An increasing number of people consider travelling abroad for fertility treatment. The reason for this is the fact that certain types of treatment are not available in their home countries - egg donation for example, long waiting lists or treatment related costs. Anyone who has gone through or is going through IVF treatment is aware that this is emotionally demanding for any affected individual.
1. Create a ‘must-have’ list
Faced with lots of choices of clinics, many people have found that putting together a checklist of ‘must-haves’ makes the task of choosing a bit easier. Once you have read enough about the range of treatments, medical issues, processes, technologies, quality of care, etc., create a spreadsheet where you include pregnancy results, external evaluations of physicians, details about the lab and the team. Also, make sure that the clinic tests donors and couples for genetic diseases with specific screening tests in order to reduce the risk of hereditary diseases before pregnancy.
2. Choose quality internet sources
Read about the latest IVF treatments and technologies; the science on this medical field is continuously evolving and new products are being developed for the results to be improved.
3. Clinic experience
Not all clinics are expert at everything. Some clinics are more focused on specific treatments compared to others. For example, pre-implantation genetic screening is offered at most places, but usually only a few centres are specialised on this. The same applies to egg donation. Moreover, it is of high importance to choose a clinic that tailors everyone's therapy individually.
4. Patient experience
Doctors are the best source for answers to medical questions and well-educated patients know about the quality of care, pros and cons of clinics, evaluation of physicians, labs and teams, as well as prices.
5. Clinic results
Everybody wants good success rates. Ask the clinic details about pregnancy rates and multiples rates (twins, triplets, etc).
6. Price is not everything
Although IVF treatments are expensive and price could be a barrier to treatment for many people, choosing a low-cost facility may be risky or prove more expensive eventually, because more treatment cycles might be needed. Make sure that the final cost is appropriately explained as on many occasions there might be hidden costs. Finally look for the standards and practices of embryology labs: at least half of the success of IVF depends on the lab!
7. Arrange for an online consultation
During the online consultation, you can assess if the physician is not only professional and competent but also supportive. During the first consultation, a good doctor will discover important medical questions that might help you improve your success chances of becoming pregnant. Most IVF clinics offer free online consultations.
8. Waiting time for treatment
Ask the clinics about any waiting time for treatment. Some people spend a lot of time deciding on one clinic, only to find out that the waiting list is too long for them and they have to start all over again.
9. Take time to do research
Like anything in life, the more prepared you are, the better the outcome. This is a really important decision you are making so make sure you do your research.
10. Trust yourself
If you follow the previous 9 steps you will have completed some in-depth medical and market research. You have now enough data, opinions, impressions and experience (especially if you had a first online conversation) to make an informed decision.
Anthi Stamkopoulou, MD, MSc
Anthi is an Infertility Specialist at Newlife Center of Reproductive Medicine.