Dear fellow forum member,
Everything written here is my own experience with IVF, therefore it cannot replace the counseling of a doctor.
My partner and I were 46 years old, when we started our first DE transfer. The only problem I have, is that my eggs were of low quality due to my age, the sperm quality of my partner is excellent. Therefore I was looking for an egg donor.
As we are Australians, living in Perth we are living in a state (WA), where the identity of egg donors is not anonymous and donors will not receive compensation (only travel expenses). Of course this is a big drawback for donors. We were looking for egg donors for more than a year, but found nobody willing to donate. We had to consider other options.
We researched every option and were shocked by the high prices. We also considered buying frozen donor eggs from the US (World Egg Bank), but we realized that although there are many women listed in their profiles, many of those women had not actually been screened/tested yet, and just as many were not actually available. Also, we did not find that the World Egg Bank did enough screening for infectious diseases of their donors. Given that the World Egg Bank was selling six mature eggs for $15K, and there was no guarantee that some good quality eggs would fertilize, we did not believe this was the best option for us. So after exhaustion and desperation we decided to try our luck in Spain, Europe. The treatment was highly promising. The costs are lower, even with the flight and other travel expenses included. But the most important thing was the success rate: one of the highest in the whole world. We visited IVF Spain in Alicante (www.ivf-spain.com) and would always recommend that clinic!
We used an anonymous PROVEN donor who closely matched my physical characteristics and heritage. She was 24 years old and a student. We did not get to see a picture of her, but were told that it was a good match. She produced 17 eggs, 15 of which were mature, and 11 of which fertilized with ICSI. In the end we received 5 viable 5-days blasts. We transferred back two fresh blasts, and vitrified the remaining three. My uterine lining was, unfortunately, not the ideal 9mms or more for the transfer (was closer to 8mms). We ended up with a BFN with the fresh transfer. Total cost including the 10 days travel/stay in Alicante for the fresh donor egg transfer: approx. A$12 000.
I would only recommend going abroad for egg donation or for a double donation. Only then the price is cheaper in Europe than at home.
ANONYMOUS EGG DONORS
Most egg donation programs in Europe are anonymous. This is a very sensitive and emotional topic with some people feeling strongly that the child should be able to contact its egg donor and find out more about this woman, who shares her genes with the child. Others think differently of course. They don’t want to confuse the child and feel as the actual parents without questions. There are no right or wrong answers and this thread is not here to get into the debate on ID release vs. anonymous donors and/or whether to tell the child or not that they are donor conceived. It simply aims to provide the facts. The ultimate decision has to rest with you, the prospective parent(s).
Anonymous clinics will not show you a picture of the potential donor. That being said, they do match you with a donor with similar characteristics, so that if a child is born, s/he will fit into your family. If you must see a picture of your donor, then European egg donation is probably not for you. If a picture is important for you, then you may wish to work with a AUS clinic that provides profiles of potential donors. The cost, however, is significantly higher – 2 to 3 times the cost.
More details about donors are provided below.
PLAN AND BE ORGANIZED
There are a lot of things to do to prepare for treatment abroad. If planning and organizing is not your strength you might find that going abroad is more than you can handle. On the other hand, if you like to organize things and are detail-oriented, you will have fun with this.
Make sure you have a valid passport.
You should be comfortable with over-seas travelling in general. If airplane travel or visiting a new country leaves you unsettled, then going abroad for ivf may be too stressful for you and could impact your treatment if you are doing a fresh cycle. If you see travel as an adventure and a possible vacation, then you will find medical tourism much easier to cope with.
Travel insurance – always a good idea to take general travel insurance in case of emergencies when you leave Australia. TIP: Check with your employer insurance as you may already have coverage. Note that all general travel insurance for emergencies do NOT cover any complications that may arise as a result of your embryo transfer as this is considered medical tourism and not the result of an emergency. Insurance specifically designed for medical tourism is available; however it is quite expensive. We did not choose this insurance since we were only doing an embryo transfer which has very little risk for complications, but the choice is entirely up to you, of course.
TIP: Try to book your treatment during the off-season in Europe. Generally that means not in July or August when all the tourists and locals take vacations, and the prices are the highest for flights and accommodations. If you happen to be a frequent traveler, check if you can use some of your airline or hotel points to save on costs of travel.
TIP: Check the internet for apartments that can be rented close to your treatment clinic in Europe. This is always cheaper than a hotel, saves you a ton of money on food costs, and usually means more space to relax in after embryo transfer. Also, IVF Spain has agreements with local apartments and hotels and can get you an excellent rate. Check!
CHOOSING A EUROPEAN CLINIC
Spain, Greece, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Russia all have very good programs and welcome international patients. Most will have English speaking co-ordinators and doctors, but check to be sure as this is crucial for communications. ivftreatmentabroad.com can co-ordinate your treatment for you if you chose to work with one of their affiliated clinics in Spain or Greece. Their services are free to you as they are paid a commission by the clinic.
