Time for a Foliday?
I’m talking about 'fertility holidays', 'fertility tourism', 'reproductive tourism', 'cross-border reproductive care' or as I prefer to call it, a 'foliday’, which fundamentally means to travel either overseas or interstate for fertility needs.
The number of people effectively forced to take ‘folidays’ grows each and every year. In fact, according to Fertility Treatment Abroad, Australia is number four worldwide, just behind the UK, US and India, for patients seeking donors and fertility treatment with them. In order to accommodate the needs of people having to travel to create their families, it would appear that an entire new industry has emerged.
There are so many reasons why people may choose to travel to another state or country in order to receive fertility treatment. Their home state or country may uphold legal regulations or prohibitions that make the required procedures or purchases illegal, unavailable or financially out of reach. Whether it’s single mums by choice (like me), single men, heterosexual couples or same sex couples, the fertility challenges and needs can vary widely. It could be IVF procedures, donor inseminations or surrogacy services that are required, or it could be even more complex. Personally, I needed both egg and sperm donors, while single women with healthy, viable eggs may just need sperm. While our requirements will differ, for many of us, we all have one thing in common: we are not able to get the treatment we want and/or at the price we can afford, without going away from our home.
The most comprehensive study of fertility tourism was published on behalf of ESHRE back in 2010. The study, "Cross border reproductive care in six European countries", looked at activity in 46 fertility clinics in six countries. The researchers estimated that between 11,000 - 14,000 patients cross borders in Europe each year to seek infertility treatment.
There are some people who actually prefer ‘folidays’ over staying at home. The trip can double as their annual holiday (because quite frankly, not many can afford both after years of fertility treatment). It makes good sense to try to enjoy the journey, as it may otherwise be stressful, emotional and physically tough. The required procedures also carry the potential for a huge disappointment if they fail to deliver, so to speak.
For others fertility tourism may end up being their only remaining choice and can be thwart with stress and worry. The origins of this might include communication difficulties in non-English speaking countries, donor requirements, legal red tape, clinical standards and even issues with personal safety and security. In my upcoming second book, Lexie’s Village – The Family Tree, my recipient Mia speaks of a particularly scary experience she had on her own, in a Capetown hotel room the night before her scheduled embryo transfer.
Several key countries, including the USA, South Africa, Greece and several Eastern European countries are benefiting from this rather unique and growing form of tourism, with multiple benefits. It provides an obvious economical boost as well as ongoing funding to develop and improve their fertility technologies.
But it all begs the question: with Australia’s current laws driving a large number of fertility challenged Australians overseas for third-party reproductive assistance, isn’t there a better way in which to meet their needs onshore? Surely this would provide a boost to our own economy rather than lining the purses of other nations and more importantly, onshore facilities would offer comfort, familiarity and greater affordability to those in need.
We all deserve the chance to have a family and realise our dreams in the safety on our own home and country, don’t we?
Natalie Lovett is the author of the highly acclaimed book 'Lexie's Village - A New Kind of Family' and is actively championing ART and embryo donation rights and awareness. She has appeared in numerous TV shows (The Project, Australian Story, Today Tonight and The Morning Show), to tell her own deeply moving story of one woman’s extraordinary journey to motherhood and her idea that expands everything we believe about families.
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