If this is the first time you’re reading about our infertility, I recommend you start at this 2018 blog post! You can find all my infertility-related blog posts here or browse my Infertility Instagram Story Highlights here, my IVF Instagram Story Highlights, and my Barbados Instagram Story Highlights.
This December 2021, Mike and I embarked on an IVF Abroad journey (affectionately referred to as our “Procreation Vacation”) to the Caribbean Island of Barbados (at Barbados Fertility Centre).
I’m actually writing this post on the last leg of our treatment. In just a few days the fertility centre will transfer embryos in me and then Mike and I will return to Canada and wait to see if it worked.
With the beaches and palm trees, sunshine and hot weather, wonderful customer service at the clinic and positive egg retrieval numbers, we can’t help but feel hopeful that our IVF Abroad will work—but after seven years (going on eight years) struggling with Unexplained Infertility, and numerous disappointments and heartbreak, we are trying to guard our emotions and not get too excited. This will either be the best or worst Christmas ever.
Whether our IVF treatment is a success or not however, we wanted to share about our experience trying IVF Abroad—the Pros and Cons to a Procreation Vacation—and whether we would recommend doing IVF treatment with the Barbados Fertility Centre, so that if you are going through infertility, or know someone who is, perhaps our experience will help in your/their journey.
Generally, while IVF Abroad can’t be for everyone—depending on budgets, vacation time, your specific scenario—if you are able to, we would recommend it as we feel the Pros outweigh any Cons associated!! Check out my video blog version of this post, as well as our Pros and Cons below.
Pros and Cons to a Procreation Vacation
Our Experience with IVF Abroad in Barbados
For context, as of writing this post, Mike and I have been together for 13 years, married for 8 years, and trying to conceive for 7 years, based in Edmonton, Alberta Canada.
Pro: You get a vacation out of an otherwise stressful time of your life
Having now done our IVF treatment as a vacation, we honestly can’t imagine doing it any other way. To get a proper break from everyday life, work, and other pressures, and to just fully focus on relaxing and enjoying your day in “Vacation Mode”—felt so good.
Even better if the IVF Abroad destination you pick is a hot and tropical one!
In Barbados, the fertility centre is located literally across the street from the ocean.
You walk out of your appointment and it’s like you walked into a dream, it’s SO nice.
That the biggest thing I had to worry about during our IVF Abroad was how much a hormone injection would sting—and really nothing else because we weren’t doing anything else but enjoying the beach and the island, sleeping in and napping, trying freshly caught fish at local restaurants—felt amazing.
That the clinic was a few minutes walk away from where we chose to stay, was so stress-free (commute? parking woes? not here!)
Not having to juggle work commitments, projects, scheduling with friends or family, and all the other things that add up and fill your days at home—really being able to relax—I think anecdotally is also one of the reasons many IVF Abroad locations boast much higher success rates.
Con: IVF Abroad is more expensive overall than doing it locally
Probably the biggest “con” to IVF Abroad, and what would be the biggest deterrent for most, is the cost. Now, the actual cost for the IVF treatment in Barbados was comparable to the cost of it doing it locally for us at home, which is great. But expenses really add up when you factor in the ‘vacation’ aspect of it all—so yes huge pro that your treatment can be an amazing, relaxing vacation, but pretty big con for how much that vacation might cost.
As a general comparison, we’d be looking at around $10,000 CAD to do IVF at home whereas doing it abroad WITH flights, accommodations, food, vacation costs, etc., totals closer to $20,000 CAD.
You can choose some IVF Abroad locations where the cost for treatment is actually lower than what you might be charged at home (like some places in Europe), but you then lose that hot, tropical beach vacation vibe, which we were pretty excited about lol.
Pro: The clinic experience is often much better than your local option
One of the reasons we REALLY did not want to do IVF locally is because our experience with the local clinic for our previous three IUI treatments was terrible.
