If you are considering going abroad for fertility treatment, you may be interested in this article I wrote for a supplement for The Times earlier this week.
For many people, going overseas can be a cheaper option, and many return with positive stories about their experiences, but you do need to be aware of the facts and understand the differences you may find if you choose to have treatment outside the UK.
There are some great clinics across the globe, but there are also some that are not quite so great and you don’t have the protection that you have here in the UK of knowing that all clinics offering IVF are licensed and regularly inspected by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority. As you don’t have that luxury with clinics elsewhere, you do need to make sure you do your homework and research as much as you can about the clinic and the country to ensure that you are left feeling that you did the right thing in choosing to travel for treatment.
If you’re having fertility treatment in the UK, or if you have done in the last year, have you given feedback on your experiences at the clinic? The body which regulates fertility clinics in the UK, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), is keen for patients to give their clinic a rating which you can do here on their website. This feedback is anonymous, and is used to give the clinic a patient rating on the HFEA website so that anyone considering having treatment at the clinic will know what other patients think about it.
You can also add any particular comments or views which are seen by the inspection team who go into the clinic to check how well it is working. This is incredibly important as it helps give inspectors a view of how the clinic is doing from a patient perspective and allows them to look into any particular areas of concern – or to notice where a clinic is doing particularly well.
If everyone took a few minutes to rate their clinic after having treatment it would help promote best practice and ensure that more fertility patients are cared for by compassionate staff, feel involved in discussions about how to progress their treatment and receive exceptional emotional support. So, there’s nothing to lose and everything to gain – if you haven’t done it already, here’s the link again to give feedback on your clinic.
There are also a couple of very helpful videos on what it’s like to have IVF and ICSI. You can find out much more by having a look at the HFEA’s posts and you can follow for regular updates from the Authority.
If you are having fertility treatment, or have done recently, you may have been offered some additional extras on top of your IVF or ICSI. These additional treatments include things like time-lapse imaging, embryo glue, endometrial scratching or reproductive immunology. Not all clinics offer every type of additional treatment. Some may not suggest them at all, others include them in the price of IVF or you may be given the option to pay for add ons if you would like them.
Fertility Network UK, the patient charity, and the fertility regulator the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, or HFEA, is interested in finding out more about what you think about these add ons, how they should be offered and what you need in order to make decisions about whether to pay for them. Most of these add ons are not fully proven to increase your chance of getting pregnant.
If you have had treatment recently or are going through treatment currently, do take a minute to answer the short questionnaire to help them find out more about what your views are on this subject. You can find the link by clicking here
The fertility regulator, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, has just published its report on the number of incidents in fertility clinics. These incidents can be all kinds of things going wrong in a clinic from a patient suffering from hyperstimulation to a letter sent to the wrong person by mistake.
Incidents in fertility clinics are rare – they occur in less than one percent of the treatments performed in the UK fertility clinics – but each incident is one too many.
The HFEA’s annual report on fertility clinic incidents shows that the total number of incidents increased slightly but for the first time since the HFEA began publishing incidents reports, there were no A grade (the most serious) incidents reported at all.
HFEA Chair Sally Cheshire called on fertility clinics to substantially reduce the rate of incidents next year. She said “The UK’s fertility sector is one of the most developed in the world, and the high level of professionalism in the sector is highlighted by both the fact that fewer than 600 incidents were reported out of more than 72,000 treatments, and that no ‘grade A’ incidents were reported in the last year. We want to ensure clinics give patients the best possible treatment, so that they have the best chances of having the families they so dearly want. So, while incidents are already occurring infrequently, we want to see them reduce even further. I’m setting the challenge to all clinics in the UK to make sure that the overall number of incidents has decreased by this time next year. It’s not only ‘grade A’ incidents that can have an adverse effect on patients. All incidents, whether it’s a letter sent to the wrong address, or a case of ovarian hyper-stimulation, can have serious consequences for patients, and more has got to be done to make sure that fewer people are affected in the future.”
Have you had fertility treatment? Do you want to help others who are going through it too? The body which regulates fertility treatment in the UK, the HFEA (Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority) is looking for people who might be willing to share their story on the authority’s new website.
Fertility treatment can feel like the loneliest place on earth, but by sharing your story you can help thousands of other people who are struggling with fertility problems. It doesn’t matter what treatment you had, if you’re a man or a woman, how old you are or whether you were successful or not: the HFEA want a wide range of stories that truly represent the diverse experiences of people having fertility treatment in the UK.
To share your story please email email@example.com
The latest statistics for fertility treatment from the HFEA show an increase in the number of IVF cycles, with more than 52,0000 women having more than 67,000 cycles of treatment – a 5% increase on the previous year. The overall success rate has gone up very slightly too, to 26% and the number of higher risk multiple pregnancies is continuing to fall
For the first time ever, the statistics include success rates for frozen eggs but despite all the publicity about egg freezing, in fact the numbers of women opting to do this are still very small – there were only 102 treatment cycles using frozen eggs and average success rate was just 14%. There are geographical differences in treatment with far more fertility patients being treated in London than in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland combined. The postcode lottery means that just 41% of cycles are funded by the NHS.
Although the idea of twins or even triplets may seem a great outcome from your fertility treatment, multiple birth is the biggest risk of IVF and here in the UK clinics have been actively trying to reduce their multiple birth rates. Now a new report from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) shows that the percentage of multiple births has dropped from one in 4 in 2008 to one in 6 without any decrease in success rates.
More and more patients are opting to have just one embryo transferred, and the best clinics have a very good pregnancy rate with a low multiple rate. Some clinics in the UK now have multiple rates below 10% although nationally the figure is around 15%.
You can read more in the report from the HFEA and you can find a link and press release on the HFEA website. If you are in the process of choosing a clinic, it is important to look at the multiple rate as well as success rates as a low rate will give an indication that the clinic is thinking about the future health of you and your baby.
When people talk about IVF success rates, it isn’t always clear quite how important it is to take your age into consideration. Of course, your individual situation plays a role too, but if there is one key factor that you need to think about when you want to know how likely it is that IVF might work for you, it’s your age.
For older women using donor eggs, the success rates are higher as it is the egg quality and quantity which declines with age.
Feeling young at forty
If you take care of yourself, eat well and exercise, you may feel ten years younger than your biological age as you approach forty – but unfortunately looking and feeling younger doesn’t mean that your eggs stay young too. Looking after yourself can have an impact when you are having treatment, but it can’t turn back the biological clock.
Of course, it is only human to focus on the 5% success for a woman of 43, but the other side of this statistic is that 95% of IVF cycles for women of this age will not work. Going into treatment with your eyes open and being aware of these age-related success figures is important for anyone considering fertility treatment.