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What to look for in a clinic

Private fertility treatment can be very expensive so you’ll want to make sure you’re investing in the right clinic for you. However, with so many clinics to choose from, deciding which one best meets your needs can feel a bit overwhelming. Find out more about what to look for when choosing a clinic.

Starting the process

If you’ve been trying to have a family for some time, there’s sometimes a temptation to get on with treatment as soon as possible.

However it’s really worth taking some time to understand your diagnosis, learn about the different treatments and add-ons and research the right clinic.

The more informed you are, the easier it will be to make key decisions throughout your treatment and the more in control you’ll feel at every stage of the process.

This is a complicated field, but with a little preparation and research you’ll be able to start your fertility journey in the best possible way: being as prepared as you can be for what’s round the corner.

Factors to consider when choosing a clinic

Some of the factors you may wish to consider when choosing a clinic include:

  • treatments offered
  • eligibility criteria
  • cost
  • location (bear in mind you’ll need to make multiple trips to your clinic, sometimes at short notice)
  • how other patients have rated the clinic
  • how our inspectors have rated the clinic
  • the clinic’s birth and multiple birth rates
  • waiting times for donor eggs or sperm (if applicable)
  • counselling provision.
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Eligibility for treatment

There are no age limits for fertility treatment in UK law so the decision on whether someone of a certain age can be treated is down to their clinician.

Clinicians need to decide whether a patient’s health will allow them to go through treatment and a possible pregnancy, and weigh any potential health risks against their chance of conceiving through IVF.

We also require 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.

Understanding the data

It’s understandable that many people will focus exclusively on success rates when comparing clinics, and it is certainly important that you choose a clinic with success rates comparable to the national average.

However, differences of just one or two percentage points are often down to chance rather than being a reflection of a clinic’s abilities: a clinic that’s performing particularly well one year may have lower success rates the following year and vice versa.

In these cases, if you’re comparing two or more clinics, you may want to consider the multiple other variables (cost, location, patient ratings) to find a clinic that meets all your needs and expectations rather than deciding on success rates alone.

Search for a licensed clinic

Multiple births

A multiple birth (twins, triplets or more) is the single greatest health risk to both mum and babies. After IVF/ICSI, you’re around 11 times more likely to have a multiple pregnancy than you would be if you'd conceived naturally.

The risk of a multiple birth can be reduced by transferring only one embryo to the womb (elective single embryo transfer or eSET) rather than two or three.

It might seem hard to believe, but for most women having IVF, transferring one embryo is just as successful as transferring two, as long as you have a second frozen embryo transfer if the first doesn’t work.

Because of the health risks, we have a policy that only 10% of IVF births should be multiple births. When looking for a clinic you should look for one with a low multiple birth rate but a high success rate to maximise your chance of having a safe and healthy pregnancy.

Find out more about the risks of fertility treatment

Patient ratings

Whilst we can easily compare hard facts like costs, success rates and treatments offered, it’s much harder to get a sense of what it would really be like to be treated at a particular clinic. Everything from how caring the staff are to how easily you can book or amend an appointment can contribute to a good (or bad) experience.

Talking to others about their experience of a clinic can give you an indication of how well a clinic is meeting its’ patients needs. To encourage this kind of information sharing we ask people who’ve had fertility treatment to rate their clinic in five areas. You can see how patients rate their clinic by searching for a clinic.

Inspection ratings

Part of our role as a regulator is to inspect clinics every two years against a number of important standards which, as a patient, may not be at the forefront of your mind when you’re researching clinics.

These include whether the clinic stores patients’ eggs, sperm and embryos safely, whether they have the appropriate equipment and facilities to deliver safe, effective treatment and whether they have suitably qualified staff.

To help you to make an informed decision, we publish an inspection rating which indicates how well the clinic is performing in all these areas. A five star rating clearly marks the clinic out as providing a high quality service in all the areas we’ve identified.

Search for a clinic to see their inspection rating and more detailed inspection report.

Counselling

Many women and men say that going through fertility treatment was one of the hardest things they’ve ever had to do. Being confronted with family, friends or colleagues starting their families can be a painful reminder of your own difficulties, even when you’re happy for their good fortune.

Counselling can help you to handle those feelings as well as coping with any disappointments you may suffer on the way. It’s as essential as any other component of your treatment and should be a key factor you consider when choosing a clinic.

Although every licensed UK clinic is required to offer you counselling, how they practically deliver on that commitment can vary. Some clinics may have a counsellor available onsite so you can talk to them whenever you need to, whilst others might refer you to a counsellor who’s only available at certain times during the week. Talk to your clinic to find out how their counselling service works.

Find out more about getting emotional support

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Review date: 28 February 2019