Michelle’s infertility treatment journey began when a specialist told her she could not conceive naturally because of blockages in her fallopian tubes. Michelle was healthy and only 32 years old, so her doctor was optimistic that IVF would work for her. “You’re the perfect candidate,” he said.
Michelle and her husband made arrangements to undergo IVF at a highly rated fertility clinic in their Canadian city. The first cycle attempt, using fresh embryos, failed. The next attempt, using frozen embryos, resulted in a pregnancy, but Michelle miscarried at eight weeks. The next implant of a frozen embryo failed to result in pregnancy, as did several more attempts over the next several years. Michelle experienced several early miscarriages, too, despite the fact that she and her husband were producing what the specialists judged “excellent” day five-to-six blastocysts.
Michelle was bothered by the fact that her IVF doctor was doing the same thing over and over each time. “No further investigations, no changes in protocols,” says Michelle. “My attempts to discuss other approaches were not entertained.”
During that time, Michelle developed several large uterine fibroids that she thought needed attention, but her IVF doctor refused to discuss them. Her gynecologist said bluntly that her infertility was not a result of fibroids; therefore, no surgery should be done to remove them. “That was when I knew I had to take matters into my own hands,” Michelle says.
In 2006 she joined an online IVF discussion forum and discovered that many women in North America were seeking fertility treatment overseas. “That was news to me,” she says. “I thought Canada and the United States had the best doctors!” As Michelle learned more, she began to think that treatment outside the country might be right for her. “Barbados was on the top of my list,” she says. “The doctor and the staff at BFC were rated as top-notch.”
Michelle’s first consultation at Barbados Fertility Center was promising. Dr. Skinner’s first recommendation was removal of the fibroids, which she accomplished successfully with no complications. “This gave me a lot of confidence and trust in Dr. Skinner,” says Michelle. Next came fertility treatment. Given Michelle’s history of miscarriages, Dr. Skinner was open to an alternative treatment that Michelle had researched. Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) is a blood product sometimes used to treat inflammation and autoimmune disorders. Its use in the treatment of repeated miscarriages is controversial, but Michelle and Dr. Skinner agreed it was worth trying.
The treatment, along with another cycle of IVF, worked. Michelle was delighted when she became pregnant, but she was in for an unhappy surprise—she could not find a doctor in her home city who would agree to continue her IVIG treatments. She had to travel back to Barbados three times, but she never complained, either about the inconvenience or about the cost. “Even with the extra trips back to Barbados, we were able to save about $20,000–25,000 off the cost of IVF in the US,” she explains.
As of this writing, Michelle is six months into her pregnancy. She’s carrying twins. Boys? Girls? One of each? She and her husband have chosen not to know. It’s more fun that way. As for the future, Michelle is optimistic. She found a listening ear and competent medical treatment in Barbados. “I would definitely recommend BFC to anyone who is considering fertility treatment abroad,” she says.
*name and city withheld by request
Last updated on 26 June 2011
Before Leaving the Hospital: Get All the Paperwork
Impatient to be gone, and often suffering the woozy side effects of surgery and post-operative pharmaceuticals, patients too often find themselves back at home later, missing important documents that could have more easily been obtained on site. So before you hightail it out of your hospital or clinic, be sure that you have all of your important documents.
Generally, larger hospitals provide complete medical documentation as part of the standard exit procedure. However, some smaller clinics may rely more on verbal instructions, and they are less likely to build and maintain a dossier on your case.