.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.
1. What should I look for initially when choosing an 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.
2. What should I be aware of when looking at 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.
3. How does a clinic decide what 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.
4. I have read about conventional IVF, what are some other options that I may not have heard of?
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.
5. What about costs? What should I be asking?
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.
Professor Dr Geeta Nargund, Medical Director, CREATE Fertility
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