International Fertility Tourism for Families Everywhere

Why International Patients Cross Borders for Advanced Reproductive Care

Infertility knows no political or geographical boundaries, and the need for proper fertility care crosses all borders. Unfortunately cultural norms, local laws, and high treatment cost limits access to cutting-edge fertility techniques in many countries around the world. Fortunately, prospective parents are not easily discouraged from pursuing their dream of a family. As a result, many travel across the globe for reproductive medicine and state-of-the-art treatment from an advanced fertility center. This practice is commonly referred to as International Fertility Tourism or cross-border reproductive care (IFT/CBRC).

International Fertility Tourism is a popular practice that helps families from every continent and grows in popularity every year. Researchers estimate that in 2016, approximately 14 million cross-border patients sought health services worldwide. Similar statistical data indicates that 5% of all fertility treatment provided in the United States is delivered to international patients. Of those seeking cross-border care by traveling to the US, the largest groups of patients are from Latin America, Europe, and Asia.

The factors that motivate international patients to travel beyond their borders for fertility care (IFT/CBRC) typically fall into four basic categories:

International Fertility Tourism

  1. Access to broader and higher quality care
  2. Avoidance of local regulations
  3. Reduction in treatment cost
  4. Privacy

As a leader in innovative fertility treatment techniques including IVF, IUI, and cryopreservation, Lane Fertility Institute serves as an advanced center for family health no matter where patients call home. As a champion of International Fertility Tourism, we provide cutting-edge care to cross-border patients who seek our help for a myriad of reasons.


1) Travel to Access Broader and Higher Quality Care

In many countries, the availability of fertility care is extremely limited. Typically, limitations to treatment access are due to an inadequate number of fertility providers and advanced fertility clinics. As a result, patients are required to wait a significant amount of time before receiving care, which can diminish chances of success.

There is also a lack of egg or sperm donors and gestational carriers in countries where payments for these services are forbidden. Furthermore, many national policies require that egg and sperm donor’s identity be disclosed to the recipient. In contrast, an estimated 70% of donor cycles are performed anonymously in the United States.

An international patient’s desire for higher quality care figures prominently into cross-border fertility tourism. The majority of patients who travel abroad for care have already received treatment in their home country. Treatment failures, along with a perception that international fertility centers employ more highly trained personnel, utilize more up-to-date equipment, and offer more specialized services, encourage patients to seek care across national boundaries.

2) Crossing Borders to Circumvent Fertility Treatment Law

Legal regulation of fertility treatment occurs on a country-by-country basis, with no overarching international treaties or formal laws in place. Regulations that motivate international fertility tourism fall into two broad categories:

  1. Restrictions on who can access fertility care
  2. Restrictions on what fertility treatments can be accessed

In many countries, there are laws addressing ‘‘who’’ may access care based on patient demographics such as patient age, marital status, and sexual orientation. Older, single, and gay/lesbian patients are forced to travel across national borders to access care. In the United States, strict nondiscrimination laws prohibit Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) clinics from denying care on the basis race, ethnicity, marital status, and sexual orientation.

In recent years, the ability to biopsy embryos and demonstrate genetic normalcy has revolutionized the field of fertility and reproductive medicine. However, legal restrictions on access to this service in various countries around the world have been a prominent cause for fertility tourism. Other restricted services in certain international jurisdictions include limits on sex selection, egg/sperm donation, and embryo cryopreservation.

3) International Fertility Tourism to Reduce the Cost of Care

High cost associated with fertility care is a well-documented barrier for many patients who seek treatment to start a family. Surveys of international patients who travel abroad to access third-party reproductive services indicate cost as a driving factor in the decision to leave their home country. For example, the media reports India as being a popular destination country for gestational surrogacy services, with fees to carriers averaging $8,000 compared with the $25,000 average for a surrogate in the United States. Fees to egg donors also vary considerably from country to country, a primary reason behind international fertility tourism for many patients.

4) Cross-Border Patients Seek Privacy and Cultural Comfort

The “infertility” stigma can engender various sociological, emotional, psychological, physical, and financial burdens in many international patients and lead them to seek treatment abroad for privacy and cultural comfort. These patients often seek out an accepting country in which they have extended family or possess a degree of cultural familiarity. Family connections, cultural comfort, and access to racial and ethnic-matched donor gametes can also be a reason for choosing international fertility services.

Why International Fertility Care in the San Francisco Bay Area?

San Francisco is an internationally known tourist hub with easy access to affordable international travel, an extremely tolerant culture, and immense racial and ethnic diversity. The San Francisco Bay Area is composed of a uniquely diverse population with Asians, Hispanics, Europeans and Pacific Islanders all living in a harmonious environment. Known as a center of innovation and progress, San Francisco is the seat of intellectual power on the West Coast, a high-tech, affluent nerve center for the entire country.

These internationally renowned characteristics pair beautifully with patient-friendly and proactive reproductive laws and a non-discriminatory social fabric. Furthermore, the area contains a diversified oocyte donor/gestational surrogate pool, high caliber reproductive services, and cutting-edge fertility technology. It is easy to see why the San Francisco Bay Area easily has become a hub for international fertility tourism and the home of Lane Fertility Institute.

How to initiate international fertility care at Lane Fertility Institute

At Lane Fertility Institute, we have designed an experience that is specifically tailored to meet the needs of our long-distance travelers, cross-border patients, and international fertility tourists.

We are here for you no matter where you come from so contact us anytime, from anywhere.

Your family. Our mission. Always.


This is a revised version of the article “International Fertility Tourism” featured in the Spring issue of Lane Fertility Magazine by Lee Kao, MD, PhD, Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility specialist.

Author
Dr. Danielle Lane Danielle E Lane, MD, Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility Specialist

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