Failure to achieve a planned pregnancy is a tough situation for any couple. They often cope with feelings of inadequacy or guilt, so that the barrage of fertility tests that usually follow can become quite overwhelming.
If all else fails and a decision is made to seek help at a fertility clinic, then having minds clouded by emotion can lead to hasty, poorly considered and very costly errors in judgment. Choosing the right fertility clinic takes careful research and much discussion regarding various aspects of treatment.
Why counselling is important prior to any fertility treatment
What key considerations you should make in choosing the right clinic
What to keep in mind when comparing clinics
Because of the complexity of the issues that may be involved, professional counselling is strongly recommended prior to consenting to any suggested treatment.
Talking Through Testing Times
A reputable and responsible clinic will arrange that couples consult with a counsellor about the implications of various fertility treatments.
Counsellors will ensure that prospective parents are aware of all the options at their disposal, the precise methods involved in specific treatment strategies and the physical and psychological effects that these may have.
Complicated issues can arise where sperm, eggs or embryos are to be acquired from donors, or when surrogacy is considered. All elements, including any legal issues related to donor-conceived children, need to be thoroughly explored.
A number of crucial questions also need to be asked of a clinic before a final decision is made on whether it is to be entrusted with your care. The table below lists a few of the more important.
|Has the clinic distinguished itself in any particular area of infertility treatment?||Have any of the doctors on staff been acknowledged by others in the profession for their specific methods of treating infertility and for the success rate it achieves.|
|What is the staff turnover rate and, in particular, how long has the medical director been at the clinic?||Dedicated professionals tend to stay at institutions where constant research and a commitment to exploring new avenues in the treatment of infertility have shown the potential to produce ground-breaking results. Clinics such as these are also far more likely to attract those eager to learn and to build a meaningful career in medicine.|
|What is the success rate achieved by the clinic?||It must be established whether a clinic’s success rate is below, consistent with, or above the national average. Couples should also determine how many treatment cycles a clinic carries out and how many of these result in live births. This can be difficult due to a range of factors, but consulting a reliable database such as that of The Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority will provide invaluable assistance.|
|What are the benefits of the suggested treatment and why is it considered the best choice?||Numerous treatment options are available and couples should determine why a particular treatment is considered to offer them the best chance of conceiving. They should also question whether other methods are viable should the preferred treatment not succeed. The risks of multiple births and the implications of that must also be explored, as this is among the greatest health risks for both mother and babies.|
The tabled questions are certainly not the only enquiries that should be made of a fertility clinic. The availability of the latest in infertility technology should also be determined.
It is also important to establish how many treatment cycles are allowed before another option is explored, or treatment is stopped altogether. Some clinics place an age restriction on the acceptance criteria and couples will have to determine whether they are eligible for treatment.
Other factors are more difficult to determine.
Comparing Fertility Clinics
The success rates of fertility clinics are judged according to how many treatments were carried out in a two-year period and how many live births resulted. This means that the current conditions under which a clinic operates may not be represented fairly.
Judging the success rates of various clinics is not an exact science due to a host of variables. Based on patient diagnosis, fertility clinics may have performed more of one particular procedure and less of another in comparison to other clinics.
There are, however signs that should deter couples from certain fertility clinics.
When clinic staff are too busy to answer all of a couples questions, it is a good indication of the prevailing attitude. It is also important to remember that no fertility clinic can guarantee that a live birth will result from any particular treatment and any such promise should signal an alert.
A reliable database such as that of the HFEA can be an invaluable resource in choosing the right fertility clinic.