Global IVF is please to share a special guest post from Sue Taylor, Founder and President of IVF Traveler. Ms. Taylor shares her expertise on fertility treatments in Czech Republic- from cost of treatment to the future of fertility tourism in Czech Republic.
Plus, for a limited time, IVF Traveler is offering Global IVF readers a free personalized 30 minute consult to answer questions and help you explore if IVF treatment overseas may be a good alternative for you. Email email@example.com and ask to schedule the free consult for Global IVF readers.
The Czech Republic is currently one of the hottest countries for fertility treatments abroad. It offers several advantages that make it appealing to patients from the United States, United Kingdom, and many other areas. Two of the key factors that attract patients are access (meaning few if any wait lists, even for donor eggs or donor embryos) and affordable prices.
Czech clinics offer most of the common assisted fertility treatments including in vitro fertilization (IVF), and are especially popular for third part reproduction options such as IVF with donor eggs, donor sperm, and donor embryos – sometimes referred to as embryo adoption. I think it is likely that we will also soon see options for frozen donor egg banks in the mix.
A significant advantage to IVF treatment in Czech is the affordable cost. Several factors impact the overall cost of treatment – including the lower cost of medications, the lower donor costs, and treatment costs which are generally lower , likely as the result of socialized medicine and their lower cost of living. For example, a donor egg IVF cycle that may cost $35,000 – $40,000 in the United States, is available for as little as $6,500 in the Czech Republic. A donor embryo cycle in Czech starts at around $2500. You can read more about typical IVF prices abroad at http://www.globalivf.com/comparison-costs.php and http://www.ivftraveler.com/pricing/ivf-treatment-costs. The bottom line is that for a budget of around $10,000, a patient can have a fresh donor egg cycle with the bonus of a great European vacation, and hopefully bring home that “extra souvenir”.
Patients are often surprised to find that the technology, equipment and treatment practices found in the Czech clinics generally rival or exceed what is available in typical reproductive clinics in the US or UK. In fact, many patients who pursue treatment in Czech are themselves doctors, nurses, and healthcare professionals from the US and Canada who choose Czech because they recognize the easy availability of high quality treatment options at affordable prices. Many Czech doctors are internationally renowned speakers and educators in reproductive medicine, and many have studied or taught at top medical schools around the globe. Most leading edge techniques and options related to PGD or PGD (genetic screening prior to embryo transfer), embryo monitoring, MESA/TESE, ICSI, PICSI and freezing methods are widely available, but of course may vary from clinic to clinic.
About the laws
The Czech Republic is especially appealing for IVF with donor eggs or donor embryos because Czech laws mandate that donors (egg or sperm) must be anonymous, and the result is a large pool of available and willing donors. The laws allow donors to be compensated for their time, unlike other countries that have made it illegal for donors to receive any compensation. An egg donor in Czech will receive the equivalent of a typical one month worker’s salary. This attracts students, as well as stay at home moms on maternity/parental leave (in Czech, paid leave can last up to four years!) to apply to be donors. However, because the law limits and regulates donor compensation, prices for treatment are not inflated by donors requesting higher fees because they are proven, IVY league educated, or have unique athletic or musical talents.
The laws do limit fertility treatments to opposite sex couples regardless of their marital status. However, most clinics will accept a woman traveling alone as long as she brings a notarized document indicating her male partner’s permission to use donor sperm. Only one or two clinics actually require both partners to be present for treatment.
There are strict guidelines related to the handling of frozen embryos, and donor embryos (due to the anonymous donor requirement), so you will find that the donor embryo programs work a bit differently than the programs offered in the US. You can read more about the differences in donor embryo programs in Czech through this link: http://www.ivftraveler.com/blog/donor-embryos-us-or-abroad
Currently the law remains somewhat silent on surrogacy, but it does consider the person giving birth to be the mother. This legislation is reportedly under review, and may change in a way that makes using a Czech surrogate an option in the future. However, currently many clinics will allow for a patient to bring a gestational carrier from their home country to the Czech Republic for the IVF transfer (using the patient’s own sperm & eggs, donor eggs, or frozen donor embryos). This way the patient is able to capitalize on the lower treatment cost and reduce the overall cost of the surrogacy, without having to deal with immigration issues that apply when actually using a surrogate from a foreign country.
The Czech Republic has a strong Ministry of Health that governs all aspects of STD testing prior to treatment, storing of body tissues (eggs, sperm, embryos) and any transport laws governing handling of tissues, shipping of sperm and embryos, etc. With the advent of the European Union laws, as of 2010, they are also subject to the European tissue directive which impacts IVF methods and donation of reproductive cells.
