05 May 10 Vital Questions IVF Patients Must Ask
Cost, quality and success rates – the key stats your fertility clinic needs to tell you. And their information needs to be accurate and honest. Here’s our list of the 10 most important IVF questions patients ask.
1. What exactly is IVF?
IVF (or in vitro fertilisation) is the most common form of assisted reproduction. Fertility medication is used to stimulate multiple follicle development in a woman’s ovaries. Eggs are retrieved using laparoscopic techniques and mixed with your partner’s sperm. Any resulting embryos are left to develop over two to five days and monitored for quality. One or two viable embryos can then be transferred back into the uterus. Good-quality leftover embryos can be vitrified (frozen) for repeat treatment.
2. Who invented IVF?
Bob Edwards, the British scientist who died in April 2013, was a key pioneer of IVF treatment. It took him many years to develop the technology, which is still improving. IVF is now accepted as a mainstream medical procedure. Read our tribute to Bob Edwards here.
3. What’s the upper age limit for IVF treatment?
The starting point for any fertility treatment is a medical assessment of both partners. Age-wise, 42 is often considered the maximum age for IVF with a woman’s own eggs. This is because egg quality decreases with age – and it declines steeply after 35. A degree of realism is needed. At aged 40, a woman’s chance of a live birth following IVF is under 20%. By 43, it’s under 5%. If you have leftover embryos from a fresh cycle, you can have repeat treatment via a frozen embryo transfer. These are often more successful than fresh transfers for older women.
4. How much does an IVF cycle cost?
It depends on the clinic you choose. Private treatment in the UK, including medication costs, tests, scans and additional fees, can be as much as £10,000 per cycle. Many UK couples now go abroad for their IVF treatment, where the total price for everything (including travel and accommodation) can be 50% cheaper. IVF is limited on the NHS: it’s a postcode lottery. Also, unfair exemptions apply.
5. Where can I have my IVF treatment?
Anywhere in the world – you’re not limited to your country of residence. UK citizens considering overseas treatment usually choose to have their treatment in mainland Europe. As well as being logistically easier than flying to Australia, fertility treatment in the EU is highly regulated.
So you can have peace of mind that European laws protect you and ensure your treatment is of a high standard. Don’t believe those scare stories in the tabloid press about having IVF abroad. If it’s in the EU, you’ll be well looked after.
6. Is IVF medication as expensive as people say?
It depends on your treatment protocol – and where you buy the medication. IVF drugs using your own eggs can cost anywhere between £300 and £1,200. Getting a range of quotes is a good idea. Sometimes clinics, or IVF agencies, have access to discounted medication. Drugs for frozen embryo transfers (FETs) and donor-egg recipients are cheaper but can still mount up. For example, progesterone-in-oil injections and Clexane (a blood thinner) are pricey in some countries.
7. Are there any side effects to IVF drugs?
There can be. Mood changes, nausea, fatigue and difficulty sleeping are common complaints, but a short IVF protocol may alleviate these. Donor-egg recipients are down-regulated with a strong single injection. You may get menopausal-like side effects, but nothing too unbearable.
8. How successful is IVF?
A successful IVF cycle – i.e. one that results in a live birth – depends on many factors. The general health of the couple, ovarian reserve, maternal age, sperm quality and genetic factors. The clinic you choose, and the competence of each staff member, is also important. For data on success rates, ask your clinic. Not all clinics present their results in the same way. Some even mislead. For the excellent clinic we used, here are their success rates.
9. How many IVF cycles will I realistically need?
That’s related to your personal situation, and your clinic. Some people get lucky first time. Others have to endure multiple cycles. Statistically, start by looking at clinic success rates for your age group. Also look at FET stats, since follow-on cycles are a common path to successful treatment in the end. To check your clinic’s consistency of care, compare success rates from a previous year.
10. Is IVF with donor eggs more successful than normal IVF?
Almost always. Good-quality donor eggs are likely to come from someone younger than you. If your uterine environment is good but your own eggs aren’t, donated eggs may the answer. Success rates (live births) can be 10 times higher than IVF with your own eggs. Get advice from your consultant – and speak to your partner. It worked for us.