Traveling abroad for more affordable IVF

HOUSTON – Celeste and Daniel Lacasa may never understand how many tears their parents shed waiting to meet them.

"You have those bad moments, like, you're having that miscarriage. I remember one of them was on my birthday. It sucked, you know?" Erica Lacasa said, explaining how she silently suffered. "Or being sick and having a miscarriage or just feeling defeated, and God just, just would pick me up."

The Lacasas knew in vitro fertilization might be their only chance to finally have a baby, but the price tag can leave many couples bankrupt since they needed tens of thousands of dollars to create embryos, have the procedure and buy all of the medications.

"We had savings, so my husband was like, 'OK, the best shot is IVF,' but it would wipe us out, and what if it doesn't work?" Lacasa said. She agonized over the decision between maintaining their finances and starting fertility treatments.

On average, one round of IVF costs $15,000, and many women need more than one round.

Lacasa began researching clinics in Argentina, Uruguay and Israel. Then she found a Facebook group about a Mexican clinic about five hours away from Houston, and she said it was affordable.

"I can get an IVF cycle done for five grand?" Lacasa said, remembering her disbelief as she talked on the phone with the clinic in Mexico. "And she goes, 'Yeah, that's about right.'"

Dr. James Nodler, reproductive endocrinologist from CCRM in Houston, says some of his own patients opt to travel abroad for IVF.

“I have had patients do IVF in Dubai, Lebanon, Ukraine, Venezuela, Colombia and Argentina. Results vary from country to country,” Nodler said. "IVF success rates are still generally lower in Europe than in the U.S. In Mexico and India, IVF success rates are significantly lower because the technology that they are using is generally outdated, and there can be some safety concerns."

Nodler notes while American couples might be seeking less expensive alternatives abroad, couples from other countries are actually coming here for treatment.

"They know of the lab and the IVF lab success rate," Nodler said.

He encourages women to research patient rights in other countries before going abroad for IVF. What happens if a clinic doesn’t do what it promises? Do you have the same rights as citizens of that country?

Then remember you'll need to tally the cost of the IVF plus travel, hotels, meals and transportation for two weeks. That's the amount you'll need for one round.

Lacasa lived by her budget. She saved every receipt, and after several tries, she said, "We went, like, two weeks later after the transfer, and it was the most amazing thing. To see our baby finally have a heart. It was amazing."

That amazing sight was their daughter, Celeste, now 2 years old and adored.

"She's just sweet and spunky and has the energy of the Energizer Bunny. She will not stop until her head is on the pillow. She was way worth the wait," Lacasa said.

Then came their son, Daniel. He was a surprise. He was naturally conceived six months later.

"He was our little sneaky, miracle baby, as well, which I feel blessed that God sent him in a special way, as well. Like, he has his own story," Lacasa said.

Now, her family is complete with all the blessings she had been praying for, for about half the cost.

Nodler said there are payment plans available for women who want to get IVF in the United States. Ask for compassionate care based on your income or for military discounts, or look into lending programs.

Plus, Nodler said in the U.S., there's an organization called the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology. It audits fertility clinics to guarantee the success rates they disclose are accurate. If you plan IVF in another country, they may not have the same type of organization holding them accountable.