For three years, Danielle Camarena’s Internet search history looked like this: Why can’t I get pregnant? Who can help me get pregnant? How can I change my diet to boost fertility? Is my laundry detergent preventing pregnancy?
She never got to the questions about parenting.
“We thought [pregnancy] would happen right away, but it sure did not,” says Camarena, a 32-year-old technical writer in Covina, California.
So she and her husband got help. First, they tried intrauterine insemination – a fertility treatment that involves inserting the man’s sperm directly into the woman’s uterus. No luck. Then they tried it again. And again. And again. They moved on.
Next, they tried in vitro fertilization, a procedure that involves combining eggs and sperm in a lab dish before transferring the resulting embryo (or embryos) to the woman’s uterus. But before the couple could complete the process, the facility closed temporarily without warning. “We felt like it was a red flag,” Camarena says.
Then, they looked into adoption. But while Camarena was researching options overseas, she stumbled on a blog post that stopped her in her tracks. In the post, a woman detailed her positive experience traveling to Barbados for IVF. “Do we want to do international medicine?” the couple wondered. “Is that safe?”
By the end of this year, 1.2 million U.S. residents will have decided it’s safe enough, traveling abroad for treatments ranging from knee replacements to dental implants to chemotherapy, according to projections by Patients Beyond Borders , an organization that produces books and medical travel resources. About 5 to 7 percent travel for reproductive health care like fertility treatments, estimates Josef Woodman, the organization’s founder and CEO.
Still, the prospect is “intimidating” and “scary” at first, particularly if you’re going to be put under anesthesia abroad, Camarena says. But when she asked her primary care doctor whether she was crazy for considering it, he told her no. “There are so many people who do it, [but] it’s kind of like a secret,” she remembers him saying. “They just don’t talk about it because they’re afraid of what people will say.”
Not Camarena, who settled on the blogger-endorsed Barbados Fertility Centre this fall for IVF and is now 14 weeks pregnant. “I want to shout it from the rooftops,” she says. “I want everyone to know.”