The IVF industry is constantly evolving and as a result there are myriad options available to women and couples.
However, it can be confusing when trying to work out what treatment is right for you and which clinic best suits your needs, so here is my advice on what you need to be aware of when choosing your particular clinic.
How To Find The Right IVF Clinic?
Clinics will tend to specialise in, or have more expertise in, certain types of treatments and procedures depending on their staff and facilities. If you have pre-existing conditions (eg PCOS or endometriosis) that require or respond better to certain forms of treatment, or know that you would prefer to undergo a certain type of treatment (eg egg freezing), then ask prospective clinics about their expertise in this area and for their success rates.
What Is The IVF Success Rate Success Rates?
IVF success rates need to be treated with caution, as sometimes clinics will turn away women with particular conditions, or not take on older patients who may bring down their success rate. It's not fair but it does happen. However, you will want to know that any clinic you are considering has a strong track record.
Ask how success rates are measured at the particular clinic e.g. do they measure pregnancy or live birth rates, as this can vary. It is also a good idea to find out the specific rates for your individual circumstances and any treatments that you are looking at.
Our clinic has success rates of 52% for women aged 30-40, and these are considered some of the best in the country. For those over 40, the chances drop to 32%. Couples should be aware that IVF may not result in pregnancy, and be prepared to deal with the possibility of disappointment.
How Much Does IVF Cost?
Always be upfront with your clinic about asking for the total costs of your treatment before you start the process. Costs vary from clinic to clinic and depend on the type of treatment, the amount of drugs used and the tests that are undertaken. Remember that upfront diagnostic tests may lead you to a less-expensive treatment option, so always ensure these tests are carried out and that your treatment is tailored accordingly.
During any consultation or treatment process, determine if any other tests you are offered are essential and question the evidence base for any that are non-essential. Additional tests, particularly those that are billed as 'state of the art' can often add extra costs to your treatment, so be clear on what you need and how much it will cost to avoid any surprises along the way.
An IVF cycle includes taking fertility drugs, collecting eggs and implanting embryos, and this can cost between £3500 and £4000. With your chances of conceiving between 15% and 30%, however, many couples will need more than one cycle to get pregnant.
Couples should think carefully about this when they're choosing where to have IVF. Clinics with the best success rates can be slightly more expensive. But even one less IVF cycle will save you thousands, so it's worth weighing the odds.
How Do I Know Kind Of Treatment I Need?
Clinics should run a number of tests on you and your partner, and take into account your medical history and needs before determining your treatment path.
'Fertility MOTs' for both parties can help to shed light on fertility problems and may mean that in some cases a more natural, lower drug (and therefore lower cost) treatment might be suitable for you. Avoid clinics that offer a blanket treatment to all patients, regardless of need, or that don't offer sufficient upfront testing to determine the causes of any fertility issues.
How Long Before We Can Start IVF?
The time needed for a healthy lifestyle to affect both eggs and sperm is three months. So both partners should aim to eat healthily, stop smoking, cut down on alcohol, and take beneficial supplements for three months before IVF treatment.
What Vitamins Can Help Me Through IVF?
Supplements of certain vitamins can make an enormous difference to both partner's fertility. Research published in Fertility and Sterility Journal found that men taking zinc and folic acid for 6 months increased their sperm count by 76%. Whilst women taking vitamin E can help older women producing less eggs per cycle. These are only a few studies, and many other vitamins can boost fertility. Choose a good quality supplement designed for fertility, and take for three months prior to IVF.
Stress can be a real killer for healthy fertility – which is the last thing couples want to hear when embarking on IVF. But there's plenty you can do to keep a healthy mind-set, both before and during treatment. I recommend acupuncture as well as aromatherapy and lifestyle changes. A relaxation CD for the dreaded 'two-week-wait' is also advisable, and we've developed one especially for this purpose.
