Dealing with a fertility challenge can be frustrating in and of itself. Choosing the best fertility clinic doesn’t have to contribute to the stress and confusion. Here’s four things to consider when choosing a fertility clinic for your fertility care.
Types of Fertility Clinics
There are several types of fertility clinics available to you - with pros and cons of each type. It is important to know that the type of clinic doesn’t usually dictate the quality of patient care. There are 6 types of fertility clinics:
Large, full-service practices
Sole practitioners are known for their personal approach. Generally, you will have 1-1 access to your doctor when you have questions. On the contrary, if you choose a very large clinic you may see different doctors on each visit and you might be dealing with nurses and clinic staff more often than a physician. Larger clinics also have an in-house embryology laboratory, more equipment and resources than a smaller practice.
A fertility network is a group of fertility clinics that have joined together as one organization. Fertility networks have the advantage of offering several different financing packages.
Fertility clinics at university centers and large hospitals often conduct medical research studies. This usually means that you may be offered a discount if you choose to be included in an ongoing research study. These types of organizations have access to a significant amount of resources, are often well funded, and can offer lower rates.
Fertility Clinic Quality Indicators
Here’s what to look for when assessing your potential fertility clinic’s quality of service.
1. Success Rates
While it is important to know the success rate of the fertility clinic you are considering, there are a few caveats to consider. Success rates are collected and published by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) every year, but it takes two years for the CDC rates to become available. So the data to be released in 2018 will report for clinics’ success rates for 2016. A lot could have changed in the clinic in two years (i.e. personnel turnover, outdated equipment, possible changes in the finances of the clinic, etc.). You can access the CDC rates here: Annual ART Success Rate Reports.
You should look for the type of treatment performed, number and outcome of ART cycles. You may also want to check how many women in your age category are treated at those particular clinics, and for what condition. When you are considering a fertility clinic, request their success rates publication and compare it with the published CDC rates.
2. Types of Services
Different fertility clinics offer different services and may only have a certain range of experience. For example, most clinics offer egg freezing but many have never thawed a single egg. Freezing and thawing eggs is an extremely delicate process that requires expertise so you will want to find a clinic that has a lot of experience and data to demonstrate success outcomes.
Start by determining the types of services you know you need to get started. Since there is a continuum of fertility treatments available, make sure the clinic and doctors you choose match your time and speed preference with their availability and are in alignment with your personal wishes and budgetary needs.
Some of the more common treatments include hormone injections therapy, unstimulated cycles, often called "mini-IVF”, IVF with ICSI plus many other IVF treatment add-ons. The list is complex.
If you think you will need IVF, make sure you find a clinic that has a great deal of experience with IVF. Look for clinics that do 150-200 IVF cycles per year with a higher-than-average rate of success.
Also make sure the fertility clinic or doctor you choose specializes in the type of fertility issue or condition you suspect you are dealing with. There are many reasons a woman or couple are diagnosed with infertility, and for each diagnosis there can be incredibly complex underlying causes. Look for a clinic that specializes in your specific fertility condition(s). If you have an underlying chronic condition, look for clinics that are affiliated with large medical centers for improved care coordination and enhanced care continuation.
3. Embryology Laboratory
The quality of an embryology laboratory within a fertility clinic can directly influence the likelihood of success, so it makes sense to research the lab associated with a potential clinic. Here’s what to ask:
What is your fertilization rate? (70% is acceptable)
What is your blastocyst conversion rate? (40 – 50% by day 5 is acceptable)
What is the background and experience of the embryologists?
Tell me about the culture conditions in your laboratory:
Type of incubators – “desktop” are better than “big box”
4. Billing Department
Most patients that purchase IVF services will spend between $40,000 - $50,000 on fertility treatment, and most will pay with cash. It is incredibly important for the billing department to be organized and provide you with accurate receipts and statements. Disorganization and lack of accounting systems can cost couples thousands of dollars in mistakes – and often the error is never discovered.
Look for fertility clinics that have a financial coordinator that can work with you on payments and financing if you need it. While a good billing department may not directly impact whether or not you have a baby, it can certainly improve your experience. Having a financial coordinator also helps with decreasing any potential surprise fertility costs.
As you can see, there are several things to consider when choosing the best fertility clinic.
Fertility clinics and doctors differ dramatically. Finding the best choice for you takes an effort on your part because you need to familiarize yourself with what’s available and what truly matters to you. And often you may not know what you do not know.
It may be tempting to just go to a fertility clinic that is conveniently located to home or office but ultimately may not be the best choice for your condition, needs, and/or wishes. Determining the quality of the clinic and how it fits your goals and needs is imperative. Choosing the best fertility clinic and doctor can make the difference between success and failure. It is important to take time, be diligent, and listen to your inner voice.
If you are still unsure which direction to go, Opionato can help you navigate the process of choosing a fertility clinic and prepare you for the visit - what to expect, what questions to ask, and what treatment to undertake.
Opionato (www.opionato.com) is your trusted go-to fertility expert accessible at anytime from anywhere. We assess your fertility potential and provide next-step fertility advice so your path to pregnancy is short and stress-free.
Opionato started with one woman’s personal fertility experience and the vision to give others what she lacked. Read Maja’s story here: https://www.opionato.com/blog/what-i-wish-i-knew-my-fertility-journey.