How to Choose the Best Fertility Clinic for You
Embarking on the journey of IVF can be overwhelming. A crucial aspect that plays a significant role in your success is the fertility clinic you choose. Your fertility journey involves so many more people than just your doctor, there is an entire army of embryologists, nurses, coordinators and others who all need to work hand-in-hand to ensure you get a great outcome. So, how to choose a fertility clinic that best suits your needs? As a fertility doctor myself, I have a unique insight into how a fertility clinic works and how seemingly non-obvious factors can have tremendous impacts to the chances of success. Here’s an insightful guide to making that critical decision. Not all clinics are created equal — but it can be hard to navigate finding a clinic you can trust will give you the best chance of success. I get asked about what I think matters all the time – here is a list (my opinion) of some of the most important things I would consider before choosing where to do IVF.
Key Factors Influencing IVF Success
It’s important to understand that the success of IVF is influenced by both personal factors and the quality of the fertility clinic. Personal factors include age, medical history, and general health. However, not all fertility clinics are equal, and choosing a reliable one can be challenging.
What to Consider When Choosing a Fertility Clinic
When undergoing IVF treatment, frequent visits to the clinic are necessary. Choose a fertility clinic that is conveniently located, as this will reduce the stress and inconvenience of long commutes for consults and daily monitoring.
The “Feel Factor”
How does the fertility clinic make you feel? Your comfort and trust in the clinic and its staff are vital. Pay attention to how well they listen and support you. If you feel neglected or uneasy, it might be wise to look elsewhere. Fertility clinics are a business at the end of the day, if you aren’t happy with your experience you should speak up and advocate for yourself, the best fertility clinics will immediately respond and look to rectify any concerns or issues you have with your treatment.
Expertise of the Doctor
When considering how to choose a fertility clinic, scrutinize the qualifications of the doctor. Ensure that your doctor is a double board-certified OBGYN and Reproductive Endocrinologist and Infertility (REI) specialist. If your doctor is not a credentialed REI, then stop right now! Board-certified REIs have undergone extensive training and have a deep understanding of reproductive biology that includes 3 additional years of fellowship training than a general OBGYN. Thus, an REI has the necessary understanding of your reproductive biology to safely and effectively navigate your ovarian stimulation, egg retrieval, embryo transfer and everything in between. I would strongly advise against having a consult or doing your IVF with anyone with lesser qualifications or experience. Confirm the credentials of your doctor before taking fertility advice from them!
Check the operating hours of the fertility clinic. It’s important that the clinic’s schedule aligns with yours to avoid conflicts. At the clinic I work at, RMA of New York, we start morning monitoring at 6:45am, which allows our patients to get their monitoring done while on the way to work. Make sure your clinic has at least one location accessible to you 7 days a week where you can go for any normal bloodwork and/or additional monitoring. Additionally, inquire about the availability of medical staff after hours and during holidays for urgent questions or concerns. Any reputable fertility clinic will have an emergency hotline that you can use to contact a nurse or doctor 24/7 for urgent issues and questions.
Ethics and Regulation
Investigate the clinic’s ethical practices, especially in terms of age cut-offs for treatments and embryo transfers. A reputable fertility clinic will provide counseling and have regulations in place to ensure responsible practices. If a clinic does not age cut-offs (ie. they would do IVF on a patient who is 49yo without hesitation, despite the negligible chance of success), or if they would willingly transfer multiple embryos in young, good prognosis patients, or those using donor egg – without counseling or question – that is a bad sign that there is lack of regulation and oversight in what they do.
The quality of the laboratory is a critical component in IVF success, but also very difficult to gauge as a patient. Ask the clinic about their lab techniques, equipment, and environment. A modern lab should utilize vitrification for freezing and grow embryos to the blastocyst stage (day 5-7). Inquire about average rates of fertilized eggs turning into day 5-7 embryos and thaw survival rates for eggs and embryos. Good labs should be able to grow 60% of fertilized eggs into day 5-7 embryos
An often overlooked aspect when contemplating how to choose a fertility clinic is the availability of support services. Ask if the clinic offers mental health support or nutritional guidance, as these can significantly contribute to a successful IVF journey.
Leveraging Third-Party Data
Consider looking at online reviews to get an understanding of other patients’ experiences. FertilityIQ is the leading fertility “review” site where patients report their experiences working with fertility specialists across the country. I’d highly recommend that prior to engaging with any fertility clinic or physician, look them up on Fertility IQ and read their reviews. You can find my profile on Fertility IQ here.
Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART)
SART.org is a reliable third party that most clinics report they data to. The data is subject to audit so it should be accurate. You can glean and compare facts about different clinics like how many embryos they typically transfer (the best clinics vector towards single embryo transfer, especially under 35). The numbers can be hard to figure out and compare because different clinics have different cut offs for who they will actually let cycle (some clinics have AMH cut offs below which they will not do IVF (we do not). Also live birth rate per retrieval is not an accurate assessment of success because it doesn’t account for patients who do multiple egg retrievals before a transfer because they want a certain # embryos before getting pregnant from transfer # 1. I think the best measure to compare is Live birth per patient in the <35 year old group – when that hovers between 70-80% that is a good sign re: success rates.
Knowing how to choose a fertility clinic is crucial for your IVF journey. Take into consideration location, your comfort level, doctor’s expertise, availability, ethics, lab quality, support services, and reviews. This comprehensive approach will aid in finding a fertility clinic that best suits your needs and optimizes your chances for success.
My name is Lucky Sekhon and I'm a double board-certified OBGYN, and Reproductive Endocrinologist & infertility specialist practicing at RMA of New York. My mission is to empower women with practical and scientifically accurate information to make the right fertility decisions for themselves.
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