big difference.
Our Top Countries for IVF Tourism
You may call us biased, but personally, we would not consider undergoing treatment in some of the countries from the above list. We prefer to stick to developed countries, simply because we are used to the Western medical system ourselves and we want to keep stress levels as low as possible. Our top contenders were the Czech Republic, Greece, and Spain.
Although not included in the above list, I’ve heard of foreigners getting infertility treatment in other Western European countries such as Belgium and Germany as well. So why isn’t medical IVF tourism more popular over there? To put it bluntly: Higher cost of living = higher treatment cost. From what I’ve been told, private IVF treatment can pass the $10,000 mark per cycle in those countries. And since the whole reason we started this journey abroad was to both (A) be as frugal as possible and (B) maximize treatment quality, that just wasn’t an option.
From the three candidate countries, the Czech Republic is by far the cheapest. Expect to spend 1.5x the amount in Greece and 2x the amount in Spain. Surely, medical care must be worse in the Czech Republic? And IVF outcomes must be worse too? Right?… Right?
Outcomes seem to be about the same between Spain, Greece and the Czech Republic!1 In fact, pregnancy outcomes are not better in Western European countries either!2 And to make it even more interesting, some of the less developed countries from the above list have similar success rates as well.3
So, in a lot of ways, it’s a personal decision where you end up going. What it is you are looking for? What do you feel comfortable with? For us, the winner was the Czech Republic, which as luck would have it, is one of the cheaper options. For someone else, it may be Greece, India, Mexico or Ukraine.
Cost of IVF Tourism in the Czech Republic
We picked the Czech Republic as our IVF tourism destination since they’re known for high-quality medical care, reasonable costs, clinics have excellent online reviews, and to top it off, we have friends that live in Prague who, as our luck would have it, also happen to be doctors, yay for us!
There are over 40 IVF clinics in the Czech Republic so you have the pick of the bunch. For us, and this may sound cliche, we prefer getting treatment in a big city (like Prague) for a variety of reasons.
Prague, being the capital of the Czech Republic, offers many advantages over smaller cities:
- There is a major international airport (PRG) offering daily flights, especially within Europe. Delta actually has a non-stop flight from JFK and soon American will fly to PRG from Philly (but for most of us, a connection is still needed though)
- As a tourist town, most people speak English which is good because the only word I know so far is “Hello” (“Ahoj”, yes, you can use it even when not on a boat!)
- Plenty of cultural things to do and see around town.
- Great public transportation.
Given all that, I expected that fertility clinics in Prague would be more expensive than clinics in smaller cities. The cost of living is bound to be higher. Add that to easier access for foreigners (medical tourists) seeking infertility treatment, and it just makes sense Prague is more expensive. Doesn’t it?
To give you an idea of the cost of infertility treatment around the country, we did the leg-work. We picked a couple of the better-known infertility clinics from different cities. Some of these clinics publish the cost of treatment on their website, but others don’t. We sent out a few of emails to the ones we couldn’t find pricing information for.
Cost of a Fresh IVF Cycle
Now, this is not an exhaustive list and prices are as of late 2017. Also, keep in mind you’ll be paying everything in Euros (even though they use the Koruna in the Czech Republic), to get the price in US dollars, multiply the Euro amounts with ~1.18 (be sure to check the current rate). That should give you an idea of what to expect – cost wise.
The first thing that stands out to me, is that the range is really small. Basically, all clinics are within €1,000 of each other. There is one clinic that is way more expensive than the others: Arleta IVF at €4,150. Upon further inspection, it’s because they include PICSI, EmbryoGlue, and meds in the price.
The good news is that you can select whichever clinic you want based on quality and gut-feeling rather than cost.
The bad news is that it’s difficult to compare clinics based on a somewhat arbitrary measure. How do you quantify quality? Are we going by success rates? As we’ve seen in this post, there is a lot of variability in success rates, so make sure you ask the right questions before you start comparing clinics. Also, look for (and participate in) online discussion forums with like-minded people. Ask the clinics about detailed success rate statistics and references, look up how long the clinic has been in business, how many patients they treat etc.
Cost Of a Fresh IVF Cycle (Donor Eggs)
IVF with donor eggs is, of course, more expensive. It’s about double the cost of an own egg cycle. There’s a bit more price variation too with donor eggs, about €2,500 between the cheapest and most expensive clinic. Most Prague clinics hover around the mid to upper 4,000 euro mark, with GEST being the cheapest (€4,250) and IVF Cube the most expensive (€5,900).
Cost of a Frozen Embryo Transfer
In case you have any embryos left and opt for cryopreservation, subsequent frozen embryo transfers are very affordable. The price differences (except Arleta again) are negligible in the big picture.
Cost of the Initial Consultation
The initial consultation is usually conducted via Skype and is about an hour long. Your assigned infertility doctor will go through your medical history and you’ll discuss a treatment plan. Most clinics charge a small fee of about €100 which is commonly credited to the treatment cost if you choose to proceed. To read more about how our initial consult with the doctor went, see this post.
Is ICSI included?
Yes! The vast majority of clinics include ICSI as standard practice when you undergo IVF. In the US, opting for ICSI usually cost an additional $1,500 or so. Our limited research tells us that the only clinics from our list where ICSI is an added cost are ISCARE (€500), Pronatal (€350), and Repromeda (€400).
Most clinics also offer additional services (such as EmbryoScope, EmbryoGlue, Assisted Hatching) that you can purchase separately. You should do some research and decide if any of those add-ons is of benefit to you personally (spoiler: the jury is still out whether there’s any substantial benefit).
That’s all we have on summarizing the cost of IVF tourism! We chose Prague early on in the process and judging by these numbers, we get the benefits and amenities of a big city and the cost of infertility treatment is very affordable! Win-win!
IVF treatment pricelists:
GEST (Praga Medica), Reprofit, IVF Zlin, Gennet, ReproGenesis, Sanus, ISCARE, IVF Brno, Arleta IVF, GYNEM, Sanatorium Helios, Fertimed, Unica, Repromeda, Stellart Clinic, Pronatal, IVF cube, Prague, Fertility Centre
1. Calhaz-Jorge et al. 2017. Assisted reproductive technology in Europe, 2013: results generated from European registers by ESHRE. Human Reproduction 32(10), 1957-1973. Table II. All IVF outcomes from European countries are for 2013. They show about a 30% pregnancy rate per ICSI cycle: Czech Republic: 31.2%, Greece: 31.4%, Spain: 28.2%.
2. See Calhaz-Jorge et al. 2017. Germany: 27.6%, France: 23.5%, UK: 32.6%, Netherlands: 31.5%
3. See Calhaz-Jorge et al. 2017. Hungary: 28.3%, Lithuania: 33.1%, Russia: 30.5%, Ukraine: 34.8%.