Fertility treatments outside of Canada

Thinking about getting fertility treatments outside of Canada? Then you should know about the issues and risks you might be facing.

Not all countries have laws like ours to protect you. Here in Canada, there are also health and safety standards that medical professionals must follow. The laws and standards might not be the same where you are going.

Here are some of the issues and risks to think about if you are considering fertility treatments outside of Canada.

Safe clinics

Clinics outside Canada may or may not follow safety standards like the ones here. To get a sense of how qualified clinic staff are and to find out what external standards or guidelines the clinic follows, you may want to ask these questions:

  • What are the qualifications and experience of the clinic's medical, nursing, and scientific staff?
  • What clinical and lab accreditation/certification and/or professional standards does the clinic follow?
  • Does the clinic have a complaints process?
  • Does it report medical mistakes to another body, and are these complaints made publicly available?

Safe treatments

While many clinics offer medical procedures that have a good track record, some may use experimental ones. It is important for you to know what procedures are going to be used when considering your options.

It is important to note that some procedures, and particularly multiple pregnancies and births, can present health risks for both mother and babies. Be sure to find out:

  • Is the procedure you are considering proven safe and effective?
  • What is the clinic's policy on multiple pregnancies and/or the number of embryos transferred during a procedure?
  • What are the risks to you or any children you may conceive, particularly if a multiple pregnancy happens?

Other care you may need

When considering treatments outside of Canada, you may want to talk to an obstetrician (OB) or doctor in Canada to find out what information would be needed for follow-up if you become pregnant. Here are some other topics to consider:

  • What services are provided in the care package a clinic offers? If you need emergency or other care when outside Canada, where should you go if the clinic is closed or does not provide a particular service?
  • If part of your procedures will take place in Canada, how will the results be provided to the clinic abroad?
  • If you ask, will the clinic transfer all the medical information to your local doctor?

If you’re using a donor or surrogate

If you are considering using a surrogate mother or third party donor (for eggs, sperm, or embryos), you should get legal advice on issues like:

  • the citizenship of the child
  • how parentage is determined in the country of birth for the child
  • whether a surrogate mother or donor would have parental or other rights/responsibilities with respect to the child

Some other issues to consider:

  • What proof is given that the sperm, eggs, or embryos actually come from the chosen donor?
  • Does the donor/surrogate undergo medical and psychological screening?
  • What proof is given that a surrogate:
    • is healthy and free of infectious disease?
    • will avoid high-risk activity during pregnancy?
    • will have safe and effective medical care?
  • What medical/genetic information is available to you about the donor/surrogate? Can donor information be updated and given to you in the future? Can you get more information from the donor about medical/genetic issues in the future?

Language barriers

If you are looking at fertility services outside Canada, think about if language will be a barrier to getting safe and quality health care.

  • Does the clinic give out information in a language you understand, or provide access to a good interpreter?
  • Is professional counselling available at all stages of the procedure in a language that is understandable to you?

Success rates

How clinics calculate success rates may influence the figures they publish. Some may publish chemical pregnancy statistics or actual pregnancy statistics, which may be very different from the actual number of children born from procedures performed at the clinic (the live-birth rate). If you are not sure about what a published success rate means, be sure to ask the clinic how it calculates their rates.

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