Traveling outside of your country of residence for medical help is not uncommon, and has even garnered its own name: “Medical Tourism.” Tourism for the sake of fertility treatment, also known as cross-border reproductive care (CBRC), has become wildly popular in recent years, with many women and couples flocking to the United States for help reproducing.
There are different areas of cross-border reproductive care including egg or sperm donation, surrogacy, IVF, infertility treatment, and more. People travel for reproductive care for many reasons; throughout this article, we will examine why American has become such a hot spot for CBRC.
Availability and Stigma
One of the reasons couples travel for fertility help is due to the lack of availability in their home countries. Not all treatments are available across the world, and some are regulated very strictly. In certain cases of CBRC, there may simply not be enough resources in a home country, or in other cases, it may be illegal to seek help.
In some countries, such as those with a predominantly Muslim faith base like Pakistan, surrogacy is not allowed at all, as pregnancy is only allowed between a married couple under Islamic law.
Other countries like Canada and Australia have strict laws on financial gain from surrogacy. Thailand also allows no financial gain for surrogacy and requires the surrogate mother to be a blood relative of one of the parents who will be raising the child.2
Fortunately, it is now legal across the world to undergo IVF, although this wasn’t always the case. In fact, Costa Rica only just lifted its 16-year ban on IVF last year. It was the last country in the world that outlawed IVF due to embryo protection policies. The first child to be born in Costa Rica through IVF in 16 plus years was born in March of 2017.3
In the United States, laws on IVF, surrogacy, and infertility treatment are in favor of reproductive assistance. The treatments are highly available across the country, with some of the best and most well-known clinics in the world.
Other Reasons for Fertility Travel
It’s not only laws and regulations that encourage travel for fertility purposes; some couples also travel because of a lack of donors or services in their area. In countries where IVF and surrogacy are more common, like the United States and Canada, there is a greater number of donors and surrogate mothers to choose from.
There is also data that suggests that some parents choose the country through which they receive fertility care due to the language and culture present.1 For example, an American couple might not travel to Israel for assisted reproduction if they are of Western descent and only speak English. The United States is a melting pot of religion, ethnicity and language, making it a prime region to choose a surrogate or donor of almost any descent.
Wait times and experience, or expertise, are also possible issues considered by those traveling for fertility purposes. According to research, a couple is more likely to choose a country where there is a higher success rate for pregnancy and healthy delivery than a country where IVF is common but has a low success rate.1 Cost is also a consideration, although maybe not as highly prioritized as other criteria.
If you are considering traveling to a different country for reproductive assistance, be sure to thoroughly research the laws of that country, the potential clinic you might use, and the physician assisting with the procedure. Once you’ve made a choice about country and clinic, create a list of preparations which must be made before travel, and make certain that everything is in order before you leave.