And I consistently heard this from people in Edmonton who also went through their IUI or IVF procedures there. It may be because (at least at the time of writing this), there was only one fertility option in Edmonton, so they don’t think they need to try very hard to have patients, but I literally could never recommend it to anyone. Unfortunately because it is the only local option and many wouldn’t have the budget or ability to do IVF Abroad, many are stuck with it, and that really sucks.
But if you get the chance… I urge you to try somewhere else.
For those who are new to my fertility story, a quick summary of why we had a bad local experience:
- They said “oops” the first time they did my IUI treatment. When I—ALARMED—asked what happened, they said “oh nothing.” (THEN WHY DID YOU SAY OOPS?)
- On almost every clinic visit (which after three IUIs is dozens of visits), both nurses and doctors would ask “is this your first time?” No. No it is really not my first time and HOW is that not flagged on your paperwork for me? How is that not something you can easily check before you see me, so you don’t make me feel like a literal number each and every time I come by?
- Often doctors are bolting out of the room before I could even sit up, not inviting you to ask any questions.
- One time a nurse was. mad at me because I wore a jump suit and she just needed me to undress from the waist down and somehow couldn’t fathom why I was wearing a one-piece outfit.
Just lots of little, terrible bedside manner interactions with our local fertility clinic, combined with a lower success rate than IVF Abroad clinics, did not make us want to do our treatment with them.
Again, recognizing IVF Abroad isn’t a feasible option for everyone, but if you’re saving up to spend the money on the procedure anyway, we truly recommend saving a bit more to make it a vacation and go somewhere fun, relaxing, that also reports higher success rates, especially if you don’t like your local clinic option.
Our experience at the Barbados Fertility Centre was SO different from our experience locally.
Literally from the minute we walked in—we were greeted so warmly by so many people. We didn’t have to wait long for our appointments. We got speedy replies to questions via email prior to arriving. Doctors took the time to talk to us and answer questions. We were also regularly asked if we had any questions (literally, something that simple makes you feel good—that not everyone does that is wild to me). It just all felt really pleasant. And that’s what you want in this process.
Con: You have to be away from home for quite a long period of time
We miss our fur babies. So much!
Generally when Mike and I vacation we don’t go for too long—3 day, 4 day trips are typical, and for longer destinations, 10 days feels plenty. For our Barbados IVF Abroad, we booked 17 days.
You need to be in the area / by the clinic for approximately two weeks for specific appointments and procedures, and we added a few extra days before and after just for wiggle room, but 17 days is a very long time to be away from home, especially if it’s all in one spot (it would be different I feel like if we were travelling to different countries to explore within those 17 days lol).
I am a pretty go-go-go kind of vacationer so while beach days have been incredible in Barbados (the water is simply unbelievable), and the island itself is beautiful, had it not been required for the treatment, I know I would not have stayed this long lol.
That’s also 17 days Mike isn’t working which adds to the total cost of the vacation. I’m fortunate because I work from home / for myself anyway, so I can still work while away (and I have—but at a much more leisurely pace), but taking two weeks vacation in general I think is a challenge.
Pro: You can choose a location you’ve never been before
This pro ties into the vacation aspect of the Procreation Vacation, but the exciting part about browsing possible fertility clinics to go with for our treatment was choosing a spot we’d never been before.
Barbados had also never really been on our radar, and I think had it not been for the IVF treatment, it wouldn’t have been high on our list to visit—not for any negative reason, just because spots in Asia or Europe, or spots with closer flights would have been more top of mind for typical vacations.
But we are so thrilled we got to experience Barbados during this Procreation Vacation, and with the amount of time you need to spend here for your treatment, we feel like we have a REALLY good sense of the island (or parts of the island anyway).
As travel and adventure lovers, it was great to be able to cross off this destination in our life journey as part of our IVF treatment. Whether that means somewhere else for you, or it means Barbados, that aspect of the Procreation Vacation is really fun.
And if the IVF works—I’m sure we will be making many more visits to Barbados in our lifetime!
Con: Getting the drugs you need before you go can be a challenge
This was a big source of stress leading up to our IVF treatment. While the Barbados Fertility Centre gives you a prescription for specific drugs you need to start taking before you arrive on the island, you need to get a Canadian doctor to co-sign on the drugs and this process literally took me MONTHS to do—and it wasn’t even fully successful.
