Fertility or reproductive tourism is a form of medical tourism, but involves traveling to a foreign country for the sole purpose of fertility treatments. The treatment sought could be in-vitro fertilization (IVF), donor sperm insemination or the implantation of donor eggs. The drive behind fertility tourism is not just the anguish of infertility; legal and financial reasons are also present.
According to an article on Medscape, "Seeking IVF Abroad: Medical Tourism for Infertile Couples", approximately 25,000 couples around the world annually seek reproductive assistance overseas. The international trends for fertility tourism are interesting, to say the least. Israel and Lebanon are each listed as having the most fertility clinics per capita in the world, yet most Europeans needing assistance with fertility choose the US for their needs. In Canada it is illegal to pay a donor for sperm or eggs, so most couples also head to the US. Women in Germany, Italy, Sweden and Austria head to Spain or the US for egg implantation because it is illegal to donate eggs in their countries. Conversely, according to a study done on cross-border fertility services by the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, 40% of US women seeking IVF head to India or Asia. The burning question is why? If people are leaving the US for fertility treatments, why are so many others are heading there for the same reasons?
One answer seems to be in the donor laws. Apparently the regulations for donors, insemination, and recipients is more lax in the US than in other areas of the world. That is not to say it is irresponsible, just not as stringent as it could be. There is also a wider realm of donors to choose from, perhaps for reasons of population or simply because payment is received for donations. There is a high demand for donors with no problems in their genetic history, perfect eyesight, a successful post-secondary education and certain desirable physical characteristics. Particularly sought out are donors with a Scandinavian heritage, mostly for the chance of the resulting child having blonde hair and blue eyes. Many women from European and Asian countries head to the US or Denmark for insemination because they are two of the very few countries in the world that allow unmarried women to be inseminated.
Another draw to the US for those seeking assistance with fertility is pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). It is also commonly known as embryo screening and refers to a process which detects a specific disease in an embryo that may be at risk. For example, if there is a family history of dwarfism, a PGD can take place to ascertain if the embryo contains an active Dwarfism gene. The procedure was designed to prevent selective pregnancy termination, as the screening occurs before implantation. It is not appropriate for gender selection.
So why are couples leaving the US and heading to Asian countries for their fertility needs? Cost. Even with travel and accommodation expenses included, IVF is considerably cheaper in India, Asia and the Middle East. The familycommcenter.org reports the average cost of insemination in the US sits around $12,000US, but in India the cost is about half that. In India and the Middle East, the doctors have received training in Western medical schools and use the most current technology. There are restrictions though. Only heterosexual married couples can have insemination performed, and only with their own egg and sperm samples. Donor samples are not permitted. Surrogacy is also not allowed. In Asia, particularly Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, fertility tourism is treated much the same as traditional tourism. Some hospitals are outfitted like a hotel, and package trips can be arranged.
Deciding to travel to a foreign country for a medical procedure is a fairly hefty decision. The cost alone is significant. Researching local laws and medical norms will be important. Finding reputable recommendations on appropriate clinics, doctors, terminology and procedural differences between countries will be of paramount importance. In the end, it may be safest for Americans to obtain their fertility treatment in the US, and leave fertility tourism to others coming to the US for the wide range of options offered in this country.
Denmark-based European Sperm Bank established their US location as a means of providing superior donor choices to couples and individuals. The dream of pregnancy and childbirth can be achieved through one of our two global sperm banks. Come visit us at www.europeanspermbankusa.com
for a explanation of our screening process and donors.