Fertility Tourism Survey: An IVF Global Market Report
Many couples struggle with fertility. Read on to learn more about fertility tourism: the act of going outside of one's country of origin to receive fertility treatment. This guest blog by Andrew Coutts takes an in-depth look at fertility tourism and it's effect on the global market.
Guest Blog by Andrew Coutts
Andrew Coutts is the Chief Executive Officer at the International Fertility Company based in London. Andrew has been working in cross border reproduction for ten years and has visited over 150 fertility clinics worldwide. He is a PhD Researcher at the Centre for Reproduction Research, De Montfort University, England where he is undertaking work into the experiences of men with infertility.
At the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic in 2020 the global IVF market size was estimated at USD 14.2 billion. A lack of substantive research around definitive numbers of individuals and couples who travel outside their country of residence for treatment means that estimates regarding the worth of so-called ‘fertility tourism’ is problematic. My experience as a fertility tourism facilitator over the last ten years would suggest however, that pandemic withstanding, fertility tourism accounts for a good slice of this market; a slice which appears to be growing year on year.
49 million couples and 186 million individuals live with infertility globally
The reliance on ad hoc information from patients and small scale studies led me to conduct the ‘Fertility Tourism Survey’ (2020) which stands alone as the largest worldwide report ever undertaken to examine the key drivers behind fertility tourism. The project involved 527 participants, 77% of whom had never previously travelled for fertility treatment.
Amongst younger patients (18-24) the cost of treatment was the main driver for travel whilst as the age of patients increased, donor availability and the extent of care packages were more important. The most sought after treatment was IVF using donor eggs or sperm followed by own gamete IVF and surrogacy. The more liberal laws, donor availability and anonymity offered by Spain ensured that it remains as the top European destination for IVF treatment but cheaper alternatives that offer similar success rates in countries like Greece, the Czech Republic and Cyprus have experienced upsurges in the numbers of patients treated. The U.S. and Canada remain top destinations for European intended patients seeking a surrogacy arrangement whilst the UK is a popular destination for U.S. patients seeking highly regulated treatments offered at a lower price than at home. Another interesting conclusion from the report was that fertility patients are becoming more resourceful in their search for treatment options. Only 45% of those questioned said they would contact a clinic directly in the first instance with the majority relying on self-guided online research or peer review.
You can find out more about the 2020 Survey here.
Fertility tourism has become more prevalent as the numbers affected by infertility have risen. It is estimated that 49 million couples and 186 million individuals live with infertility globally (World Health Organization) and worldwide fertility rates have halved since 1950 (University of Washington, Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation). It is estimated that 23 countries which include Spain, Portugal, Thailand and South Korea are expected to see their population more than halve by the end of the Century.
The rise in infertility rates and the demand for fertility tourism has had a positive effect on the way that both fertility health is discussed and treated. Historically, there was a stigma attached to infertility which meant that it was rarely spoken about outside the four walls of a consulting room. As more of us have been affected by the disease, more of us are prepared to talk about it, and more people are prepared to listen. Over the last decade there has been a spectacular increase in the number of support forums and networks, facilitators and online resources. A Google search for ‘infertility’ produces a cool, 50,800,000 results!
Access to resources, treatment options and providers has revolutionized the way we manage our infertility and fertility health. We are no longer restricted to a single treatment offered by a local provider. We have, at our fingertips, CHOICE; access to diverse professionals offering different solutions to complex problems, and fertility tourism should be viewed as an extension of this choice. It is of course not appropriate for all, and treatment does come at a price. It is, however, for many, an option.
Top Tips for Anyone considering traveling for fertility treatment
Recognize and accept your fertility status: seek counseling/coaching if required to come to terms with your diagnosis
Learn more about your diagnosis: Read, read, read and ask, ask, ask! Understand your diagnosis and find out what treatment options are available
Familiarization: Check what legislation/regulatory safeguards apply in different countries i.e., do they treat single women, same sex couples, do you need a travel or health visa?
Provider Shortlist: Research costs and success rates applicable to your particular diagnosis and age; check out what support is provided to international patients, check patient feedback
Visit/online consultation: When you are investing so much a pre treatment visit is ideal but when this is not possible arrange for an online consultation – meet the team responsible for your care
Decision time: Ask for a final cost and where appropriate an indication of any additional costs that might be incurred
Travel and accommodation: Treatment providers with established international departments will advise on travel and accommodation – make the most of this service where available