How Not To Choose a Fertility Clinic

By Rhonda Levy), Empowered IVF

If you need help from a fertility clinic to become a parent, these are several basic facts you must be aware of before you choose one:

1.  There are an overwhelming number of fertility clinics to choose from in North America. In the United States, there are more than 450.  In Canada, there are more than 60. 

2.  Fertility clinics vary in quality and in their ability to help you have a baby.

3.  Your choice of clinic can impact whether or not you will have a baby at all, and how much you will endure physically, emotionally and financially in the process.

In order to maximize your chance of having a baby from the outset, and to avoid the emotional and financial hardship that is endured by those who unnecessarily experience multiple failed IVF cycles, I encourage you to learn how to choose a fertility clinic in an informed, logical and discerning manner.   I use the word "learn" deliberately because you really must become educated about this world before you enter it. 

Unfortunately, through no fault of their own, many people do not have access to the information they need to make smart choices.  I certainly didn't when, in the mid-90s, I first entered this world and learned how to make more effective choices only later in my journey. 

In the many years that I have been helping clients choose fertility clinics, I have identified a consistently flawed pattern in the way fertility clinics are typically chosen, as well as consistent negative consequences that result.  In this blog post, my goal is to raise your awareness of these common but ineffective approaches to choosing a fertility clinic so that you will use a more informed approach when choosing yours. 

The Flawed Ways In Which Fertility Clinics Are Typically Chosen Hearsay and Anecdotal Information

People often choose a fertility clinic based exclusively on hearsay and anecdotal information; they know or have heard about someone who has had success at a particular clinic and decide to seek treatment there as a result.  I agree that it is important to investigate the experiences of other patients who have been treated at a clinic you are considering. However, you must remember that while virtually every fertility clinic manages to help at least _some _of its patients have babies, what you want is a clinic that offers its patients the highest probability of having a baby.  Unfortunately, no fertility clinic on the planet is able to offer you a 100% likelihood of success, but your goal should be to choose a fertility clinic that can offer you the best possible chance of falling on the "right" side of the statistics. 

The Referral of a Family Doctor or Gynaecologist

Patients often choose a fertility clinic based exclusively on the referral of their family doctor or gynaecologist. The truth is that most family doctors and gynaecologists have only basic knowledge of the world of assisted reproductive technology (ART).   Although you might reasonably assume that it would be safe to rely on their referrals, they are often based on casual professional acquaintances rather than a deep understanding of the world of ART. 

Geographic Proximity and Lower Cost

Some patients choose a fertility clinic because it is close to their home or office, or less expensive than others. While there is no question that ART makes terrible demands on your time and money, if it is at all possible you should avoid choosing a fertility clinic based exclusively on geographic proximity or lower cost. In the long run, choices based on these criteria alone often turn out to be more time consuming and financially, physically and emotionally draining.  If the clinic is only average in quality, you may require multiple IVF cycles before you become pregnant.

Chemistry With a Particular Doctor

Many patients choose a fertility clinic because of their "chemistry" with a particular doctor who works there. There is no doubt that a warm relationship with a compassionate doctor is a very helpful stress reducer when you are using ART to build your family. However, a warm and compassionate doctor who is constrained by the limitations of a laboratory that is of average or poor quality will not be able to protect you from the heartache and despair of experiencing multiple IVF failures. It is important to first choose a fertility clinic because it offers maximum probability of success, and then choose a doctor at that clinic who makes you feel comfortable. Excellent personal chemistry with a doctor is a wonderful and welcome bonus, but it should be your secondary rather than your primary consideration.

The Negative Consequences of Making Fertility Clinic Choices In the "Typical" Way

Financial and/or Emotional Exhaustion

Some patients spin their wheels far too long at an inferior fertility clinic, exhausting their financial resources, and/or emotional strength, only to find that they are no longer able to proceed with treatment. Those who exhaust themselves financially also close the door to alternative means of building their families such as egg donation, embryo donation or adoption, which also require considerable financial resources.

Irretrievable Loss of the Window of Reproductive Opportunity

Others find that the most precious years of the female partner's reproductive life have been lost.  By the time they become aware of fertility clinics that offer higher odds of success, the woman is of advanced age and her reproductive potential is diminished.

Reliance on the Advice of Fertility Clinics That Are Constrained By Their Own Limitations

Some patients are counselled to build their families with donated eggs, not because IVF with the woman's own eggs will never work for them, but simply because the fertility clinic they have chosen is constrained by its own limitations. Many of these couples follow the clinic's advice and use donated eggs because they are unaware that they might have been able to have a baby with the woman's own eggs at a better fertility clinic.

Reliance on the Advice of Clinics That Have Particularly Rigid Entry Criteria

Some patients are counselled to pursue egg donation by clinics with particularly rigid entry criteria. What they often do not realize is that had they sought treatment at a high quality fertility clinic that accepted more challenging patients, they would have been offered the chance to try to become pregnant with their own eggs and might have succeeded in doing so. 

If you are about to choose a fertility clinic, this blog post may leave you with many unanswered questions.  It tells you how not to choose a fertility clinic, and encourages you to choose one that offers maximum probability of success.  But it doesn't tell you how to identify a clinic that will do so. Please follow me in the weeks to come.  I promise you I will be writing lots about that subject.  

Rhonda Levy is the Founder & CEO of Empowered IVF™, a consulting service that provides education, advocacy, and guidance to heterosexual and LGBT couples and singles living throughout the world who are interested in building their families with assisted reproductive technology (ART) in the United States and Canada.  Rhonda Levy's mission is to help clients of Empowered IVF™ navigate the world of ART in a discerning and informed fashion.  She helps her clients "own the process" so that they will make smart choices and decisions, and save time, money and heartache.  Services include, among other things, providing assistance with fertility clinic selection, the selection of fertility specialists (physicians), egg donor agencies, surrogacy agencies, embryo donation agencies, egg banks, sperm banks, reproductive lawyers and mental health professionals.   Clients also receive information about all of the subtleties and nuances of success rate interpretation, the latest treatment options, and their financing options.  Finally, Rhonda helps clients of Empowered IVF™ prepare for consultations and arrange second opinions.

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