In April 2018, me and my other half went to Reprofit in Brno, Czech Republic, for our first IVF cycle. We did so because we didn’t qualify for NHS funding, and it was considerably cheaper than cycling in the UK.
As my hormone profile is A-OK, I thought we should be a fairly straightforward case no matter where we went. And Reprofit got rave reviews on the UK fertility forums, so it seemed a no-brainer. But while the price is a significant benefit, there are a number of things you should take into account when travelling for IVF abroad.
1. Booking flights is a right stress
Unless your period is like clockwork, you have to wait until you actually come on before you can book your flights. That means buying them less than two weeks before you need to go. Not a problem in itself, except if the airline decides to wack up the prices.
And because there’s only one airline that flies to Brno – Ryanair, from Stansted – you kind of end up being held to random by them. (You can fly to Prague, Vienna or Bratislava, but then you have the hassle of an extra leg.) Our flights that cost £13 a week before rose to over £100 each, one way. All in all, we spent almost £450 on two return no-frills flights, on an airline we’d promised never to fly with again (don’t ask). Very frustrating.
2. Getting your medication is a ballache
Although this wasn’t a major obstacle in the end, it wasn’t that easy finding pharmacies that would accept a Czech prescription. Yes, Reprofit would have posted the meds out, but the price was quite dear, and when I shopped around, I found them much cheaper in the UK. Thanks to forums like fertilityfriends.co.uk, I came across a couple of places that would take the foreign prescription, one of which was a decent price (Fertility2U). But you are relying on one of two pharmacies that know they’ve got you over a barrel.
3. You’ll struggle to get blood tests
Or maybe you won’t. To be honest, I didn’t even try because I didn’t appreciate how important blood tests are during the stimming stage. And as Reprofit don’t ask you for them, I didn’t think to question it, having never done IVF before. I assumed getting a follicle scan would be sufficient, but unfortunately I think I learned the hard way.
Despite having 35+ follicles (many of which were around the 15/16mm range) on my second day nine scan, I only had six eggs retrieved on day 11. Just three of those were mature. At the time, the clinic said my follicle sacs were empty but my research suggests I probably didn’t stim for long enough. It’s likely that, if I’d had blood tests to check my hormone levels, we’d have had more eggs and things could have turned out differently.
4. There is a language barrier
Despite the clinic speaking good English, I found there was a language barrier at times. I didn’t think it really mattered at the beginning, as long as we got the right results, but looking back I found it frustrating. They did their best, they really did, but I found myself asking fewer questions than I might have in an English clinic. And there were times where I’m pretty sure they didn’t understand me, nor me them. I have a follow-up Skype consultation with Reprofit in a few weeks’ time, so it’ll be interesting to see how that goes. I have a long list of questions, which I hope they can answer.
5. Being away is harder than I thought
One of the advantages of going abroad for IVF is that it’s a little adventure, at least that’s how we looked at it. And it was. Brno was lovely and, while it rained all week in the UK, it was warm and sunny in the Czech Republic. But what I didn’t appreciate was just how much I’d miss my creature comforts. We actually stayed in a lovely Airbnb, and had everything we needed. But what I missed most was TV – and I don’t even watch a lot of it.
When you’re waiting five days to find out if you have any embryos on day 5 to transfer, there’s a LOT of time to kill. Sure, you can go for walks, have dinner, go to a museum and the like. And I managed to read loads of a good book, and did a few crosswords and rested a lot. But what I really wanted to do while recovering is watch TV. Mindless rubbish. Anything to take my mind off the endless waiting. But apart from YouTube, we had nothing. We were practically climbing the walls, and that was only on day one. Plus I missed my cats. A lot.
Look, if It’d all worked out, I wouldn’t be writing this post. I’d no doubt be singing Reprofit’s praises and glossing over the above issues that we faced. And, if I’m honest, it wasn’t a bad experience at all. The clinic and staff are lovely, and we were really close to getting the right result. But, for whatever reason, it didn’t happen, and I can’t blame anyone for that. That’s life, unfortunately. But I will think twice about going abroad again for IVF – at least for my second cycle.