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Considering IVF abroad? Read This!

Are you thinking of having IVF abroad? You’re not the only ones. Every year thousands of couples take the trip of a lifetime, in hope of becoming parents. But why are so many people having IVF abroad? And what should you think about if you’re considering it? We’ve got the answers here…

Reasons for Having IVF Abroad

Cost 

This is one of the biggest factors, and probably one of the reasons you’re reading this article! 

If you are based in the UK, you’ll know that it is possible to receive IVF treatment on the NHS for free. However, it’s not always as simple as that. Different areas of the country offer different amounts of cycles – known as the IVF postcode lottery. In some places, you can get one cycle for free and in others, it’s three. The restrictions around age and circumstances also vary by area. For example, some local authorities won’t let you have IVF on the NHS if you or your partner has children from a previous relationship. 

If NHS funded IVF is not possible for you, you can look at going private, but this is when the costs start to get astronomical. 1 cycle can cost up to £5000. There are also some countries where treatment is even more expensive – in America, a single cycle can cost up to $20,000.  For many couples, this is sadly not something they can afford. This is when IVF abroad can become an appealing prospect – in some countries, the cost of treatment is less than half of what it is in the UK. 

Waitlists

Waiting times can also be another reason people head to other countries for IVF. In England, it’s not uncommon to have to wait around 4-6 months for treatment – and that’s after you’ve been through the various hurdles to get to the stage where you are booked in for IVF. In Scotland and Wales, some people have to wait up to 12 months. 

The waitlist situation has always been tough in the UK – and with an overstretched NHS and rising cases of infertility, is no surprise. However, the pandemic has really exacerbated this problem and waitlist times are still recovering. 

The good news is, there are countries in Europe that have managed to get their waitlist time down to zero. For couples who are watching the biological clock, it can be very tempting to hop on a plane and skip the queue for IVF treatment. 

Age 

Whilst (expensive) private treatment in the UK will treat women into their 50s, on the NHS it’s a different story. The general age limit on NHS funded IVF is 43, but in some areas of the country, it can be as low as 39. 

When NHS treatment is off the table, older women and couples often feel like IVF abroad is a better option for them. Whilst all clinics have an age limit of sorts on treatment (in most European countries it’s around 50) the treatment costs a lot less than going private in the UK. Egg and sperm quality also declines with age, so older parents-to-be often require the help of donor sperm and eggs.  Whilst you can certainly find and use donor sperm and eggs in the UK, they are often more readily available in other countries, making the process move a lot faster. 

Success Rates 

Now, this is one to be careful of. When reading about IVF abroad, it’s easy to get blindsided by the claims of incredible success rates. Read any website offering IVF and they will explain that their success rates are higher because of advanced technology, more experienced doctors or legislation that makes egg and sperm donation easier – and all of the above could be true! 

However, just as in the UK, it’s important to scrutinise the success rates of clinics. For example, is the clinic known for treating younger women? If so, maybe that’s why their average success rate is higher. Just take your time and don’t be blindsided by exciting claims – if it sounds too good to be true, it possibly is. Sometimes it’s better to seek out reviews from people and couples in a similar situation, as this can give you an idea of whether the clinic in question is the best fit for you. 

Considerations When Having IVF Abroad 

Hidden Costs 

Cheaper IVF can be very appealing, but make sure you are taking into consideration other costs that might not be obvious at first. Things that we might take for granted – like being sedated for treatment – are not always included in the upfront costs of your cycle plan. You also might have to pay extra to get certain medications prescribed to you at home and – just like in the UK – there are various optional treatment add-ons that you may want to consider. 

Fertility Clinics Abroad has a handy IVF calculator that can help you break down the cost of your treatment plan, so you don’t have any nasty surprises when you come to pay your bill! 

On top of that, you also have to think about the cost of flights and accommodation for any appointments – and the impact of taking extended periods of time off work. 

Legalities 

In the UK Assisted Fertility treatment is regulated by the Human Federation Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority. – they are there to make sure care is meeting a high standard and to ensure that you are protected throughout the process. HFEA has no jurisdiction overseas, so it’s important to get your head around the governing body of the country you’re heading to. Most countries have pretty tight regulations around assisted fertility and many reports into the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology – but make sure to do your homework so you can move forward with confidence. 

