Why So Many People Are Traveling for Affordable IVF Treatment
If you’ve been through fertility treatments, you know that the sheer amount of information that’s thrown your way is enough to make your head spin. There are also countless questions that must be answered and decisions that must be made and pieces of research that must be explored. For many people, the mental gymnastics of infertility is already wildly overwhelming before they’ve even set foot into a fertility clinic.
Actually finding the right fertility clinic can be a massive challenge, for one thing. Newsweek recently released a list of the top fertility clinics in the United States — and when you take a look at that list, you’ll realize something. People who live in large cities (think New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago) have multiple options when it comes to selecting a highly-rated, medically-advanced clinic near their homes.
There are highly-rated clinics in some smaller cities, as well, but not everyone has easy access to care based on where they live. And then there’s another layer to consider: Some people do live near quality clinics but have no choice but to travel due to the high costs of care near them.
Fertility treatments are incredibly involved, and anyone who undergoes them already faces a major disruption to their routine (and, in many cases, their work) in order to handle the logistics. So what happens when you add a lengthy commute to the mix as well?
We spoke with a few fertility patients who’ve faced geographical barriers to access to hear what it's really like to be in this position.
Luci Peterson and her husband have been trying to build their family for three-and-a-half years. Since her husband is in medical school, Peterson is the sole breadwinner — and while they live near good fertility clinics in Phoenix, they've chosen to travel to Denver for treatment so they can access quality care for an affordable price.
“We've gone through two very expensive IUI cycles and are choosing not to do IVF in Arizona because of costs,” says Peterson. “We have clinics available to us but they are all far from affordable. Deciding to travel was a long-thought decision, factoring in travel costs and time away from home and work, it still comes out to be the most efficient choice overall.”
But that doesn’t mean it’s an easy route. “Getting to Denver is easy, but finding a place to stay for one to two months is going to rack up a bill, which is why we're reaching out to friends and family that live within a few hours of the clinic,” says Peterson. “I also have to get the green light from my job to work remotely for those two months or else [I’ll need to] quit and find a new job because this takes top priority in my life. On top of logistics, I am concerned about my mental health, which is why I just started therapy for the first time in my life to help me cope with these long and frustrating months ahead.”
Peterson believes her infertility journey would have been much shorter without these logistical hiccups. “If I had an affordable clinic near me, we would have tried IUI much earlier. We waited so long because of the cost, but it got to the point where we had to start taking action. I honestly dread the day I have to do IVF because of costs, travel, and two months away from home and my husband,” she shares.
And then there’s Amy Garland, who lives in Virginia and began her fertility treatments at a clinic close to home. The catch? The clinic didn’t have a lab, and undergoing IVF with this clinic involved traveling three hours for an egg retrieval in order to complete a cycle.
“[The opportunity to travel to the lab for an egg retrieval] would only happen six times a year so it was a very scheduled thing, they could only take 16 people at a time throughout the entire region,” she explains. “It was really hard to get in and even if I wanted to go every time, it wasn’t possible.”
For Garland, who was 41 when she began the process, time was of the essence — and without access to a clinic that could complete a cycle in a single location, the timing just wasn’t going to work. “We felt like if we were going to try a couple more times, we wanted to have our best options,” she says. Eventually, after doing plenty of research and comparing SART scores, Garland chose to fly to Colorado to complete treatment. Ironically, adding this long-distance element will likely streamline the process and save Garland time.
But of course, this isn’t necessarily an option for everyone, and Garland is aware of that. “I was fortunate: My cousin lives in that area and happened to be renovating his house, so he had an apartment in that area that he was going to be moving into that they own, so they just had it empty for those seven months. I had a place I could stay and I was near family,” she explains.
“My husband and I both at the time had the ability to work remotely, and although it’s never as easy to work remotely in that way, we were able to do that. We made it happen.”
Fertility Clinics Near Me
Gracie Brown, who lives an hour away from her closest quality hospital didn’t have to fly to reach a fertility clinic, but she still understands the challenges of living away from highly-rated reproductive care.
“After one year [of trying to conceive] with no success, we saw a reproductive endocrinologist that was covered by our insurance. This doctor was one hour from our hometown ([at the] closest large hospital). We went through extensive testing and were diagnosed with unexplained infertility,” says Brown, who attempted seven IUI cycles without success at that clinic.
“I decided to seek a second opinion, which is when we found our private IVF clinic, not covered by insurance,” she adds. “This doctor was also an hour from us, in another larger city. We had to go through two egg retrievals before we had viable embryos. The egg retrievals and transfers were actually in another city, two-and-a-half hours from our home.”
There are challenges few people even consider when you have to travel for treatment — even if it’s “just” a one-hour drive.
“I had to attend a lot of procedures alone,” says Brown. “I had to miss a lot of work or go in late. I had to spend a lot of money on gas. It was tough, especially when so many treatments were not successful… Those drives home alone after a tough procedure or appointment were very tough. Our only other insurance-covered doctor would have been seven hours away, so it wasn’t an option for us.”
Brown, who now has a four-month-old daughter, believes her infertility journey would have been shorter had she had better access to quality care near her home.
“I highly suspect that I have endometriosis but the doctor that we had to drive far to see would not complete the exploratory diagnostic surgery until we had more than two consecutive losses,” she says. “I think that access to an understanding, experienced, high-quality doctor may have given us answers sooner.”
Zara Hanawalt is a freelance journalist and mom of twins. She's written for outlets like Parents, Marie Claire, Elle, Cosmopolitan, Motherly, and many others. In her (admittedly limited!) free time, she enjoys cooking, reading, trying new restaurants, and traveling with her family.