Top 10 considerations when choosing an IVF clinic
The following is a list of issues to consider in choosing an ivf unit. They are not listed in order of importance and the priority of each point will be different for each couple. Nevertheless, these are some of the most important things to consider when making your decision.
1. Remember IVF clinics are not all the same
In embarking on a journey where most couples know very little (and why would they?), it is a good start to understand that IVF varies. The clinics vary, the drugs vary, the protocols vary and the success rates vary. Information can be empowering and enable you to make the right choices. IVF clinics are there to help but they are also competitive businesses. In our experience consultants’ ideas on what constitutes best treatment can vary greatly. Obviously for those receiving treatment under the NHS there may be little or no choice in clinic.
No one wants to be doing IVF. So, getting this phase of life over and moving onto to the next is important. It is very possible for one clinic to offer a couple a success rate of 23% while the same couple could be offered over 50% elsewhere. Doubling your chances is a big difference.
Success rates can be all be found on the hfea website, where although it is not particularly easy to compare and contrast success rates, it is worth the time and effort. That said, the different specialties of clinics and their different acceptance criteria means like for like comparison of published results may be difficult to interpret.
3. Specialist expertise
Certain clinics can become known for becoming specialised in certain areas – for example older patients, poor responders, previously unexplained cases etc. Some have greater leaning to genetic testing others to implantation issues. It is often useful to have a clinic that matches your situation.
A clinic may see you anywhere between 7 and 25 times during the whole process. Just choosing a clinic because it is on your doorstep alone might not be the right thing to do, but spending hours commuting, especially when trying to balance the rest of your life and work, is perhaps not the best choice either.
IVF is expensive. There’s no getting around it and most of us don’t have thousands of pounds spare lying around. Treatment can vary between £5,000 to £15,000, and it is sensible to know what you are in for before you start. Check the detail. Most clinics will list a price for IVF but what that cost includes varies. It might include blood tests, it might not. It might include scans, it might not. Drug costs can vary considerably depending on your dosage. In addition some clinics do far more comprehensive testing from the outset.
Ask around. IVF is so common now that there will definitely be people around who can give you good info – friends, friends of friends, colleagues etc, If 1 in 6 couples is having fertility treatment, you must know some of them. And if that’s not right for you, the internet can provide a useful source. Support groups and forums provide the largest exchange of useful (and unfortunately useless) information around.
For many couples, statistics may be the sole important factor. For others, how they are treated as people and cared for can have a huge bearing on their experience. Going through IVF can be an emotionally challenging experience and some clinics will be more supportive than others in this respect. Smaller units may offer more personal care and continuous contact with one consultant.
8. Opening hours
For many couples going through IVF, other responsibilites in life must continue at the same time. Work obligations or childcare also have to be met. Some clinics will open early, some open. Some will be more flexible about appointment times, other will expect everything to be dropped immediately. Knowing in advance about the opening hours of your clinic can be very useful. It is also very easy to find out whether a clinic generally runs to schedule or whether it tends to run very late.
9. Opening days
IVF clinics can vary from being open 7 days a week to being open 3 days a week. When a clinic is open 3 days a week, it may mean your appointment schedule is structured and predictable, it also means that important functions such as your egg collection or embryo your embryo transfer will occur when the clinic is open and not necessarily when it is truly the best time for your treatment.
10. Clinic requirements/criteria
Finally after choosing your clinic, it is a good idea to make sure they will allow you to start treatment. Clinics have differing criteria on allowing couples to do treatment. Some have cut-off criteria for age, FSH levels, AMH levels etc.
Remember that if a particular clinic says they won’t treat you, this is not necessarily all doom and gloom. Clinics make these judgements on a variety of reasons. Your best patient interest is not the only variable.