With this in mind, I’ve compiled a list of seven questions to ask your fertility clinic; questions I wish we’d asked before embarking upon our treatment:
- How much does IVF treatment cost?
- What are your IVF success rates?
- What can I expect from IVF treatment?
- How much flexibility is there in IVF?
- What support is available during IVF treatment?
- What happens if my IVF cycle fails?
- What can I do to take control during my IVF cycle?
How much does IVF treatment cost?
As much as it galls me that this is such an important question, it is imperative to understand how much IVF treatment is going to cost. IVF is notoriously expensive. There can also be a number of hidden costs, which can appear seemingly out of nowhere and leave patients in a vulnerable position. It’s worth asking for a complete and personal breakdown of how much treatment will cost all in. I’d also recommend asking if, or what, packages may be on offer and whether the clinic offers any payment plans.
If you need to benchmark initial costs take a look at abc’s price list for reference.
What are your IVF success rates?
I’m always incredibly dubious of success rates. I absolutely understand their importance but at the same time; they don’t always give the full story. When looking at success rates, it’s crucial to ask about live births, as well as clinical pregnancies. I understand why my miscarriage was deemed as a pregnancy for the purpose of statistics, but it’s the live baby I wanted, not the loss. I’d also advise asking about the information which specifically applies to you and your individual circumstances; age, male factor, egg quality, how does the clinic perform in those areas?
Discuss how many cycles it takes, on average, for patients at the clinic to become pregnant and have a live birth; do these include frozen as well as fresh, and are their statistics based on per embryo transfer, per embryo transferred or per treatment cycle?
Really try to get a solid, overall picture of what your journey may look like. Also, don’t be afraid to ask; why should I choose you? What is it that makes this fertility clinic really stand out from the others?
Due to the completely unpredictable nature of fertility treatments, I understand that it’s hugely difficult for clinics to pinpoint the exact odds, but it’s only fair to ask them to be honest and transparent when it comes to your treatment.
What can I expect from IVF treatment?
This may seem like a very obvious question, but it’s one I failed to raise, when we embarked upon our first cycle, and was then left worrying about so many things. Ask the clinic to talk you through the entire process; how exactly does this all work? You might be concerned about the effects of the hormones upon your body, so ask how the drugs might make you feel. And what about drinking caffeine or exercise, am I allowed to continue as normal or should I tweak my lifestyle?
Then there are the practical questions too; how long is your waiting list? When can I see a consultant and start my treatment? What’s the timeframe of IVF and how much of a commitment is it? I’d also start a conversation surrounding the risks; what are the symptoms of OHSS (ovarian hyper stimulation syndrome) and is it likely I’ll be affected? What else could be a concern? Talk about ectopic pregnancy and miscarriage too; whilst I sincerely hope you won’t be affected, it’s worthwhile preparing yourself for all the realities of assisted reproduction.
How much flexibility is there in IVF?
IVF is tough, emotionally and physically, it’s also immensely time consuming and can feel like a full-time job. As most patients work during their treatment, managing the two can become an incredibly complex feat.
Definitely explore whether scans and blood tests can be arranged to suit your needs. Does the clinic offer early or late appointments, so that treatment can be fitted around your work, and your partner’s, if you don’t want to go alone?
Even though life may feel as if it’s on hold, in reality it isn’t, it continues and so does work and all that encompasses. It’s therefore highly beneficial to understand what flexibility is available before going ahead; undergoing fertility treatment is exceptionally draining and shouldn’t be made more burdensome due to unnecessary clinic rigidity.
What support is available during IVF treatment?
As much as I thought I was taking everything in my stride, I absolutely wasn’t and, as we were preparing for our first cycle, I had a complete breakdown. I believe it’s the responsibility of clinics to fully discuss, with all patients, the need for emotional support before, during and after any fertility treatments. I’m aware counselling isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, it wasn’t mine initially, but please do ask as you never know when you might need it, or what else might be available. Perhaps there’s access to a locally run support group, or fertility coaching could be an option. If these aren’t carried out at the clinic then ask for recommendations.
Chat to staff about how nurturing the clinic is too; will your consultant check in with you regularly, and how accessible are they once you have signed all the paperwork and are starting on your cycle? Is the treatment predominantly nurse or consultant-led? Decide what is important for supporting you throughout your journey and ask whether the clinic can help to make this happen.
On a practical level I’d also check what out of hours support is available from the clinic itself and what happens in an emergency. Many clinics operate a voicemail system so ask how long it will take someone to get back to you; whilst the issue itself may not seem urgent to staff, remember it is to you and therefore it is important. IVF can be an extremely anxious time and it’s only right that someone can get back to you swiftly and allay any fears you may have.
What happens if my IVF cycle fails?
Unfortunately, the fact is that IVF can and does fail and, when it does, it is confusing, frustrating and heart-breaking. Despite being advised that treatment might not work, it came as a huge shock when our first cycle didn’t produce the big fat positive, we were desperately hoping for.
You might not want to discuss this but what is the clinic’s procedure following a failed cycle? Ask how long it will take you to be able to see your consultant afterwards, and whether someone will check in on you.
What additional support is offered during this time too? It can become all too easy to simply forget those patients for whom treatment fails. Is grief counselling provided through the clinic, or support groups? And what level of care is available from staff?
The same also applies for early miscarriage and chemical pregnancies; clinics should fully support patients of every outcome, so please do ask what they have in place for these painful situations.
What can I do to take control during an IVF cycle?
Most people undergoing IVF refer to themselves as control freaks, and I was definitely in this category! Whether I’d started out as one, I’m unsure, but infertility made me want to grasp at anything I could do to maintain some semblance of the idea that I was in control.
Ask what foods are good to improve egg and sperm quality, does the clinic have a list, or a dietician who you could ask for advice? Are there any supplements which are clinic recommended, or practices which might help with anxiety or infertility related stress, such as meditation?
As much as there are ongoing debates as to whether holistic treatments actually make an impact on the outcome of any fertility treatment, you may find that something along the lines of reiki, reflexology or acupuncture may be valuable for self-care during your treatment; does your clinic have access to practitioners?
IVF often left me feeling as though I’d lost my dignity, this was through no fault of the clinic or the staff, merely down to the nature of the treatment and the procedures themselves. It’s vital to feel nurtured and in control of your body, during a time when life really does seem to be spiralling.
abc ivf have written a very useful guide on How mindfulness & positive thinking could help you.
And so ask! Take a pen and paper to write everything down and follow up if there’s anything you’re unclear on. I always felt that knowledge was power, which helped to arm and protect me during a vulnerable, scary and complicated time. Never feel embarrassed to voice what may seem like irrelevant or insignificant questions, because if they are important to you, then they are absolutely valid. And you can guarantee someone has asked it before!
I wish you luck with your treatment!
Do you need answers to these questions? Please read our FAQS section which has a lot of answers to questions that our patients have asked. Alternatively talk to the friendly team at abc ivf for some free and impartial advice.