Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe by Thora Negg

We spent months looking and searching for a clinic in the UK for IVF. We managed to see a few, but there are over 140 fertility clinics and embryo research centres in the UK alone!

We discovered that each clinic appears to focus mainly on one particular aspect of the ‘getting-pregnant-and-having-a-baby’ biological process as their specialist area of treatment and expertise. They also sing their own praises about their work and results so far, and rightly so.  The amount of scientific work and research that goes into it blows my mind.

Alongside the traditional fertility treatments (of IUI, IVF & ICSI) each clinic offers up their own particular mix of belief system and areas of specialist know-how.  

Some offer a more holistic approach, offering hypnotherapy and acupuncture alongside treatment, others might focus on reproductive immunology tests, while some steer couples towards genetically screening the embryos (officially known as pre-implantation genetic screening, or PGS) to check for chromosomal abnormalities. There are so many options, it’s hard to know which path is the right one to take. Even the fertility fairs tend to be organised by a particular clinic, so impartiality is rare.

The clinic will become a significant part of your life, with which you share delicate details and daily dealings.  It may create the most touching moment in your life (producing a baby!), or it may not; either way it is an emotional journey full of highs and lows.  So, it’s important that the right one is selected for each couple’s unique set of needs and requirements.

There is one unbiased source of knowledge and information to go to for guidance and help, which I cannot underestimate as an invaluable resource

It shines a statistical light of truth on clinics, to reveal the real, illuminating facts. It is the independent Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority – the HFEA.  Not only does the HFEA regulate and licence the clinics ensuring that they all adhere to a recognised standard, they also – crucially – display their success rates. HFEA also rates the ‘Ad Ons’ offered by so many clinics. Choosing a fertility treatment provider can seem like an overwhelming process, but the HFEA turn fiction into cold hard facts, enabling couples to make the best possible decision. No one is expected to be an expert in any of this so that is where the wonderful HFEA website is there to help.

Here is my step-by-step approach to choosing a clinic

Have a look on the HFEA for the clinic’s overall success rate (remember, it is an overall measure, not a prediction of your success) to make sure they’re in line with the national average).

Have a look at the clinic’s ‘live birth’ success rate for your age and situation.

Location is key as it will be visited a lot so ensure it is as convenient as possible. Clinics sometimes have different sites for different procedures, so check where you might travel to throughout your entire cycle treatment.

Determine what ‘Add On’ (if any) is important to you and how is this rated on HFEA’s website. All can be checked for their effectiveness here

Check they use a transparent traffic light system – yellow means the initial results are good but more is needed and red if there is no evidence to show that it is effective and safe.

Price and how does it compare to the others and is it in your price range.

How other patients have rated the clinic.

Visit the clinic on their open days and events and chat to the consultants and specialists, do you agree with what they say?  Does their method make sense and agree with your own beliefs? What did you think of the lead consultant? Do you like them?

Choose a consultant that you click with: not only does what they say have to make sense

It’s crucial that everything they say can be explained in layman terms – a really good consultant should be able to do this. It’s also important that the consultant answers all the questions you and your partner may have, so you don’t feel rushed.

Throughout my search for a clinic the word “instinct” came up quite a lot and “follow it”. But for me, my fertility problems completely muffled my instinct. And I began to doubt all kinds of lifestyle decisions I might have made prior to treatment.  

I have since come to realise that I have done nothing to bring this situation about, but when you doubt yourself, it can be hard to hear your own voice.

Instead I found that the best solution was to wait a while after a visit, let the opinions, the people, the treatments, the processes wash over you and talk about them to your partner. Then see which clinic has an inner pull.  It takes time to reconnect with this part of you when you’re not feeling great, but it does happen – just give yourself time.

Most of all I’m grateful that we have the funds to do it.  Yes, we had to sell off the family silver and the house is falling apart, but at least we have the chance to make it happen.  And at my age (38), IVF is only 15% successful, but 15% is better than 0%.

Good luck my fellow fertility struggling friends,

Thora Negg x

DISCLAIMER

IVF is a gamble and everyone’s fertility journey is unique.
I am not a medical professional, fertility coach or psychologist.
I have no idea what my story will be, but I will share it openly and frankly.
Hopefully it will provide you with hope and reassurance.
And don’t forget, underneath all the totally justified, mixed-up emotions, there is still a strong woman at the core – follow your instincts and forgive yourself, this isn’t your fault X

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