Go direct or use an Agency?

Agency or not?

You have a choice on whether or not to work with an agency.  Some people do, some people don't.  If you have experience travelling internationally and like doing things yourself, you can get through the process without an agency.  If you would like someone to help you through the process, you'll need to work with an agency.  All the agencies use clinics that you can work with directly, so they're not providing special access to a clinic.  Rather, they are providing a helping hand through the process.  Some of the advantages and disadvantages of using and Agency:

Advantages

  • An agency generally understands the process and can help guide you through it, especially if you have never traveled internationally 
  • An agency has generally narrowed clinic choices down to a small number of reputable clinics, saving you a fair amount of research time
  • Some agencies claim they have special access to lower airfares, thereby potentially saving you money on travel costs
  • Usually the agency is from your country, and therefore understands your cultural norms and expectations

Disadvantages

  • Adds another person as an intermediary; many people find they end up working directly with the clinic much more than with the agency
  • The agency typically has a smaller number of clinics it works with, which may limit your choice of clinics.  Some work with only one clinic. 
  • Many clinics have their own interanational patient coordinator that generally provides services comprable to what an agency provides
  • The agency has to make money too.  You can often work directly with the clinic, and bypass the agency fees.
  • It's not often clear why an agency has chosen a specific clinic.  The most popular clinics don't need another intermediary and may choose not to work with agencies.  Agencies may also be selecting clinics that give them the largest commissions. 

You may ask your agency how they earn their living - some get paid by the clinic, some get paid by the patient, some by a combination of both.

Feedback on other blogs/posts on this topic includes:

  • A survey run by Chai Baby showed that 5 respondents used a medical travel agency, and 16 did not.  The two respondents that provided additional comments said:  (1) This was helpful. We have had three attempts and used the agency in only the first one. The agency was helpful in that it helped us prepare for certain aspects of our first trip to India that the clinic doctor and staff did not have time to help us with. But we were disappointed overall with the help from the agency. They did not adequately help us with a medication dosage problem and they were not up-front about the cost of using the agency. They caused some confusion about the pricing with the clinic and (2) No help really, once we started, we communicated with the service.
  • After having gone through the process with an agency, in their blog Mike and Mike say "if I knew then what I know now, we would have gone directly to our clinic" and not used an agency.
  • Mixed feedback in this Yahoo Forum thread (registration required) from three posters who used agencies.  One poster recommends using an agency and the other "was not happy with the agency at all" and a third said "after we got to India we fired them".  All three referenced Planet Hospital.
  • Comments on this article have very mixed feedback on Surrogacy Abroad, an agency with offices in Chicago and India.  One comment says "Surrogacy Abroad is just a middleman...who pads the real costs of surrogacy in India for his own gain. He knows very little about pregnancy himself. Contracts are vague and not adhered to. Promises are made and not adhered to" while another says "we opted to outsource to India choosing a wonderful agency we would highly recommend to anyone".
  • This comment on a Newsweek article indicates that the agency (Planet Hospital) was "disorganized and incompetent" with a "lack of transparency" and that three months later the couple is still "waiting for the promised feedback from the clinic".  The agency's feedback to the comment indicates it may have come from a "rogue employee" who was "dismissed recently". 
  • Communication with Rotunda has improved greatly now that we have direct contact instead of going through Planet Hospital.

Some of the agencies that provide surrogacy services (each of these have differing levels of experience; conduct your due dilligence before choosing to work with one):

The clinic-Agency relationships change quite often, so confirm the above.  For example, Dr. Sekhar at Kiran emailed us saying "As previously stated we do not work with either Planet Hospital or Surrogacy Abroad currently.  We stopped working with Surrogacy Abroad in August 2010 and with Planet Hospital in March 2011.  This we have also stated in our numerous emails to [email protected].  Kindly make the necessary changes as not doing so is harming our good name and reputation."