The research is coming in that IVF is not as simple as implanting embryos. There is a significant mind and body connection which impacts enormously on fertility. I strongly recommend couples visit a clinic where they are treated as unique individuals rather than reduced to their sperm and ovaries. This means taking an integrated approach and assessing not just the reproductive organs, but your lifestyle, state of mind and overall health.
The Two Week Wait
For those undergoing IVF, the 'two-week-wait' is the period between implanting and finding out if pregnancy has occurred. As you might imagine it can be an intensely stressful and emotional time. Couples should plan ahead how they might best cope with this period, as staying as stress-free as possible is important – though easier said than done.
What Are The Alternatives To IVF?
Depending on your reason for needing IVF, treatments can vary. Be aware of the impact differing drugs might have on your emotions. Treatment where another woman's eggs are implanted may also raise extra issues to be discussed with both partners.
The aim of Natural Cycle IVF is to collect the one egg that is naturally selected by the body that month for use in the IVF process. Natural IVF works with the woman's monthly cycle and is carried out without the use of fertility drugs, so avoids any side effects. It is also much shorter, less stressful and more affordable than conventional IVF treatments.
The philosophy behind this treatment is to focus on the quality rather than the quantity of eggs and make sure that the very highest-quality embryos are produced and replaced in a healthy drug-free uterus.
Modified Natural Cycle IVF is a form of Natural IVF where a low dose of medication is given for 3-4 days in order to block spontaneous ovulation. A small dose of stimulation hormone is then given in order to keep the follicle healthy and growing. This method has the same benefits as Natural Cycle IVF, but has an improved success rate.
Mild Stimulation IVF is shorter and much gentler than conventional high stimulation IVF. It is carried out within the natural menstrual cycle and uses minimal doses of drugs ie 5-9 days of medication, rather than the 4-5 weeks of medication that is common during the conventional IVF process.
In Vitro Maturation (IVM) is the collection of immature eggs (rather than mature) from the ovaries, which are then matured in the lab using special and advanced culture conditions. This treatment option gives women/couples the chance to create a number of embryos while still retaining the benefits of Natural IVF.
What Are The Effects Of IVF On A Relationship?
There's no doubt that IVF can put your relationship under strain. The latest research from the University of Indiana showed that women undergoing IVF enjoyed sex less and experienced more sexual discomfort. This is in addition to the complex emotional issues which can surround getting pregnant, and IVF money worries.
Make sure you've talked with one another, and both understand what's involved. A good clinic will be happy to talk your through all the options and provide a couples counselling service if needed.
A Revolutionary New Assisted Conception Treatment Is Being Offered For The First Time By The Oxford Fertility Unit At The John Radcliffe Hospital.
In-vitro maturation - or IVM - is a safer and cheaper new form of treatment which has had a 30 per cent success rate, compared to around 10 per cent with normal IVF. IVM involves the premature removal of young eggs from a woman's ovaries, which are then matured in a laboratory, fertilised and placed into the mother's womb.
The main advantage of the treatment is that the woman does not need to take artificial hormones to force her ovaries to produce eggs. Professor Bob Edwards, who helped create the world's first IVF baby Louise Brown, believes that IVM will eventually replace IVF.
It's the hormone drugs which make IVF expensive and there are suspicions amongst experts that high doses affect egg quality. IVM is an all-round cheaper solution and it heralds a new era!
Mr Tim Child, Consultant Gynaecologist at the Oxford Fertility Clinic, and a Senior Fellow at the University of Oxford, has studied IVM extensively and said, "We're thrilled to be the first UK clinic to offer IVM as it gives the option of a treatment which is easier for the patient during what is often a very stressful time. The cost of drugs, which is often largely met by the patients, is also reduced, meaning IVM has the potential to become a more accessible form of fertility treatment."
Initially only women over 36 years of age with poly-cystic ovaries will be offered IVM but it is hoped the treatment will eventually be offered to all women.
Around 400 babies have now been born worldwide as a result of IVM treatment.