Language Barriers 

For some people, fertility lingo is like another language in itself – which can make appointments pretty overwhelming. Now imagine that you are trying to have these conversations through a translator – or with someone who doesn’t share the same native language as you. It can be really difficult. 

The vast majority of IVF clinics abroad are set up to service people from all over the world – with staff that speak multiple languages fluently. However, there are some that may not have that infrastructure in place. If you have any questions about a potential language barrier, raise them with your clinic before committing and again, check out reviews from couples from your home country. 

Popular Countries for Having IVF Abroad 

If you’re sure that having IVF abroad is the right move for you – here are some of the most popular countries, couples in your situation are flocking too!

Greece

The cost of IVF in Greece is pretty competitive – between 3,000 EUR and 5,000 EUR – making it a very popular choice for couples that are considering IVF abroad. 

Many of some of the best-rated clinics in Greece (and there are a lot of them) have no waiting list – yet another reason couples desperate to kick start their fertility journey are heading there. Women can also get IVF treatment up to the age of 50 making it popular for older couples – there’s not age limit for men. One thing to be aware of in Greece is that same-sex couples aren’t technically allowed to have IVF treatment. You can get around it by being treated as a single woman – but it might be worth considering how comfortable you would feel with that set up.  

Czech Republic

The Czech Republic offers IVF which is even cheaper than Greece in some clinics – with costs starting at 2,500 EUR. With over 30 clinics scattered throughout the country, there are plenty of choices for where to receive your treatment! All clinics are tightly regulated and controlled and English is spoken widely. Again, for same-sex couples this might not be the best place for you to go for treatment as the Czech Republic will not even treat single women. 

Spain

Aside from the beautiful weather and beaches, Spain is a favourite destination for couples who need assisted fertility treatments thanks to their modern facilities and specialised doctors. It’s a popular choice for people looking to use egg donors, as egg donation has been well regulated in Spain since the eighties. Compared to some other countries, Spain is a bit more expensive, with treatments starting at around 4,000 EUR. However, the process there is more inclusive, making it a great places for same-sex couples to start their family. 

Turkey

Whilst you might think of Turkey as a destination to get affordable dental work and hair transplants, it is also rising in popularity as a destination for overseas IVF. With some of the cheapest prices in Europe (starting at around 2,000 EUR) and a growing number of state of the art clinics, it’s easy to see why! The downside about Turkey is that egg and sperm donation are completely prohibited. This means that treatment is out for single women, same-sex couples and older couples who would need donor eggs in order to have a health pregnancy. 

Denmark

Of course, we couldn’t leave our homeland off this list! Denmark has always been at the forefront of fertility treatment – around 8-10% of babies in the country are conceived through Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART). It is also home to one of the largest sperm banks in the world, Cryos International, so waiting lists for donor sperm and IUI are almost zero.  For these reasons (and the fact it’s an awesome country!) Denmark is one of the most popular destinations for women and couples undergoing fertility treatments. The typical cost of IVF in Denmark starts at around 3,400 EUR and they are very open to treating same-sex couples and single women.

Are you considering IVF abroad? Let us know in the comments!  

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Wearing tight pants and underwear

Studies show that men who wear looser underwear have higher sperm concentration and total sperm count compared to men who wear tighter underwear. So, lose the tight clothes and wear something loose to give your testicles some air.

CONCLUSION: learn more about how heat can affect sperm quality here.

Stress

Besides higher mortality rate and various diseases, stress is associated with low sperm quality. Stress is known to be associated with lower testosterone levels and oxidative stress with both playing an essential role in producing and maintaining healthy sperm cells.

CONCLUSION: If you feel stressed, we recommend you get some help so you can have a balanced mental health. For a stress management guide, download the ExSeed app for free and start your personalized action plan today.

Physical activity

Scientific studies show that men who are physically active have better semen parameters than men who are inactive. Fertility specialists also state that regular physical activity has beneficial impact on sperm fertility parameters and such a lifestyle can enhance the fertility status of men.

Prioritizing exercise can help improve your overall health and result in healthy, fast swimming sperm cells that have good chances of fertilizing an egg.