Even our local fertility clinic, which I’ve already said is terrible so this checks out, wouldn’t prescribe some of the drugs to me—even though I paid a “satellite fee” to have them process the rest of the prescriptions for me. The whole process was just ridiculous.
No one in Canada apparently wanted to be responsible in case something went wrong with the drugs even though the Barbados Fertility Centre is literally one of the best in the world and I am simply not the first Canadian or PERSON to ever take the drugs. I was so frustrated and mad and spent months trying to get the drugs. In the end, there were some I couldn’t get, so had to start those later once we arrived on the island. At least knowing that was an option made me feel better, though depending on your specific situation / reasons for your infertility, your drug requirements as well as when to start or how flexible starting them can be, will vary too. STRESS.
Here are some things I tried, which you can try too, in order to get the fertility drugs you may need if you are doing IVF Abroad. I recommend getting started on this process immediately, as doctors appointments, referrals, waiting for approvals (then getting rejected), ordering online, waiting for shipping time, etc., will all add a lot of time to your pre-treatment process.
Depending on which international clinic you choose, they may have other, specific suggestions for your specific location (Barbados hadn’t really had a lot of Alberta patients before, but a lot of people have come from Toronto), or you may be lucky and be able to get fertility drugs bought and shipped online to you (this was not an option for us during our go at IVF).
- Turns out even if you choose to do IVF Abroad, you can pay your local clinic to do “satellite” clinic services for you. This means they can rewrite / co-sign your prescriptions and do your baseline ultrasound (for a fee). This in theory should have made the process seamless, but as mentioned, they wouldn’t prescribe two drugs for me (prednisone and lovenox, a blood thinner), so the service I got was pretty inconsistent.
- You can order fertility drugs online, but sometimes there may be issues getting it to Canada. This would have been a really easy option had it been guaranteed we could get it—they do SHIP to Canada, but the Barbados Fertility Centre wasn’t sure if customs would release it for us. There are some Canadian online pharmacies that carry the drugs, but also won’t ship to you if you don’t have a Canadian doctor rewrite or co-sign the prescription.
- There are generally some pharmacies in town who work with international fertility clinics—in Edmonton, the Glengarry Pharmacy was recommended many times and were really nice when I called to inquire, saying they had worked with the Barbados clinic before. You’d think that would mean, great! No issues getting drugs, but they still required a Canadian doctor to rewrite or co-sign the prescription and in this case, my doctor(s) would not do it.
- Someone had suggested getting a lawyer to draft up a document that indicates you won’t hold your family doctor liable if anything happens from drug use, as a method to convince your doctor to sign off on the prescription—this could work but of course, more money, and also, why does it have to be complicated?
- I did try seeing if Canadian doctors through digital health apps would be more receptive to signing off on the Barbados prescription but alas, they also said no.
- Others had suggested heading to drop-in clinics / medi centres and seeing which doctors there would be willing to co-sign or rewrite the prescription. This may yield results—if y0u’ve got the time. I did NOT have the time to do this.
- Confirm with your fertility centre what the absolute worst case scenario / back-up plans are if you aren’t able to get all of your drugs before you fly out or when you’re supposed to take them. If I had known from the start that it was fine to take my drugs later than initially suggested, I maybe would not have felt SO stressed leading up to the treatment but I didn’t ask until less than a month before our flight. Know what your back-up options are.
Pro: Procreation Vacation clinics generally boast higher success rates
I mentioned this briefly above, but one of the big pros about doing IVF Abroad is that often fertility clinics outside of Canada or the U.S. have higher success rates.
There’s different reasons why this may be (though I think no one wants to or can definitively say exactly why) but anecdotally there’s likely three main explanations for this success:
- Canada / North American health care systems are generally more conservative about the drugs they use or are able to use, or drugs that are approved for use
- Some fertility clinics around the world have more advanced treatment, processes, technology they may use (that again, may not be approved depending on where you live)
- IVF Abroad is generally treated like a vacation, so your mind and body are more likely to be in a relaxed, better state for egg and embryos to do their thing
That is of course all just anecdotal, lol. I’ve also read that some fertility clinics do so many treatments that they just have better stats to pull from, lol.
