Skip to main content

Fertility treatment abroad

If you’re thinking about going overseas for fertility treatment, there’s a lot to consider. It may seem obvious, but fertility treatment isn’t regulated in the same way outside the UK. Find out more about having treatment abroad. 

Do I need to go overseas?

You might be thinking about going to another country for treatment because the price is often lower. However, if you’re thinking of going overseas to avoid a long waiting list for a donor in the UK, you might find there’s no need. Many clinics in the UK have either no waiting list or a short one, particularly for IVF with donor eggs.

Is it safe to have fertility treatment abroad?

Lots of people have safe, effective treatment abroad but it’s important you do your research. We have no powers overseas and whilst some countries will have a similar government body or laws to oversee fertility treatments, not all of them do. Ask your clinic if there’s a national regulator or what laws they are required to follow.

There is legislation within the EU which sets standards for quality and safety. However, not all EU countries have implemented this legislation and clinics in these countries are not necessarily accredited by a national body.

You should also ask about your clinic’s multiple pregnancy rates. Twin and triplet pregnancies are the single biggest risk to the health of both mum and babies. In the UK, it’s best practice for most women to have a single embryo transferred to reduce the risk of a multiple pregnancy, but not all countries take this approach.

Find out more about the risks of fertility treatment

Make sure you understand the country’s legal situation before having treatment

Why do some clinics abroad have such high success rates?

Some people prefer to go abroad because they’ve found a clinic which claims to have very high success rates. You should be cautious in these cases as there are lots of different ways to present success data. For example, they may only be presenting data for women under 35 or their data may relate to pregnancies rather than births.

Success rates can also be affected by the types of patients a clinic treats. If a clinic treats a large number of younger women with mild fertility problems, their success rates will inevitably be higher than clinics treating older women or those with more complex diagnoses.

In the UK, we provide the same success rates for all licensed UK fertility clinics which makes it easy to compare clinics. 

Search for UK fertility clinics

Some countries won’t allow single women or same-sex couples to have treatment

Can anyone have treatment abroad?

It depends on the country. Unfortunately only a limited number of countries offer treatment to single women or same sex couples.

You can find out more about the laws in different countries on the Fertility Treatment Abroad website

Also some countries allow treatment using donor sperm but not with donor eggs or embryos.

I’m using a donor, what are some of the issues I need to consider?

There are several important issues to consider when using a donor abroad:

The law: In the UK, if you have treatment using a donor at a licensed UK clinic, the donor will have no rights or responsibilities to any children conceived. This might not be the case in other countries so it’s important to do your research and seek legal advice if you’re unclear about the situation.

Recruitment and health checks: Find out what the process is for recruiting and screening potential donors. They should be checked for infectious diseases and their family history should be assessed to ensure they don’t pass on any serious genetic diseases. In the UK, donors are also given counselling to ensure they fully understand the commitment they’re making.

Donor anonymity: Some countries allow people to donate anonymously. This means there would be no way of your child being able to trace their donor or potentially their donor-conceived siblings. In the UK, donor-conceived people aged 18 can request contact details for their donor and can make contact with their genetic siblings if both parties want to.

Donor information: Even in countries where donation is not anonymous, you should find out if the clinic can give you any information about the donor (for example, a physical description and medical history). Donor-conceived children naturally have questions about their origins so you may want to keep this information to share when the time is right.

Limits on donating: You may want to check if there are any limits on using one donor. In the UK, one donor’s sperm can only be used by 10 families, thereby limiting the number of children with a genetic connection to your child. That might not be the case in other countries meaning your child could be genetically related to many more families.

 

I’m using a surrogate, what are some of the issues I need to consider?

If you are planning to enter into a surrogacy arrangement overseas, find out the legal issues surrounding parental responsibility. These differ from country to country.

If the child is born abroad, you can only apply for a parental order if you are living (or domiciled) in the UK. A parental order officially transfers parental responsibilities to you.

While waiting for the parental order to be processed, the child born abroad will need a visa in order to enter the UK.

