Intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in vitro fertilisation (IVF) are two common methods of fertility treatment that increase a couple’s chance of becoming pregnant. Where does one start to look for such services in Bangkok? An Internet search yields plenty of providers, including both private clinics and hospitals. But which are the best options? And what does the process involve?
We asked five families, including locals and expats, who successfully underwent such fertility treatments in Bangkok. Below are their stories – all are different but each offer valuable insight into what the treatments entail.
Choosing a Provider
Before deciding upon a suitable provider, it’s a good idea to have an initial diagnosis and consultation, and gauge the level of professionalism in each facility. Mari*, one of our interviewees, recalled that, after arriving in Bangkok, she conducted a comprehensive Internet search on the possible clinics and doctor options. She says, “Two [particular] doctors were the ones mostly recommended. Unfortunately, the online info I found was not really up to date.” One of these doctors turned out to be rude and unresponsive via email, while the other, despite being “very client oriented and welcoming”, kept pushing for IVF, a costlier procedure.
Mari explains, “When asked about IUI, which was an obvious next step for us, having no apparent fertility issues, the doctor said that IUI will be a total waste of time and the chances that it’ll work are extremely low.” As such, Mari and her spouse felt that the second doctor was “only concerned about the amount of money he can put in his pocket.”
Mari then sought fertility advice at Bumrungrad Hospital. She consulted with Dr. Phattaraphum who provided “all the needed information and was very surprised to hear about the other doctor’s insistence on IVF. He said that IUI is definitely worth considering, although the chances are lower than IVF.” After a round of IUI, Mari became pregnant.
Another interviewee, Ann, pursued IVF as a result of blocked Fallopian tubes and a low egg reserve. She asked for doctor recommendations from “a Bangkok Mom’s club Facebook page and immediately got responses,” which included Samitivej Hospital and Jetanin Institute For Assisted Reproduction. Both were highly recommended. In the end, Ann chose Jetanin as she had a personal preference of visiting a specialty clinic instead of a hospital. It was also more convenient to go to Jetanin from her home for daily injections.
She recalls, “[My doctor] Dr. Somjate explained everything thoroughly while being empathetic and honest. He seemed to be devoted to his profession and I always felt he recommended what was best for me instead of what is good for his business. Also, it was a very busy clinic, but the entire staff seemed to be in tune with your treatment and guide you accordingly. Organization during the process is very important since you can’t take any chances of making a mistake in any of the steps.”
Like Ann, Patty initially sought the advice of others, including a neighbour who is a gynaecologist, for doctor recommendations. She chose to have her IVF treatment at Siriraj Hospital and became pregnant but miscarried after eight weeks. At the time, Siriraj was inundated by the floods [of 2011] and she moved to Phyathai 3 Hospital with same doctor. She says, “I chose this doctor because he provided all necessary information plus my neighbour [who recommended him] helped to look after me during the programme.”
Another interviewee, Melissa, only sought fertility treatment at her hospital, Samitivej. “I have always found the nurses and doctors at the Women’s Health Centre at Samitivej to be professional and informed in health and medicine. In addition, they are compassionate and kind, with a bedside manner that was encouraging and positive,” she explains. “When my gynaecologist (at Samitivej) recommended Dr. Wirot, the hospital’s fertility specialist, we did not hesitate to make an appointment and [subsequently] did all our fertility treatments with him.”
After unsuccessful attempts to conceive with IUI over a period of three months, Melissa explains that she and her partner “were then told we should likely move forward to the ‘next step’- IVF. Fortunately, we responded really well to the treatment and conceived twin daughters in our first cycle.”
A Myriad of Challenges
Stress and depression are common among couples faced with infertility, and the above treatments, especially IVF, require significant physical, emotional, financial, and time commitments.
“One of the biggest challenges was overcoming the stigma and shame that seems to be associated with infertility, for both my husband and myself,” shares Melissa. “When we were diagnosed with fertility problems, we were embarrassed and felt like our bodies had failed us — it was a shock to learn that we, otherwise healthy adults, were not ‘reproductively’ healthy. This took time to accept. Also, although we never admitted at the time, we both held a little anger, blame and resentment towards one another.”
Melissa also recalls that the fertility medicine pushed her on an emotional rollercoaster. She says, “Not having a support network or being able to talk with other families who had experienced the same issues was difficult – many people keep these sensitive issues close to heart and do not share their story.” She thus decided to see a therapist who helped immensely, giving her “perspective and tools to cope and overcome the hurdles in the journey to having a family.”
“The process itself is very hard and you need lots of emotional support and physically, the body must be ready,” says Patty. “Also, prepare for the unexpected – I was pregnant with twins but after nine weeks, I lost one baby and had to leave my job, be on bed rest for almost six months and undergo other processes to allow the remaining baby to thrive. You can only imagine the emotional journey it has been, worrying about how the treatments and medication would affect the baby.” Today, Patty’s almost 3-year old girl is healthy and will be attending school this August.
Other Words of Wisdom
Debbie, another one of our interviewees, cautions that not everything related to IUI or IVF may be legal in Thailand. In a same-sex relationship, she and her partner are having their third child through IUI (their first two children were conceived by IUI in London). They initially wanted to have IUI in Bangkok using sperm from an anonymous donor sent from the UK. She further explains, “However, upon investigating suitable clinics, we found out that, unless you know the donor, it is illegal to have IUI in Thailand.” Debbie therefore had IUI back in the UK before returning to Bangkok.
What about the costs involved? Debbie advises that the IUI process itself involves many tests before conception, which can make it quite costly. She says, “Cost is something to consider as [IUI] is not cheap. We have been very lucky in falling pregnant the first time. I would say it cost around 50,000 baht for all of the pre-testing and paperwork and then around another 50,000 baht each time you try.”
Patty says, “In the end, we spent more than a million baht to get pregnant [through IVF]. I would also recommend having a cash reserve in case you have pregnancy complications, as I did.”
Melissa, who had IUI and then IVF, explains, “Our health insurance did not pay for the fertility treatments. I would inform couples who are considering doing fertility treatments to look into their insurance coverage prior to commencing fertility treatments, as they can be expensive. We spent approximately $20,000 (or around 680,000 baht) on all the treatments combined.”
Ann offers some final advice, “To those who are trying and not having any success conceiving, be honest and talk about these feelings with your spouse, and find a doctor you are comfortable with. In my opinion, the doctor is more important than the clinic or hospital. Above all, stay positive and do not give up!”
*Some names have been changed to maintain anonymity.
Editor’s note/disclaimer: This article provides information, not medical/health advice, about fertility treatments in Bangkok.