An Insider Report on IVF Spain by Sara Marshall-Page
Last month Tracey and I were invited to visit IVF Spain’s clinic in Alicante, so we could see firsthand what it is like to travel abroad for IVF.
We knew that our visit wouldn’t be quite the same experience as a couple embarking on their fertility journey, but we could report back on our findings, to give an insight into anyone who might be considering travelling abroad for treatment.
We wanted to explore the clinic, to look at the lab, meet the staff, talk about the patient experience, ask questions on behalf of our readers and generally get a real feeling of the place. I have to say, it was nothing like I expected….
I’ve spoken before about my own IVF journey, I was one of the lucky few to have NHS IVF, but had I not been, I’m not sure travelling abroad would ever have been on my radar. To me it would have seemed a bit of a hassle, and how can you trust a clinic so far away from home? How do you know it’s trusted, clean, and they speak English?!! How could I take so much time off work to have my treatment? I would spend a bomb on hotel fares and food surely? And if it failed, what am I meant to do then? So many questions that would all lead to a big fat ‘no thanks, I’ll stay with what I know’.
Well, had I known about IVF Spain during my four years of trying to conceive, I would probably have booked a flight to Alicante in an instant. To say I was overwhelmed by the high standards at the clinic and the friendliness of the staff would be an understatement.
A warm welcome to Alicante
We arrived at the airport, greeted by our lovely driver who drove us the short journey to our hotel in a Mercedes. The clinic had suggested we take the afternoon to get to know Alicante, to visit the beach, have some lunch, and to take some time to just rest and reflect. We followed their suggestion and headed straight for the beach. The sea is a powerful force of nature and so unbelievably calming. We sat watching the waves crash against the shore and thought what an amazing start this would be to an IVF journey.
After a beautiful meal and a good night’s sleep, we woke ready to explore every inch of the clinic. We wanted to take ourselves back, to the mindset we were both in when we were on our journeys – scared, anxious and actually incredibly desperate. How would we have felt arriving here at this clinic, knowing it was perhaps the last chance?
Sense of calm
As the car pulled up to the clinic, we immediately felt at ease. The building isn’t scary, or clinical looking. It is beautiful from the outside. Surrounded my palm trees and cactus plants, with a blue sky backdrop, you just don’t feel like you are entering a clinic, it felt more like a spa.
As you walk in, there is a real sense of calm. You are invited to have a coffee on the terrace as you wait to be taken through for your appointment. It doesn’t resemble any clinic waiting room I’ve ever been in. There are roses on the coffee table, and calming music playing in the background. Obviously roses and music aren’t going to get you pregnant, but these small touches help to create a relaxed vibe which is so key to a healthy state of mind.
We were joined by the clinic manager who sat with us on the terrace and explained to us how the stages of travelling abroad for IVF actually works.
The clinic suggest that you visit them on two occasions. The first, for your assessment and tests, the second for the transfer. Each patient is looked after by one of the super friendly patient coordinators who schedule everything for you. This incredible group of women literally take care of everything. They explained to us that they are with their patients every step of the way.
So how does the process of travelling abroad for your treatment actually work?
The first stage, is for you to arrange a call with the clinic. You will be given your own personal coordinator who will answer all your doubts as well as inform you of the different treatment options available and arrange your first visit to the clinic.They will advise you on the special discounted hotel and apartment fares that they have in place, regardless of whether or not you are choosing to travel in or out of season. They will also organise to pick you up at the airport.
Your first visit to the clinic is all about the tests and echography. This visit will last about four hours. During this time, you will provide a sperm sample and have a chat with the embryologist who will explain the tests they will do on the sperm and the possible results. Then you will have s medical consultation with the consultant, including diagnosis, ultrasound and blood tests. During this visit you will receive your personalised treatment plan, medical prescriptions and drugs. We were asked by one of our readers if it was safe to take the drugs through customs, the clinic reassured us that it was totally fine and will deliver a justification letter for the airport security. However, should you decide not to carry the drugs from Spain, you can get them at your pharmacy or sometimes it’s even online.
Once you get back home, you begin your course of fertility drugs and start your treatment from home. Throughout this period, you can talk to your lovely patient coordinator over the phone about any concerns you may have, you really aren’t just left alone.
When you have completed your course of medication, your patient coordinator will tell you when to jump back on a plane to head back to the clinic for egg retrieval and transfer. This stay can be anywhere between 7 to 12 days. (The consultants at the clinic recommend that you leave it a day following transfer before you fly back home.)
Ten days after the transfer, your doctor can do a pregnancy test.
Once we understood the straightforward process, we were taken on a guided tour of the clinic. The calming music plays quietly in the background and scented candles fill the air with an incredible aroma. It felt more like we were about to go in for a hot stone massage rather than a tour of the consulting rooms. But we wanted to see past the scented candles and get in to the lab. This is after all the most important room in the building. The lab is immaculate, and full of the most up to date technology and equipment. The transfer room is equally as perfect. It came as no surprise to hear that there is actually even the option to have a massage once you have had your transfer. Can you imagine how lovely that would be?
Every inch of the clinic has been designed to offer the patient the best experience possible during such a highly emotive and challenging time in their life.
The separate building for egg donors means that anonymity is never challenged. With 80 per cent of all IVF Spain patients choosing to use an egg donor, and donors being totally anonymous, donors and recipients can be comforted knowing that they will not bump into each other.
We were delighted to grab Dr Alvarez, the amazing doctor who held our Instagram Q&A a couple of months ago for a quick chat. We asked her what it was like for the patient on transfer day. She said that she loves listening to music in the transfer room with her patient. “Positive upbeat music creates positive upbeat vibes!” Dr Alvarez always asks her patients what they would like to listen to while the magic happens.
When looking for a clinic, it is so important to do your research
Our trip to the clinic allowed us to see beyond the statistics
We were able to see that the patient experience is so important to the clinic. The sense of well being is of utmost importance in both the mental and physical sense. The patient coordinators work with you as their patients to make sure you are in the best health you can be.
A good vibe means good headspace
As I said in my introduction, our visit to the clinic was wonderful, but we didn’t have the angst or fear that someone embarking on treatment will have, However, what we can say, is that the calming energy is noticeable from the moment you step into the clinic and was noticeable from those at the clinic going through their IVF journeys.
The IVF process is one hell of a rocky emotional rollercoaster, so choose your clinic carefully and make sure it is right for you, and if you do choose IVF Spain, don’t forget to book in for a massage post transfer!
Huge love to you all on your IVF journey.