What is Fertility Tourism?

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  • Written By: J. Leach
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 09 December 2018
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Fertility tourism is part of medical tourism. The phrase fertility tourism was first coined by the media to describe the growing trend of people who plan trips to visit fertility clinics in foreign countries. These trips are often planned so that those seeking fertility treatments or in vitro fertilization (IVF) can take advantage of the inexpensive procedures and less stringent regulations found in other countries.

IVF is the process in which an egg is fertilized by sperm outside of the womb. To do this, a woman usually visits a fertility clinic and is given follicle-stimulating hormone to stimulate her ovaries to release multiple eggs at once. These eggs are harvested through a minor surgical procedure and are fertilized immediately. The fertilized eggs are then implanted into the mother’s uterus two to five days after they have been retrieved and fertilized.

Once eggs have been implanted, the patient must wait to see if the eggs will develop into a pregnancy. The more eggs that are implanted the greater the chances that one, or more, will be viable. The number of eggs implanted in a woman’s womb depends upon the regulations of the fertility clinic, the doctor, or the country the patient is visiting. For example, in the United Kingdom and Australia, a doctor may only implant two fertilized eggs at a time to prevent the incidences of multiple births.


On average, IVF in the U.S. costs about $12,000 U.S. Dollars (USD) for one cycle. Patients can spend up to $75,000 USD in treatments before becoming pregnant. IVF in other countries can cost as little as $2500 USD to $5000 USD per treatment. Fertility tourism is very attractive because a couple can plan a week long holiday, have the procedure done in a different country, and still return home with money saved by having the procedure done elsewhere.

Some patients go to foreign countries because their home country simply does not offer the procedure that they seek. In England, the National Health Service (NHS) will not perform fertility treatments on women over the age of 40. This has created a growing number of women near or past that age traveling to other European countries, as well as to India, to seek treatment.

Countries that have become popular destinations by medical tourists are Thailand, Israel, China, and India. India is an attractive fertility tourism destination for people from England and the U.S. because many Indian doctors speak English, the procedures are relatively inexpensive, and there is a high quality of health care. It is also popular because willing surrogates, as well as egg and sperm donors, are plentiful. Obtaining an Indian surrogate can cost an American or English couple 25% to 33% of what they would spend in their own countries.

Experts warn that fertility tourism can be dangerous when patients seek care in countries where fertility clinics are unregulated. Women who undergo hormone treatments or have embryos implanted must be careful because these procedures can cause a woman to become pregnant with multiples. The increase in the number of twins and triplets born is thought to coincide with the increase in fertility tourism. A woman pregnant with multiples can face special health issues, like high blood pressure and premature labor, as well as an increased risk of fetal developmental problems.



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