CONCLUSION: Try incorporating exercise in your weekly schedule to you ensure exercising at least twice weekly. We recommend a combination of cardio training and strength exercise. Read more about exercise and male fertility on our blog.

Nutrition

Fast Food
Processed foods damage the health of sperm-producing cells and cause oxidative stress, which lead to poorer sperm quality. Heavy consumption of junk food (every week) can increase the likelihood of infertility since men who consume vast amounts of unhealthy food are at risk of having poor sperm quality. Besides harming your fertility, junk food enlarges your waistline, harms your cardiovascular system, kidneys, and more.

Vegetables
Eating more fruit and vegetables can increase your sperm concentration and motility. It’s important that you consume a healthy diet filled with antioxidants and that you eat vegetables every day. Foods such as apricots and red bell peppers are high in vitamin A, which improves male fertility by nurturing healthier sperm. Men who are deficient in this vitamin tend to have slow and sluggish sperm.

Sugary snacks/beverages: several times a week Excessive consumption of high sugar items can lead to oxidative stress, which negatively impacts testosterone levels and sperm motility. Sugary snacks and beverages are also highly associated with obesity and low fertility.
CONCLUSION: To boost sperm quality, stay away from fast food, processed food, and sugary snacks or beverages. You need to implement a healthy prudent diet filled with necessary superfoods needed for good sperm production. Check out our guide to Male Fertility Superfoods. For personalized guidance and support on how you can start improving your sperm health, check out the Bootcamp.

Heat

Direct heat can inhibit optimal sperm production and cause Sperm DNA damage. Sperm cells like environments that are a couple of degrees lower than body temperature. Avoid overheating from warm blankets, seat warmers, heat from your laptop, hot showers, and saunas.

Cigarette smoking

The exposure to tobacco smoke has significant negative effects on semen quality. The damage of cigarettes and nicotine of course depends on how many cigarettes you smoke per day and for how long, but even low usage (up to 10 cigarettes / day) can inhibit healthy sperm production.  

CONCLUSION: Stay as far away from cigarette smoking as possible if you care about your general health and your fertility. Read more here.

Cell phone

When you have your cell phone in your front pocket, your testicles are exposed to electromagnetic radiation, which studies have shown to damage the sperm cells. Put your phone in the back pocket of your pants or in your jacket pocket.

BMI

There is a clear association between obesity and reduced sperm quality. At least part of the reason for this is that obese men may have abnormal reproductive hormonal profiles, which can impair sperm production and lead to infertility. 

A BMI higher than 30 can lead to several processes in the body (overheating, increase in oxidative stress in the testes, sperm DNA damage, erectile dysfunction) that can have a negative impact on male fertility. This can result in problems when trying to conceive.  

CONCLUSION: BMI is one of the risk factors that influence semen quality and, for example, sperm motility.  

Alcohol

A beer or glass of wine now and then do not really harm sperm quality. But excess alcohol drinking (more than 20 units per week) can reduce the production of normally formed sperm needed for a successful pregnancy.

CONCLUSION: If you want to stay safe, stay under 14 units of alcohol per week. For more information on how alcohol can affect male fertility, take a look at our blog: “Alcohol and Sperm Quality”.

Age

Studies show that women younger than 35 and men younger than 40 have a better chance of getting pregnant. Men can produce sperm cells almost through their entire life, but the sperm cell DNA is more fragile and prone to damage after the age of 40.

As men age, their testes tend to get smaller and softer resulting in a decline in sperm quality and production. These changes are partly because of an age-related decrease in testosterone level, which plays a very important role in sperm

production. Higher male age (>40 years) is not only associated with a decline in sperm production but also with increased sperm DNA fragmentation and worsened morphology (shape) and motility (movement). These negative effects make the sperm cells less qualified for egg fertilization.

CONCLUSION: with an age under 40, you shouldn’t have to worry much about age as a factor in itself. However, studies have shown a slow decline after the age of 30-35 years

and if you are above 40 years of age, your sperm quality can be affected due to increased sperm DNA damage resulting in a decrease of sperm motility and concentration. Remember that you cannot evaluate the quality of a sperm sample by just looking at it – this requires a sperm analysis.