The Barbados Fertility Centre reports about a 70% success rate with their IVF treatment which is one of the highest in the world. Of course, so many factors will affect a positive outcome so you can’t just bank on that % but it still makes you feel good going into it. lol
Con: Procreation Vacations are still no guarantee
IVF—whether done locally or abroad—does not guarantee you a baby.
So although doing the treatment somewhere tropical, or just somewhere new to you, and turning the process into a vacation is fun, of course it still doesn’t mean you’ll definitely get pregnant as a result. With that extra vacation cost added to the process, you may think it might not be worth it then—it is quite an investment.
Would we recommend doing IVF Abroad at the Barbados Fertility Clinic?
Keeping in mind I’m sharing this blog post before we know whether our IVF in Barbados has been successful or not—the answer is still:
We would recommend to others to try doing IVF Abroad in Barbados, if you can.
We believe the pros of IVF Abroad outweigh the cons, and if you have the money or able to save the money, and are already planning to spend a good chunk of money on the IVF treatment anyway, why not turn it into a fun vacation too?
We had such an incredible experience with the Barbados Fertility Centre, and just a wonderful time in Barbados itself—if we ARE pregnant, this island will have a very special place in our hearts and lives for the rest of our lives, and even if we aren’t pregnant after this, the travel experience and memories alone was so worth doing.
We loved our Procreation Vacation and are so happy we decided to try IVF Abroad rather than doing IVF at a clinic we don’t like, in the middle of winter in Canada, while juggling work and everyday life too. The beach days, pool days, relaxation, all the food and naps and beautiful weather made taking various IVF needles and medication so much more bearable.
So there are a few Pro and Cons to IVF Abroad.
At least based on our personal experience.
If you’re struggling with infertility and are trying to make some decisions, we hope this helps you. We also hope talking openly about our infertility helps others not feel alone or ashamed either.
If you can’t relate at all, but maybe have someone in your life who can—we hope this helps you perhaps in your conversations with them.
We were really happy with our decision to turn part of our infertility journey into a vacation.
You can watch my video version of this blog post below:
Here’s a few other random thoughts about our IVF Abroad experience
- I have gotten a lot of ‘why did you choose the Barbados Fertility Centre’ questions instead of other clinics internationally. The answer is really simple: They reported a high success rate, they were located in a place we’d never been before that we thought would be nice to visit for the first time (hot + tropical). We liked that their website was upfront and clear about process and costs. And we had learned a friend of a friend of ours had also done the treatment there. Sometimes that word of mouth is really the final push you might need. For you, that word of mouth or recommendation might be from us / this blog post. Is it definitively the best fertility clinic in the world? We can’t say—we don’t know that, lol. Is it going to be better or worse than other international clinics? Again, we don’t know. We know based on our local clinic option it is/was and would have been 10000x better than that though. But really whether you pick Barbados or elsewhere is going to depend on your vacation location preferences, and other factors specific to you.
- The process with the Barbados clinic really was super smooth and simple. We really liked that their website had a bunch of short videos explaining their process and what they do. We got an initial consult almost immediately and they were very clear about different tests we had to take or update before we confirmed our procedure
- In hindsight (I wrote this blog over several days and after the video blog lol), I suppose our total IVF Abroad costs are closer to $25,000 than $20,000 CAD, as initially said. Again, procedure and drugs are comparably priced whether we did it locally in Canada or in Barbados but I guess what I didn’t actually articulate was that drugs cost a few thousand as well.
- Mike really enjoyed the experience. He LOVES beaches, pools, and any kind of hot destination vacation so this was absolutely right up his alley. He was totally relaxed (except when stabbing me with drug injections lol) but he absolutely would do it again (though we are hoping we don’t have to).