There are a large number of highly respected fertility clinics throughout the Czech Republic. Generally, patients will find that the treatment costs for clinics in Prague may be slightly higher than some of the outlying areas like Brno, Zlin, or Ostrava.
In 2006, the Czech government introduced legislation related to gamete donation. Since then, fertility tourism has resulted in making the Czech Republic one of the top destinations for third party reproduction. In terms of numbers, one of the most popular clinics reports that annually they have performed more than 500 fresh donor egg transfers per year for the past four years in a row. They also work cooperatively with doctors from other countries where egg donation is either illegal, or where laws have resulted in long wait lists for donors.
With the recent increase in the number of clinics providing donor egg IVF treatment and the large pools of available donors, the wait lists for donor egg treatments have been reduced or almost completely eliminated. In past years, patients were able to get around the 9 – 12 month long wait list and get quicker treatment dates by booking with an affiliated agency for an additional fee. Now that a wait list is no longer an issue, these days many patients will save money by contracting for their treatment directly with a clinic and elect to pay a small fee for a US based facilitator or coordinator (such as the services provided through IVF Traveler) to just help organize travel and manage the preparation and treatment details. The coordinator acts as a patient advocate to help provide peace of mind by overcoming time zone and communication barriers and offering advice, support, and assistance with the details of preparing for treatment, and finding the best sources for affordable medications. They also offer travel discounts, tips and recommendations, and assist with travel planning so that the patient can relax and enjoy what will hopefully be very memorable and life changing vacation.
Another reason that the Czech donors are desirable with Caucasian patients from around the world is because the majority of Czech donors are light skinned, and there is a wide range of hair and eye colors in their society. So, it becomes quite easy to match characteristics such as blood group, hair color, eye color, height and weight. Also, the Czech population is considered relatively healthy with good healthcare available to all citizens and rare incidents of genetic disorders in their heritage.
Donors are generally between 19 – 34 years of age and, similar to other countries (including the US), most clinics follow the American Society of Reproductive Medicine guidelines for screening their donors.
The clinics are very protective of their donors, and in general they are simulated to produce a limited number of high quality oocytes to limit the donor health risks. Since donor compensation is low, the clinics have incentive to treat the donors exceptionally well to ensure that their donors’ experiences are positive – so as not to negatively impact their future donor pool. Also, as an added precaution, most clinics strictly limit the number of donations from a single donor unless she is done with her own family building.
Since the clinics are fully responsible for the donor selection (due to the anonymous nature of donations), they also usually are willing to share risk in their donor egg cycles by offering a treatment guarantee. Usually this is in the form of a guarantee to deliver 2 high quality embryos for transfer. If the donor does not respond well, the clinic is impacted financially, so they have incentive to be thorough and highly selective when screening their donors.
For donor embryo cycles, usually they also guarantee a certain number of embryos for transfer. Additionally, some clinics may offer a shared risk program, whereby if a patient for donor egg IVF treatment is unsuccessful in the first 2 – 3 fresh cycles, the subsequent cycle (including treatment, donor fee and donor meds) is highly discounted or free.
I anticipate that the Czech Republic will continue to become even more popular as a destination for fertility tourism, and other kinds of medical tourism, due to the high standards and quality of care that is available for such affordable prices. This is particularly true for patients seeking third party reproduction treatments such as donor egg IVF or donor embryos – since these treatments can be difficult if not impossible to access in some other countries due to legal issues or because it is so expensive as to be financially unavailable for the typical patient.
As always, patients need to do their due diligence on the clinic that they choose – different clinics have different policies, guidelines, technologies and treatment options.
Although traveling abroad for fertility treatments may not be the right choice for everyone, the Czech Republic is an appealing option that is both accessible and affordable and most certainly should be on the short list of patients who may be exploring IVF treatment abroad.
About Sue Taylor & IVF Traveler
Founder and President of IVF Traveler, Sue Taylor is an experienced IVF traveler with a passion for helping others on their journey for affordable IVF treatments. After a long career as a healthcare technology executive, she now assists patients traveling to foreign countries for IVF, donor egg IVF and donor embryo treatments. Her philosophy is rooted in taking a personalized approach to each case and helping patients explore options for achieving their dreams of having a baby. Ms. Taylor can provide assistance for prospective patients deciding if IVF treatment abroad is a good choice for them, assist with clinic selection, and has provided concierge services (including treatment preparation & travel coordination) for over 200 patients’ IVF cycles in the Czech Republic. Her website, www.ivftraveler and blog offer practical details for patients traveling for an IVF vacation. Sue Taylor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.