Written by Sansan. Blog entry is first written on March 3, 2017. You can find the blog at http://alwayssunnyinmanila.blogspot.com/
It’s always a hard thing to leave our comfort zone. At least that’s what I felt when we decided to do our IVF in Taiwan. It was especially hard since my OB-Gyne here in Manila is just the nicest, sweetest person. She also does IVF in St. Lukes QC or BGC. The cost is not that much different if you compare having it done in Manila or in Taiwan. Actually, it’s a lot cheaper in Taiwan. But taking into consideration the cost of staying at a hotel/airbnb, airfare and food, It would say it’s about the same.
A lot of people ask us why we had to do it in Taiwan since there’s a popular hospital in Manila that’s currently attracting a lot of women to have IVF done there, it’s called Kato Repro Biotech Center. I personally have never seen any of the doctors there so I can’t say much about Kato but I decided to list a few of the reasons why we decided to do it in Taiwan, particularly in Lee Women’s Hospital in Taichung, which is where we had our successful pregnancy. I’ve also included some of the cons of doing it there too.
Don’t get me wrong. St. Lukes is a pretty high tech hospital. I can’t really compare it to other hospitals in Manila since I’ve only had the chance to have some of my treatments in St. Lukes. However, when we visited Lee Women’s Hospital for the first time, Dr. Lee had me do some tests that I’ve never had to do in Manila, including some photos of my chromosomes. They also took a closer look into my husband’s sperm, it definitely wasn’t the usual sperm analysis there. It was too scientific for me to understand but it made me feel that they knew what they were doing.
Doctors are always on time
I love my doctor but I think we can all agree that doctors here in Manila are known to be notoriously late all the time. I would sometimes wait 3 hours just to see my doctor since she would come in super late for her clinic. I’m sure they all have their reasons for being late but let me tell you that I’ve never had to wait for any doctor in Taiwan. This goes for both Mackay and Lee Women’s Hospital. Dr. Lee Maw-sheng would see hundreds of patients in a day but he is always on time for his 9AM clinic. I would often have to wait just a few minutes before I get to see him. I think they prioritise their foreign patients in Lee Women’s, which is probably why I never have to wait too long but that’s a plus for me! I would usually come in at around 8:30AM, do my ultrasound, see Dr. Lee, pay, pick up my medicine, talk to the nurse, have my injection, have my blood extraction, and be done by 10:30am. If only this was the case in Manila. 🙂 Maybe someday!
Hospitals are super efficient
Whenever I see Dr. Lee, his nurses would print out some stuff that gives you information about your priority number for your next appointment, your medicines and dosage and your blood test request/s. You just pay the hospital’s cashier for everything, including your medicine and pick it up at another counter. It’s just so efficient not having to go to Mercury, only to be told that the medicine you’re looking for is out of stock, or having to pay individually for your ultrasound, doctor’s fee and blood tests. It just makes everything so easy. They even have an injection room! If you don’t want to your injections on your own, just get a number and wait for your turn. A nurse is always ready to do it for you. We were truly impressed by how efficient everything is.
No traffic, no stress!
Traffic is pretty much nonexistent in Taichung. I daresay it’s also the same case in Taipei. Taichung has kind of a provincial feel in comparison to Taipei, but that doesn’t mean it’s not as charming. There are no MRTs but plenty of buses. You know the best thing about public buses in Taichung? They’re free! As long as your destination is less than 10km away, you won’t have to pay a single dollar. Just make sure you have your Easycard with you, because otherwise you have to pay. I admit it’s a little challenging at first since there are tons of bus stops but as they say, Google is your friend. Google Maps in particular. We’re fortunate that we’re able to read a little Chinese so it’s a lot easier for us to read the bus stops. But just familiarise yourself with the your bus stop and bus number, and you’ll be alright. There are also a lot of cheap taxis around. You have to realise that when you’re having IVF done, you have to get an ultrasound every other day, and in Taichung, it has to be done everyday! This is done so the doctor could closely monitor your follicles’ growth and make adjustments on your dosage, if needed. I can’t imagine the stress of having to sit through Manila’s traffic to go to the hospital everyday. I’m pretty sure that the traffic and most doctors’ tardiness would take away half of my day already, if not more.
Most of the staff in Lee Women’s Hospital speak English to some degree. It is not the English that we’re used to, since we have different accents but it can be a challenge especially when medical terms are being used. They have two people who are assigned to help out foreign patients but of course you still have to talk to the other staff from time to time. This also applies to your everyday life outside the hospital. Most of the Filipinos who decide to go to Taiwan would usually stay at hotels and buy food. Since most Taiwanese don’t speak English, it can be a struggle to communicate even when you’re doing the most mundane task of having to buy food. This is not to say that the Taiwanese don’t try to communicate, everyone is super nice and try their best to communicate in English but it can be frustrating too. If all else fails, there’s always Google Translate. 🙂
They’re all about business
This sounds a little vague but when you go to Lee Women’s Hospital, their job is to get you pregnant. As I mentioned before, they see hundreds of patients in a day and they do their ultrasounds like clockwork. In St. Lukes, whenever I have my ultrasound done, they would give a sarong so I can cover up since I have to take off my undies underneath. They have you take your time to undress in the restroom, pee and have your ultrasound done and go back to the restroom to freshen up. It’s always dim in the ultrasound room and they make sure that you’re covered up as the doctor does your ultrasound. In Lee Women’s hospital, you take off your pants/undies in a dressing room type area in the room, have you lie down and spread your legs with just a small piece of cloth to cover you as they do their business. I’m talking about a face towel-sized cloth. This was a bit shocking to me initially but I just had to remember that they do this to hundreds of women on a daily basis and that they don’t care about what your private parts look like. Once done, you go back to the dressing room and dress up.
Consultations take no longer than 5 minutes
A routine consultation with my OB-Gyne here in Manila takes about 30 minutes at least. In Taiwan, since they are super efficient, I kid you not when I say that the doctor only sees you for 1-2 minutes, 5 minutes tops if you ask questions. You can say that they’re always in a hurry but I think it’s more because they’re so experienced that they already know what to do for a lot of different cases and I guess it’s also a cultural thing. Of course, they would explain what needs to be done for your next appointment but it just leaves very little time for you to ask any follow up questions since the next woman is already waiting.
It really is a baby factory
Before we even went to Taiwan, we already knew what to expect. We knew there would be a lot of women having their treatment done there and you’re just one of them. If you’re okay with that, like we were, then Taiwan might be for you.
In the end, what my husband and I really were after are the results. I had already heard about Kato and their minimal stimulation IVF but since I had a problem with egg quality due to PCOS, we just decided that we needed a more aggressive approach and that having it done in Manila might not be the best for us. I’m super thankful that we ended up doing it in Taichung despite my initial hesitations because we are now blessed with a baby. I’m thankful to Dr. Lee Maw-sheng for convincing us to do PGS to minimise the risk of miscarriage, which I’ve had a history of and so we can be assured that the embryo being transferred will a normal one. If I had the chance to have another IVF cycle, I would probably to it again in Lee Women’s Hospital. 🙂