Are you thinking of going privately for fertility treatment, but don’t know where to start? You are not alone. The choices of clinics, specialisations, treatment types and tests had me confused to begin with, and I’m a doctor, I’m meant to know about these things.
Fortunately, I managed to work it out and I now use my real world experience to supplement my medical knowledge when advising the people who see me. Unfortunately, not everyone can be one of my patients, which is why I have created this simple to use Beginner’s Guide to Private Fertility Treatment.
It is broken down into easy to follow steps and in it you can learn:
- Why seeing your family doctor first can save you time and money
- Why not all fertility clinics are created equal and how to pick the right one for you
- Why finding out the cause of infertility can improve your chances of getting pregnant
- Why IVF is not always the answer and how to get the treatment that has the highest chance of making you pregnant
- How to save money by avoiding unnecessary services
Once you have completed the steps in this guide, you’ll be more confident about signing up with a fertility clinic and that the treatment is right for you. And while no fertility clinic can guarantee you get pregnant, following this guide may help to tip those odds in your favour.
Step 1: Visit Your Family Doctor
Before you go anywhere near a private fertility clinic, you should make an appointment to see your regular family doctor (also known as a GP). Not only are they the custodian of your medical records, they can also give you impartial advice and support. They can help you:
Understand what is available for free through your national health service
Many countries’ national health services cover the initial diagnosis of the problem. If you are lucky enough to live in one of these countries, you should consider going down the free route, as there are unlikely to any significant benefits of going private for basic services. After all, this is what you pay your taxes for and your doctor can help you understand what you might be entitled to.
They may be able to provide impartial advice about the private clinics in your area
Most doctors will have some knowledge of the private clinics in your area from the other patients that see them. This impartial advice, from the hundreds of people they see, may be invaluable when it comes to you choosing a private fertility clinic for yourself.
Keep your medical records up-to-date
Your medical records are a history of your health and help medical professionals to treat you. By informing your doctor that you are planning to go for private fertility treatment, they can update these records. Who knows when the information they contain may be helpful in the future.
Want to learn more about your visit to your doctor?
If you would like to learn more about what your family doctor will ask you, how they make their decisions, what the likely outcomes are and more, then check out the section: What to Expect When Visiting Your Doctor
Step 2: Choose a Fertility Clinic
Not all fertility clinics are created equally. They are independent businesses, with different services, procedures and equipment. Even if they are part of a chain, the individual clinics will have different doctors of varying levels of experience, with their own opinions as to the best course of treatment for you. Because of this, picking the right clinic could make the difference between having the baby of your dreams or spending a small fortune with nothing to show for it.
Start by carefully reviewing all the clinics in your area. Once you have settled on the two or three that sound good, go to their open days to see if you like them. If they don’t have open days, ask if you can have a free consultation with them.
When you speak with them, ask for the proposed diagnosis tests they would be taking to find out what is wrong with you or your partner (more on that later). If you already know the cause of infertility, ask them what they propose as a treatment plan. Note down what they tell you, what you liked about them and what you didn’t like about them. Then score each clinic on how you think they did.
Finally, pick a clinic that not only scores highly, but one where you liked the people and would feel comfortable going to. Fertility treatment is very emotional and there is a lot to be said about picking a clinic where you feel happy and relaxed.
If you would like a more details on understanding fertility clinic success rates, why location matters, clinic specialisations, what to look out for, treatment abroad and more, then check out the section: How to Choose a Fertility Clinic
Step 3: Find Out What is Wrong
Fertility treatment is least effective when the cause of the problem is not known. So knowing what the issue is that is preventing you from getting pregnant is fundamental because it will dictate what the best course of treatment for you will be. If you do not already know what the problem is, then you and your partner will need to go through some diagnostic tests to find the cause. There are two types of tests: Basic Tests and Advanced Tests.