If you are considering surrogacy abroad, get legal advice beforehand to clarify your position.

Other issues you may want to consider include:

  • the processes involved in recruiting surrogates
  • what financial agreements are in place to compensate the surrogate 
  • whether the risks of a multiple pregnancy are being minimised by the clinic.

Find out more about surrogacy

Is it cheaper to have treatment abroad?

It can be, as long as you do the maths first and are not caught out by unexpected ‘extras’. Some clinics seem to offer very low rates for IVF, but these prices may not include fertility drugs (typically hundreds of pounds) or other essential procedures such as blood tests or an initial consultation. Make sure you’re comparing like with like and you get the whole package cost.

You’ll also need to pay for accommodation and living costs, flights, specialist medical insurance (for unexpected medical emergencies) and the cost of taking time off work if you need to take unpaid leave. Calculate roughly the total cost for being treated abroad and make sure you have a healthy contingency fund in case anything goes wrong.

Find out about the average costs of IVF in different countries

What can I do if I have a complaint about an overseas clinic?

No one wants to think about something going wrong, but it’s worth knowing that if it does it might be complicated to make a complaint in another country. Because our powers don’t cover overseas clinics, we can’t deal with a complaint about treatment carried out abroad. It’s also unlikely that we would be able to take action against a UK clinic who referred you to an overseas clinic.

You should find out in advance how a complaint will be handled in the event that something goes wrong. You might also need to seek legal advice to check that any contracts between you and the clinic would be legally enforceable.

Is there anywhere I can go for support?

Fertility treatment is often cited as one of the toughest challenges anyone will ever have to face. It's for that reason that licensed clinics in the UK are required to offer counselling to everyone having fertility treatment.

If your clinic doesn’t offer counselling, you might want to consider getting counselling in the UK. The British Infertility Counselling Association has details of accredited infertility counsellors or you can find accredited counsellors on the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy website

If you're having donor treatment, it may help to talk to other people who've had families with donor conception. Donor Conception Network offers advice and support.

How do I ensure my medical records are updated in the UK?

You should ask your clinic for a copy of your patient records, which you can give to your GP back home.

What questions should I be asking the clinic?

  • is fertility treatment regulated in their country and are there any rules clinics have to follow?
  • what is the clinic’s record on standards and safety?
  • does the laboratory have to follow set procedures?
  • how are patient records kept to ensure confidentiality?
  • could language barriers cause any problems at the clinic?
  • how frequently and at what stages of treatment would you be required to travel to the clinic?
  • will the clinic provide you with a costed treatment plan, or an equivalent?
  • is the treatment you want available?
  • what are the clinic’s success rates and how are they calculated? 
  • what is the clinic’s multiple birth rate and do they have policies in place to minimise risks?
  • does the clinic store embryos, and for how long?
  • what would happen to embryos if one party in a couple changes their mind about continuing with treatment?
  • if you are planning to enter into a surrogacy arrangement, how does the clinic recruit surrogates and what sort of agreements will be in place with them?

If your treatment will involve using donated sperm, eggs or embryos, ask: 

  • is counselling before donor conception treatment available at the clinic?
  • what is the clinic’s recruitment process? 
  • what screening processes do they carry out on donated sperm to make sure it is free from any infections?
  • what information will you be given about the donor? Are people allowed to donate anonymously?
  • will the donor have any legal rights or responsibilities to the child?

What are the next steps for getting treatment abroad?

Unless you already have a specific clinic in mind make sure you do research before making any decisions.

Fertility Treatment Abroad has a lot of practical information on the law and costs of treatment in different countries, as well as general advice.

Fertility Friends have chat rooms for people who are considering or have had treatment abroad. You can ask your own questions or just browse what others are talking about.

Mumsnet also have chat rooms on a wide range of topics, including having treatment overseas.

Once you have an idea about which country, you can start contacting clinics. You may find the questions above helpful in starting a discussion. You might also want to ask if they have any current or former patients you can talk to about their experience of treatment at the clinic.

; ;

Review date: 5 July 2019