One in every six couples has difficulty in having a child.
Although as many as 80% go on conceive in the first year , with 90% conceiving within two years, but for the remainder, the only option may be assisted conception procedures such as IVF.
Choosing fertility treatment is an emotional and financial commitment and finding the right fertility clinic is one of the main decisions which needs to be made
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Which fertility clinic is best for you?
When seeking IVF treatment you may have already discussed your fertility problems or need for a donor with your GP. Now that you have decided to seek further help, the first decision you need to make is what clinic is best for you.
There are a number of factors to consider when choosing a clinic and your personal preference will let you decide which factors are more important for you. The Human Fertilisation and Embryo Authority (HFEA) recommend that you do not base your choice solely on the 'live birth rate'. "You should also consider the treatments offered how comfortable you feel with the staff and the surroundings, what information and counselling is offered, the cost, and the location of the clinic. Take your time before you make a final decision and explore all the available options."
Fertility clinic success rates
Often couples choosing a clinic will consider the success rates or live birth rates. Fertility experts suggest that a good rate is about 30 per cent. "Not all clinics will have the same success rate so you do need to check this out. You want to make sure you are getting what you pay for."
However, many live birth rates are misleading as clinics will record their rates differently and you do need to be aware of how they compile their statistics. For example some clinics only treat younger women, which will in turn give a higher percentage of live births.
Fertility clinic Location
While having fertility treatment you will need to visit your clinic regularly and it is important to decide how you will get there and how long it will take. "Fertility treatment is very stressful, so you do not want the added stress of travelling too far. Also, if anything goes wrong - if you start bleeding for example - you want to be able to get back to the clinic quickly."
It is also a good idea to visit the clinic to get a feel for the environment. Does it seem friendly? Are the staff helpful and willing to answer questions? Do you feel comfortable there? At such an emotionally and physically stressful time, it is important that you are happy with the clinic you choose.
Cost of fertility treatment
The cost of fertility treatment is often one of the deciding factors for many couples. Every clinic must give you clear information on its current charges, including the cost of any 'extras' such as drugs or surgery.
Each cycle of IVF - taking the drugs, collecting the eggs and implanting the embryos - can cost between £3,500 to £4,000. On average, most women become pregnant after three cycles of IVF, a total cost of nearly £12,000. But prices will vary from clinic to clinic.
In the UK about 25 per cent of IVF treatment is funded by the NHS, although the Government has now launched plans to offer one free attempt to women under the age of 40 years, starting in April 2005.
Fertility Treatments offered
There are several different fertility treatments available for couples looking for assisted conception but not all of the 88 fertility clinics registered in the UK offer all the treatments. If your GP or specialist has suggested a certain type of treatment it is worth asking your prospective fertility clinics if they carry out the procedure.
Typical treatments available are:
- Donor Insemination (DI)
- Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)
- In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF)
- Intra-cytoplasmic Sperm Insemination (ICSI)
- Embryo freezing
- Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD)
- Pre-implantation Genetic Screening for Aneuploidy (PGS)
- Gamete Intra-fallopian Transfer (GIFT) with donor sperm 8. GIFT with donor eggs.
If you decide to freeze eggs or embryos, it is worth finding out what storage facilities the fertility clinic has and whether it has access to donor sperm, eggs or embryos.
Fertility treatment - Counselling and support
HFEA licensed clinics must offer by law therapeutic and implications counselling before you consent to treatment. This is where a counsellor can talk to you about the treatment you are having, or plan to have, so that you understand exactly what it involves and how it might affect you and those close to you - now and in the future. It will also cover the legal implications.
Some clinics also offer a Patient Support Group(PSG) but not all so it might be worth looking into this before you decide.
Questions when choosing a fertility clinic
Choosing the right clinic may seem daunting for you but it helps if you prepare a list of questions in advance before visiting any units.
Deciding on fertility treatment is an enormous investment, both financial and emotional. Therefore before choosing a fertility clinic it makes sense that you should talk to more than one before deciding.
The following are questions you may wish to ask when visiting fertility clinics:
- What are the facilities like for patients?
- Do you feel confident and comfortable with the people you meet?
- Do they have time to spend with you showing you around and answering your questions?
- Is there a support group - and what facilities are available for counselling (see Counselling and support above)
- What are the success rates compared to the national average? While success rates are important, makes sure you also look at the variety of treatments undertaken at each clinic and ask your consultant to provide an assessment of your own chance (see Success rates above)
- Ask for a copy of the 'Statement of Purpose'. This is a document required by the National Care Standards Commission to be available for inspection by patients at any time.
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