Basic tests are the tests every couple that is experiencing problems getting pregnant should take. These tests are often available through your national health service at no cost to you. If they are available for free, there is unlikely to be much advantage of having these tests privately, unless timing is important to you. Having these tests done privately can allow you to fit them around work or skip long waiting lists, but you will have to pay for the convenience. If you would like to know what the basic tests are, what they look for and what they involve, then check out the section: Fertility Tests Everyone Experience Problems Getting Pregnant Should Take
There are a number of advanced tests for both men and women that are only available through private clinics. Whether you need to have one of these tests or not depends on the results of the basic tests. Sometimes, private clinics will suggest you go for advanced tests before you have completed the basic tests. This will cost you extra. To avoid unnecessary cost, ask the clinic to give you clear reasons as to why they want to take these advanced tests before completing the basic tests. You can then make an informed decision if you want them at this stage or not. After all, if you lost your house keys, you wouldn’t keep searching for them once you’d found them. So why pay for more tests than you need to find the problem?
Step 4: Get a Treatment Plan
Once the private clinic knows what is wrong with you, they should present you with a written treatment plan. Ask them to talk you through it in plain English and don’t be afraid to ask questions about anything you don’t understand. There are three key things you should bear in mind while reviewing this plan with them: what are the risks, what are your personal chances of success, and what other treatments might be available.
What are the risks
The treatment plan should clearly state not only the risks to you, but also any risks to the health of the potential baby. Make sure that these risks take into consideration your specific situation and are not just generic risks that can be applied to anyone.
What are your personal chances of success
Like risks, the success rates of getting pregnant quoted on treatment plans might be generic. Ask for your personal chances of success based on your specific problem and personal circumstances such as age and lifestyle.
What other options might be available
All too often, fertility plans suggest you go straight for IVF when other cheaper and simpler methods may be available with a similar (or better) chance of success. These alternatives are also usually safer and carry less risks than IVF, so you really have nothing to lose by asking if other treatments are available.
Alternative treatment options to IVF may include ovarian stimulation, inducing ovulation, intrauterine insemination, and follicle tracking. For some couples, the best option may be losing/gaining weight, cutting down on smoking or drinking, timing when to have sex, or simply trying for a bit longer.
Get a second opinion
If you are unhappy with the treatment plan, you don’t have to accept it. Any diagnosis results from the fertility test belong to you and you can take them to other clinics and ask what they suggest as a treatment plan for your situation.
Step 5: How Not to Get Ripped Off
It is a sad fact of life that in every industry there are a few individuals who abuse the system for their own profits. The private healthcare industry is not immune and there are a small number of doctors and clinics who are more interested in putting money in their own pockets than helping you with your dreams of having a baby.
Fortunately, these individuals are few and far between. But make no mistake, whether they have your best interests at heart or not, private fertility clinics are businesses that are looking to make a profit. If you know what to look for though, then you’re less likely to be taken advantage of.
The headline costs advertised by some clinics can be misleading. This is because they may not include things like drug costs, anaesthetist costs, scans, etc. Because of this, when you are given your treatment plan, ask if this is the total amount you can expect to pay or if there are other costs that are not mentioned in the plan. Also check that the total cost you are being quoted includes tax, as you don’t want to be hit with an additional VAT charge later on.
Many clinics offer additional services on top of the basic treatment. Often these add-on services are not necessary or have no scientific proof that they increase your chances of becoming pregnant. Usually you will be charged for each add-on, every time you have a treatment cycle and the cost of these services can quickly add up. These add-ons range from simple services (homeopathy, hydrotherapy, reflexology, etc), to more scientific sounding ones (embryo glue, endometrial scratches, multiple ejaculation resuspension and centrifugation, etc). The lists of these add-on services is constantly growing and very few of them have any scientific evidence of improving your chances of becoming pregnant. If you are offered an add-on service, ask to see the scientific evidence proving it increases your chances of getting pregnant.
The above are the more common ways that you can be exploited by fertility clinics. If you are interested in a more in depth look at the bad practices, profiteering and dirty secrets of fertility clinics, please check out the section: How Not to Get Ripped Off by Fertility Clinics
Step 6: Next Steps
Private fertility treatment is very expensive and some couples take several goes before they become pregnant, so you’ll want to make sure you give it your best shot at working. Because of this, I recommend you check out the section Simple Lifestyle Changes to Boost Female Fertility. Not only will they boost the chances of the fertility treatment working, but who knows, you might get pregnant naturally after making these changes. There is also a section for increasing male fertility: A Man’s Guide to Supercharging His Sperm
If you’ve followed the steps above, you should feel confident in selecting a private fertility clinic and treatment that is best for you. Hundreds of happy couples have babies every day thanks to the assistance of private fertility clinics, I wish you all the best and hope you soon become one of them!