Choose a fertility clinic

How to choose your clinic

Choosing a fertility clinic is a very personal decision and the criteria that matter to you will depend on your circumstances. When choosing the best clinic for your needs, you may want to consider the following:

Services offered 

Does the clinic offer the treatment that is best for you? What about other services you may want such as a support group or free counselling? Use the Choose a Fertility Clinic tool to find clinics which offer the treatments and services you require.

Eligibility for treatment

Some clinics have age and body mass index (BMI) criteria for treatments. Others only treat private patients. Contact your shortlist of possible clinics to find out if you are eligible for treatment there.

Eligibility and funding information is also included on each clinic’s page on Choose a Fertility Clinic.

Location and opening times

How convenient is the location? If you choose a clinic that is further away, you may be able to have certain treatments at a local hospital (known as a satellite or transport centre). This will save you travelling to the clinic for every test and treatment, making it more convenient.

You may also want to choose a clinic which has opening times that are most convenient for you – for example, a clinic which offers early morning appointments.

Waiting times

What are the waiting lists like for treatment? The clinic’s page on Choose a Fertility Clinic shows waiting times for appointments. If you are using donor sperm, eggs or embryos in your treatment, it is worth contacting a few clinics to research how waiting lists compare for donor treatments.

First appearances

When you contact or visit the clinic, think about how you feel there and about the way staff treat you. Ask lots of questions so you feel fully informed about the treatment they are recommending. If possible, talk to other patients to hear their personal experiences of the clinic.

Cycles of treatment attempted

Find out how many cycles (rounds of treatment) are attempted before trying another approach or stopping treatment altogether.

Embryo transfer policy

Clinics may replace up to two embryos in women under 40 and a maximum of three in women aged 40 or over. Transferring more than one embryo increases the risks of multiple births, the single biggest risk of fertility treatment (more on p79), so you may want to consider the following:

  • What is the rate of multiple births for the clinic?
  • How do you feel about this and the risks associated with multiple births?
  • How does the clinic minimise the risk of multiple births?

You can find out more about multiple birth rates at clinics using our online Choose a Fertility Clinic search function. For each clinic we show firstly whether treatment resulted in a live birth and secondly whether a single baby or multiple birth occurred. Your clinic should recommend single embryo transfer (SET) if you are at a high risk of having a multiple pregnancy. Further information is available at the One at a time website.

Support groups and counselling

Having emotional support is very important when going through fertility treatment. An HFEA-licensed clinic must offer you an opportunity to talk to a counsellor about the implications of your suggested treatment before you consent to it.

Some clinics offer this service free while others charge for it. When researching clinics, you may want to ask about this and whether they have any support groups you can join.

Faith and language issues

Does the clinic provide services in a way which fits in with your religious or cultural beliefs? If needed, you may also want to find out if the clinic offers interpreters and/or translation services.

What does the HFEA inspection report say about this clinic? 

Our inspection reports are available online as part of our Choose a Fertility Clinic search function. They can be useful in helping you find out more about how a clinic operates.

Success rates 

It’s only natural for you to want to know your chances of success. Choose a Fertility Clinic provides data on success rates for every licensed clinic, showing the number of treatments carried out in a particular year and the number of pregnancies and births that resulted. These success rates should be used only as a general guide. You should not use them as a personal prediction of your own chance of success.

We show a clinic’s success rates in three different ways:

  • whether the success rate is above, below or consistent with the national average
  • the number of treatment cycles a clinic carried out and how many resulted in a birth
  • the predicted chance of a woman giving birth if she was treated at that clinic.

The success of an IVF or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) treatment can be measured by looking at how likely it is that a birth will result from a treatment cycle or from each embryo transferred. We show both in our figures.

Directly comparing the success rates of clinics is not useful because:

  • clinics treat patients with different diagnoses, which affects the average success rates
  • most clinics carry out too few cycles each year to reliably predict a patient’s future chance of success
  • the live birth success rates relate to a period of treatment from about two years ago and may not be a good indication of success rates at the same clinic today.

The majority of clinics’ success rates are around the national average.

Why do success rates differ between clinics?

Success rates can be affected by:

  • the type of patients a clinic treats (age/diagnosis)
  • the type of treatment a clinic carries out
  • a clinic’s treatment practices

A clinic that treats proportionately more patients with complicated diagnoses may have a lower average success rate than a clinic that treats more patients with common fertility issues.

Clinics may have higher success rates for treatment if they treat women who have no male partner and are using donated sperm in their treatment. This is because the women are likely to be fertile and the donated sperm will be thoroughly screened and of a high quality.

How can I see success rates relevant to me?

Choose a Fertility Clinic shows the type of patients each clinic treats, including their age and diagnosis and how long they have been infertile. This may help you identify clinics that treat patients with similar needs to you and also puts the success rates for that clinic in context.

Success rates are broken down by treatment. With IVF and ICSI, we also show separate outcomes for fresh or frozen embryos. If you are using donated eggs, the success rates are not broken down by age. This is because donated eggs come from women aged 35 or younger. The age of the egg donor, rather than your age as the recipient, determines
the success of the treatment.

Clinical pregnancy rates

Where an ultrasound scan has shown at least one heartbeat, this is a clinical pregnancy.

Clinical pregnancy rates can give you more recent data. This information is also available on the clinic’s page on Choose a Fertility Clinic under ‘Take a closer look’. However, as not all clinical pregnancies will develop into live births, these rates do not offer a complete picture.

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What are the age limits for fertility treatment?

There is no age limit for fertility treatment in UK law. The HFEA does not set any age limits for treatment either.

A clinician must decide if it is appropriate for treatment to be carried out, particularly whether the patient’s health will allow them to go through the treatment and the potential pregnancy.

The HFEA requires clinics to carry out a Welfare of the Child assessment before starting any treatment. This looks at factors which are likely to cause serious physical, psychological or medical harm, either to the child to be born or to any existing child of the family.

The HFEA does set age limits for donors.

Clinic and NHS criteria

Each clinic will have its own guidelines about who they will and will not treat. Local health funding bodies (PCTs and health boards) also set criteria for fertility treatment funding. Both clinics and NHS criteria may include age limits.

Age limits abroad

Some patients seek treatment abroad because a UK clinic will not treat them because of their age.

Anyone seeking treatment abroad should make sure that they are fully aware of the issues and risks beforehand.

Page last updated: 06 January 2015

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