There’s a lot riding on IVF treatment. Plus, going through IVF can take a significant toll, physically, emotionally, and financially. That’s why even considering IVF and taking the initial step of reaching out to clinics is a big deal.
As a patient and someone hoping to become a parent, you want to make sure that you’re choosing the right healthcare provider for your situation and that they are as invested in IVF being successful as you are. What’s more, you’re likely to have a list of questions about IVF, what it entails and its outcomes.
Everyone’s prior knowledge of fertility treatment will be different, as will their concerns. However, it can be helpful to have a bank of key questions you can ask when having your first consultation which can then be expanded upon depending on your unique circumstances.
To help you get prepared, we’ve put together some suggestions of questions you should ask if you’re considering IVF. We also spoke to our CEO, Jenny Taft, and Dr Tomasz Lukaszewski, Consultant Gynaecologist at IVI London to gain their valuable insight too.
Dr. Tomasz Lukaszewski is a highly skilled fertility specialist and experienced Obstetrics & Gynaecology consultant with a PhD in fetal medicine. He is passionate about assisted reproductive technologies and has a proven track record of helping countless couples achieve their dream of parenthood. With his expertise and dedication, he continues to advance the field of fertility through his contributions to prestigious fertility conferences worldwide.
Questions to ask during an initial IVF consultation
Asking a clinic questions about their approach and how they will tailor IVF treatment is a great way to determine whether they are the right provider for you. During an initial consultation, the clinician you speak to should give you ample time to ask questions and be happy to answer them. Some common questions that people ask when considering IVF include:
What are your clinic’s success rates?
Each fertility clinic should be able to provide you with up-to-date statistics on their IVF success rates, further broken down by age categories. Many providers will have this information on their website for you to access freely and the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority also publishes such data. These statistics won’t tell you how likely it is that your IVF treatment will be successful, but they can help instil confidence in a provider and allow you to compare their results to national averages.
Is there anything I can do to prepare for IVF?
IVF can be very intense so it’s a good idea to find out if there’s anything you can do in advance that will help you navigate it. Advice will be different between individuals but might include making lifestyle changes, adopting healthy sleep habits, or creating a support system. If using donor sperm or eggs for your treatment, then things to do before commencing an IVF cycle will include selecting a known donor or one from an approved bank and mandatory counselling.
Are there any tests I need before starting IVF?
If you’re considering IVF, you might already be aware that you are experiencing infertility. Perhaps you have had a sperm analysis that has indicated low motility or received a PCOS diagnosis. However, it’s also possible that you have been trying to conceive naturally for some time with no success but don’t know why. The clinician should ask about your medical history and personal circumstances. With this information, they will be able to give you an idea of any tests you’ll need before starting. These may include a semen analysis, hormone testing, ultrasound, and hysterosalpingography (HSG) to check if your fallopian tubes are clear. If you decide to pursue IVF, you’ll also need to have blood screenings for HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C before you can start.
How long do you anticipate my IVF cycle will take?
This is a bit of a ‘how long is a piece of string’ question, as it can differ significantly depending on the individual and their treatment plan and can change as treatment progresses. Whether your plan includes downregulation, the ovarian stimulation phase, and the type of embryo transfer will all impact the length of an IVF cycle. On average, one cycle of IVF takes between four and six weeks, but a clinic should be able to give you an approximate timeline for your particular treatment plan.
What protocol would you recommend for me and why do you believe this is the best option?
An IVF protocol refers to the medications that will be used to prepare the body for egg collection and embryo transfer. There are traditional IVF protocols such as the antagonist protocol, which is the most commonly used protocol, as well as downregulation protocol and flare protocol. There are also alternative protocols such as estrogen priming. A clinic should be able to tell you which protocol they think will work best for you and why, and also explain any tweaks or additions they intend to make to truly tailor your treatment.
What are the possible risks and side effects of IVF medication and procedures?
Fertility treatment is generally very safe, with most people who undergo treatment having no problems. However, it can give you peace of mind to be aware of any risks and side effects. Any clinician you speak to should explain risks including Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS) and the likelihood of multiple births, ectopic pregnancy, and possible birth defects. They should also be able to tell you or signpost you to information about the side effects of the medication they recommend for your protocol and explain the physical side effects of stimulation and egg retrieval such as bloating, bruising at injection sites and breast tenderness.
What will IVF treatment cost?
This is another question that has no clear-cut answer as the price of IVF treatment can vary drastically depending on the initial testing required, the protocol and amount of medication required, the type of transfer and whether donor sperm or eggs are being used. Plus, private clinics can set their own prices, meaning there can be a big difference between providers. Transparent pricing is important though, so a clinic should be able to provide you with a clear list of costs, including everything from blood tests and anaesthetic to sharps kits and embryo storage.
Are there any add-ons you think would help?
When undergoing IVF, there are optional add-ons that you might be considering or that a clinic may recommend. Examples include intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), endometrial scratching and an elective freeze all. Asking about these will help your understanding of their benefits and enable you to make an informed decision about whether to go ahead with them.
What are my personal chances of success?
When we talked to Dr Tomasz Lukaszewski, Consultant Gynaecologist at IVI London, here’s the advice he shared:
“If there’s one question to ask, it should be: “What are my personal chances of success?”
“At their first appointment, I always explain to my patients that the chances of having a baby with IVF depend highly on their unique circumstances – such as their age, medical history, lifestyle choices and overall health. As a fertility specialist, I believe it is crucial to help patients manage expectations when starting IVF.”
““It can be a challenging journey, and having realistic expectations will help make the highs and lows easier to manage. Understanding your chances will also allow you to make an informed decision about whether IVF is the right option for you. No fertility clinic can guarantee success, so please be very wary of such claims. A good clinic will evaluate your situation in detail to provide a personalised prognosis and be completely transparent about your chances. They’ll also show you where you can go for support in the event of an unsuccessful outcome.”
Who are the clinic’s embryologists and how experienced are they?
Our CEO and co-founder Jenny Saft started Apryl after undergoing her own egg-freezing journey and experiencing first-hand the sense of overwhelm that can arise when seeking a fertility clinic that feels right. Therefore, it seemed fitting to find out her thoughts about questions to ask when considering IVF:
“At Apryl we help people who are seeking fertility treatments explore their options and find the right clinic. So, we’re often the first port of all for people who have questions about IVF.”
“Another great question to ask your fertility doctor is “Who are the clinic’s embryologists and how experienced are they?” The quality of the embryologists will determine the quality of the egg fertilisation process in the lab.”
“An IVF consultation can feel daunting. So, preparing the questions you want to ask in advance can help you ensure you cover everything and don’t forget to ask about something that’s important to you. Don’t be afraid to ask difficult questions and ask again if the answers you’re given aren’t clear.”
IVF facts and figures:
- 1 in 6 people globally will experience infertility.
- More than 50,000 people have fertility treatment every year in the UK, some through the NHS and many through paying for private care.
- Over 1.3 million IVF cycles have been performed in the UK since 1991.
- One round of IVF costs approximately £5,000 in the UK – but sometimes more. There will often be additional costs for consultations, medication, and embryo storage.
- The success rate of IVF depends on the age of the woman having treatment, as well as the cause of the infertility. In 2019, the percentage of IVF treatments that resulted in a live birth was 32% for women under the age of 35; and 4% for women over the age of 44.
- One cycle of IVF can take between three and six weeks.
General advice posted on our blog or website or app is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Apryl makes no warranties regarding treatments, coverage, or chances of success.