As you would in Australia, check clinic success rates. They are not all the same and IVF Spain has one of the highest success rates!
Be sure to compare DE ivf prices between countries and between cities. I found that clinics in larger more popular cities, charge higher prices than those in less touristy areas.
Based on my research in May 2013, the costs for one donor egg ivf cycle varied from 4,000€ to 7,200€. Each clinic prices their packages differently. For some, the price of ICSI, assisted hatching, vitrification and embryo storage is included. For others it is not.
TIP: Look on the UK ivf discussion boards (because they can speak English and are experienced with IVF in Europe :-)) to try and find other women who have used the clinics you are interested in. They may be able to give you valuable information to help you choose, plus tips for travel.
TIP: As with any clinic, check credentials of the clinics you are considering. You would be amazed what a Google search can turn up!
As indicated above, most European clinics will not provide pictures or identifying information of donors because egg donation is anonymous. Neither you nor the child will ever be able to find out more information or make contact with the donor. The level of information you get about the donor will vary slightly from country to country and even clinic to clinic, but essentially you can expect basic physical characteristics (eg. hair/eye/skin colour, blood type, height/weight, age, nationality) and perhaps – but not always - some information about occupation/education level/hobbies. Generally speaking, egg donors tend to be university students or young mothers looking to supplement their income. Some clinics will identify a back-up donor, just in case something does not work out along the way.
TIP: Ask to be matched with a PROVEN donor under 30, and confirm what tests the donors have undergone. (I found that the Spanish clinics are actually VERY strict about who they chose as donors, but I cannot speak for the other countries.
TIP: You may want to seek out other women who have given birth using an anonymous egg donor with no pictures to see how they felt about their experience. Check out the UK Fertility Friends website on donor eggs for more info. http://www.fertilityfriends.co.uk/forum/index.php?board=551.0
Each clinic seems to be unique with the types of donors available. Some clinics have a very diverse donor database, while others are less diverse. Check with them to be sure. IVF Spain does have a donor pool of 500 different donors with every ethnic, religion, phenotype you might wish for.
As mentioned above, the majority of clinics match on basic physical characteristics such as hair/eye/skin colour, height/weight, and blood type. If you are Rhesus Negative you should probably seek an RH negative donor (to avoid needing Anti D injections during pregnancy). And if you are having double donation, you should ensure the sperm donor is also RH negative.)
That being said, if you have made the decision not to tell the child they are donor conceived, or you are undecided on whether to tell or not, then you would be advised to ensure the donor’s blood type is the same as yours. (Again, NO judgement here, just information to consider.)
One additional criteria which some clinics may wish to match on is CMV status. CMV is a virus, which if active during pregnancy and transmitted to the fetus, can cause potentially significant issues for the baby such as delayed development, deafness etc. Note though that the risk of the mother actually contracting the live CMV virus from donor egg/sperm is very low. However some clinics prefer not to take any risk on this and if you are CMV negative, they will insist on you having a CMV negative donor. Some clinics will let you sign a waiver if you are CMV negative but happy to take a positive donor, and some clinics don't even check your CMV status - so check with your clinic in advance if this is something you are concerned about.
Photographs - You should be asked to provide your European clinic with a picture of yourself and one of your partner. Some clinics may also ask for pictures of any kids you may have had together already. Once a match is found, the details (no picture of the donor) will be shared with you and you can decide whether to proceed or not. Some clinics may match you with more than one donor and give you two to choose from.
In our experience, we were offered two donors who were very closely matched to me. We had asked for a proven donor under 30 with post-secondary education. Both donors met these criteria
TIME BEFORE TREATMENT STARTS
Based on my research, I have found that there are minimal waiting times to be matched with a donor. We first made contact in May 2013. We finished all of our required testing the end of May and we were matched with our donor in June. Our fresh donor egg transfer was August 5th, 2013.
The majority of Eurpean clinics will have staff who speak English, however, it will be as a second language, so you cannot expect the same fluency as you would in Australia or the UK. Much of your communication may be by email. You may be frustrated by the brevity of the email response, or the speed (or not) of response to emails. None of this is necessarily a major barrier to successful treatment, but is another factor to take into account when you are selecting a clinic.
I am happy to answer any questions or for others to add to this information from their own research or experience. We have zero regrets about having gone abroad for DONOR EGG ivf. Especially our choice of IVF Spain was perfect. The team was very friendly, the treatments were somewhat relaxing with the Feng Shui facilities and music they have in every room. Their English is very fluent and Alicante is an amazing city. Also the price is low compared to other clinics with one of the best success rates and you start off with a free and non-binding skype conversation. We have some great blasts left to work with and it cost us much less than if we had done this in Australia. Best wishes everyone!