- But you can really choose anywhere. Where do you want to visit around the world? Look up if they have a fertility clinic! Some of the cheapest rates we found were in Europe, but while that would have been a culturally excellent experience, in the end the hot tropical vacation was a winner for us.
- Please note success rates and costs will vary by patient. Because we were considered young, otherwise healthy, Unexplained Infertility, no other known issues for why we can’t conceive, our IVF treatment was pretty straight forward. For others, it may require more drugs, different drugs, different treatments, etc., which may change overall cost and success.
- The IVF treatment in general as I said takes about two weeks. First, they put you on birth control so that they can control your cycle date. You phase in more drugs about one-to-two weeks before your egg retrieval. Egg retrieval is when they take my eggs out, then see which ones are mature (able to fertilize with Mike’s sperm). The egg retrieval procedure is the most intensive but you don’t really feel it because they put you to sleep, lol.
- For us, we had 16 eggs retrieved, 10 of them were mature, 6 of them fertilized successfully with Mike’s sperm, but only 4 in the end progressed enough (cell growth to the point where they would be considered viable) for embryo transfer. Egg retrieval is considered Day 0, then embryo transfer is done on Day 3 or Day 5. Our transfer was done on Day 5, which, some say is better because the embryos / cells will have had more time to grow in ideal lab conditions before being placed back in my uterus, in the hopes that they will stick and continue to grow.
- This week was definitely a rollercoaster of emotions as we got daily updates on how our eggs were doing and since this was a new process for us, going from 16 eggs retrieved down to 4 viable eggs seemed pretty bad, but is apparently pretty good (or at least, standard).
- In our case, they put two embryos in me and froze the remaining two if we decide to try again with those two as a frozen transfer versus a fresh one.
- I didn’t really feel any adverse effects from the drugs—so I’m really lucky. The needle injections definitely came to be (are still as of writing this) a source for dread and at one point I was doing I believe four different needles per day, and some were really stingy, but we’ve now gotten into a good rhythm, and icing the area before the jab seems to help with stinging.
- Oh—you can still drink on your Procreation Vacation! You can’t on particular days (near procedure dates) but otherwise, everything in moderation, so I loved my fun blended tropical drinks. (I’m not a big drinker to begin with so it wasn’t anything intense).
Let me know if you have any specific questions about my IVF procedure, or Barbados fertility in particular, and I can add it to this post for others to read too.
And in case you’re curious,
Where we stayed during our Barbados Procreation Vacation
We spent 2 weeks at the Rosebank Apartments, a super cute, pink apartment complex located just five minutes walk from the fertility centre. Our studio included a patio and kitchenette space so we could cook some of our meals while there (the majority of our breakfasts we cooked!)
The Rosebank Apartments is also located just across the street from the popular beach and boardwalk, a mall with food court, and a ton of different oceanfront restaurant dining options.
Their rooms range from about $80 USD to $120 USD per night.
For our last few days, we decided to splurge, wanting to swap our humble apartment for more of a fancy hotel/resort feel, so we stayed at the Savannah Beach Club in a pool access room—which is what it sounds like, direct access to the pool from our room!
Our here stay including daily breakfast was $350 CAD per night—much pricier than the Rosebank.
The Savannah Beach Club has all inclusive options here or just dine / pay as you go, but we didn’t want to do the all inclusive specifically because we wanted the freedom of trying a bunch of different Barbados restaurants (and because all inclusive is obviously even pricier than what we were already paying).
There were some pros and cons to both places but in the end we much preferred the Rosebank Apartment experience for our main accommodations during our IVF Abroad in Barbados and would highly recommend that—from a cost, location, and overall experience perspective.
Both of the accommodations offer a fertility centre discount, and are one of MANY accommodation options in walking distance to the Barbados Fertility Centre.
If you’d like to read more about our infertility journey, I’ve blogged it throughout the years:
I’ll also be posting a bunch of blogs and video blogs about things to do in Barbados, including what to eat, and practical tips and things to now before you go. Check this Barbados Travel Guide section of my blog for those posts:
- See my Barbados Travel Guides (COMING SOON)
Whatever you decide or however you proceed in your infertility journey, good luck!