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How to Choose the Right Fertility Clinic for You

How to choose the right fertility clinic for you?

How do you make sure you choose the best fertility clinic for your fertility care needs?

Many couples express confusion and frustration by the time they realize they are facing a fertility challenge. Many women are unaware how best to chose their fertility clinic if fertility preservation is wanted and/or needed.

Here is an overview of what you need to know before you choose the fertility clinic that best matches your needs and wishes.

Types of Fertility Clinics

You should be aware that there are different types of clinics available to you. There are pros and cons of each type. It is important to know that the type of clinic does not usually dictate the quality of patient care. There are 6 types of fertility clinics:

  • Sole practitioners
  • Small practices 
  • Large, full-service practices
  • Fertility networks
  • University-based clinics
  • Hospital-based clinics

Sole practitioners are known for their personal approach. Generally, you will have access to your doctor when you have questions or something comes up. 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.

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 is what to look for when assessing the potential fertility clinic’s quality of services.

1. Success Rates

While it is important to know the success rate of the 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 success numbers to be released in 2017 will report data for clinics’ success rates for 2015. A lot could have changed in the clinic in the last two years (i.e. personnel turnover, equipment may not be as up-to-date, 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 also may want to check how many women in your age category are treated at those particular clinics and if possible to find out 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 practice so you will want to find a clinic that has a lot of experience and has 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 numerous IVF treatment add-ons. The list is complex.

If you are thinking you will need to do 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 a year with a higher-than-average rate of success.

Make also sure that the fertility clinic or doctor you choose specialize in the type of infertility issue or condition that you are dealing with. There are many reasons a woman or couple are diagnosed with infertility, and for each diagnosis there are incredibly complex underlying causes. Look for a clinic that specializes in your specific fertility condition(s). If you have an undergoing chronic condition, look for clinics that are affiliated with large medical centers for improved care coordination and enhanced care continuation.

3. Adaptability

When it comes to fertility, you want a doctor that demonstrates an ability to be adaptable. Each fertility treatment that fails is an opportunity for further dialogue and treatment adaptation. Look for a doctor that will evaluate and adjust treatment in a meaningful, evidence-based, and contextual way with each successive treatment round.

4. Error Type and Rate

Every fertility clinic can make errors due to the complexity of diagnosis and treatment types in fertility care. Ask the clinic you are considering for a report of their clinical and clerical errors in the last year.

5. Embryology Laboratory

The quality of an embryology laboratory of a fertility clinic can directly influence the likelihood of success, so it makes sense to research the laboratory 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 the fifth day 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”
    • Atmospheric temperatures 
    • Ask about donor egg live birth rate outcomes

6. 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 that the billing department 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 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 help make your experience a good one. Having a billing department also helps with decreasing the cost surprise factor.

In Summary:

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.

In general, individuals tend to just go to a 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. Finding 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.

Opionato can help you walk through the process of fertility clinic selection and prepare you for the visit: what to ask and what to expect. Please let us know how best we can assist you.

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