A married couple who “couldn’t afford” to have IVF in the UK have revealed how they saved thousands of pounds by travelling abroad instead.
Emma Haslam, 42, and husband Adam, 39, from Skipton, North Yorkshire, struggled to conceive after marrying in August 2014.
After being dealt the “devastating double blow” that Emma was peri-menopausal and Adam had sperm count and motility issues, they were told IVF would be the only way forward.
But they struggled to get NHS funding and had no money for private treatment, despite saving as much as they could – even moving in with Emma’s parents to cut costs.
“We were feeling utterly defeated,” she told NeedToKnow.online.
“The average round of IVF with ICSI in the UK costs upwards of £10,000, and it takes on average three rounds of IVF to have a baby.
“We began having consultations with clinics in the UK but found the process extremely frustrating.
“Each consultation cost around £250, and getting a realistic idea of costs prior to the appointment was almost impossible, resulting in us spending almost £1,000 on consultations with clinics that were completely out of our budget.
“The lack of transparency we experienced around costings did nothing to gain our trust, nor did the impersonal service that made us feel like just a number.
“As well-travelled – and at this stage, desperate – people, we started looking into fertility treatment abroad, but could find very little information anywhere.
“We were desperate for clarity, impartial information and a plan. We needed help, but there was no help available: We were on our own.
“It was overwhelming, and we were terrified we had little time to waste.”
After months of research, they decided to try IVF abroad – with lower costs and strong success rates tempting them.
After a consultation with a clinic in the Czech Republic, they found they could afford three full rounds of donor IVF there as well as the travel expenses.
On their third round, they welcomed their son Albie in August 2018 – four years after the start of their journey to parenthood, and having spent £8,500 on IVF and travel.
But while they were thrilled to finally have their baby, the rough road left a mark on the Haslam’s, who felt passionate about preventing other families from jumping through as many hoops as they did to access IVF abroad.
Emma said: “I still can’t believe it has finally happened to me. I feel like the luckiest person in the world and I am so happy to be a mum at last and to such an amazing little boy.
“Having battled my way through endless lost hours of frantic Google searches to try and find someone to help us to make our dream of having a family a reality, I discovered the help we so desperately wanted did not exist.
“We wanted someone to help navigate the information with an unbiased view, to provide a researched overview of options available rather than having to rely on each clinic’s own website and individual focus, someone to guide and share learned experiences with us, someone to connect with for emotional support.
“But we found no one, and were left feeling more despondent, anxious, stressed and isolated.
“After the birth of my son I had postnatal depression that I attribute to the trauma of infertility.
“I decided then that I wanted to use my experiences to be the champion for people of all backgrounds battling with infertility and commit to my part in knowledge sharing to help reduce the amount of people feeling lost, isolated, overwhelmed and mentally unwell thanks to the stresses of fertility treatment.”
Emma and Adam decided to start Your IVF Abroad in September 2019 to bridge the gap and help other people access impartial information – something they believe is vitally important.
They also help find a safe clinic to meet their needs in the right destination, and help and support the couples to prepare for their treatment.
Emma said: “Trying to Google your way out of this is not the answer as you’re met with overwhelming, confusing and often conflicting information which could make things unsafe – and I don’t feel we should be winging it when we are dealing with our fertility.”
She ended up leaving her job as a support worker in August 2021 and focusing full-time on the venture, all while juggling Albie and his needs.
To date, they have helped over 100 families on their IVF abroad journey, including Emma and Russ Warren from Bedford, who welcomed daughter Maisie, now one, after trying to conceive their second child for three years.
Emma [Warren], 41, said: “I was becoming obsessed and desperate and life felt so unfair, we struggled for 3 years and then decided to seek some help and support.”
“Working with Your IVF Abroad was amazing, Emma was so knowledgeable and helpful, explaining everything we needed to know to complete the process of having fertility treatment abroad.
“Emma also helped us to find a safe IVF clinic that met all our needs. She supported us every step of the way and it helped so much that she has personally been through the process herself, so she totally gets it.
“Our family is now complete and we couldn’t be happier.”
Helping so many families has led to Emma [Haslam] be dubbed the “Fairy Godmother of IVF”.
She added: “I feel proud and privileged to have been chosen to support so many people at such a difficult time in their lives and with something so personal.
“It has also been very cathartic for me and out of a really difficult time has come something so wonderful.
“I have been referred to as the Fairy Godmother of IVF which is so flattering and makes me chuckle because I remember Adam saying to me at the time that this is what we needed – we did, but couldn’t find her!
“I am on a mission to help as many people as I can globally to make informed and impartial decisions so that they can have safe and ethical fertility treatment that meets their needs and that is more accessible, affordable and supported.
“I want people to take back some control, stop the waiting, get some answers and to give themselves the best chance of success, with no regrets, whatever the outcome.
“I live and breathe this mission to make a difference. This is not a job for me, this is everything.”