After the amazing response to Hayley’s IVF journey, I contacted the clinic the Taylors used for their treatment. I had a bunch of questions I needed answers to and their representative was more than happy to help out. This post will be a write up of those answers. I hope you find this as interesting as I did.
One of the first things I wanted to understand about IVF treatment was the demand. The representative confirmed that there is an increase in the amount of people seeking IVF treatment. There is ‘more awareness’ and ‘more acceptance of the use of technology and treatment to have a family’ and a variety of reasons why someone may use IVF. Women are choosing to leave it later to have children, this can have an impact on fertility and lead to a need for fertility treatment. The ‘success rates using frozen sperm, eggs and embryos means fertility can be put on hold’ this is useful for people needing chemotherapy for example. The clinic sees ‘lots of second relationships where one partner has a family and may have a vasectomy’ so IVF is used in this situation. A growing group at the clinic is their LGBTQ+ patients that ‘choose the safety and reassurance of a licensed clinic if they need donor sperm’. Shared motherhood is also growing incredibly ‘as more women become aware of that option’.
With this increased interest in IVF I also wondered who decides how many rounds of IVF get covered by the NHS. I’ve heard it referred to as the “postcode lottery” as the funding is determined by the your local CCG (clinical commissioning group). The local CCG sets the budget for their area and each area across has a ‘different criteria which determines funding’, for example: ‘age, weight, previous children, smoking/not smoking, type of treatment etc.’ This means ‘your NHS funding is decided by the street you live on!’
The clinic that Hayley and Sam used for their treatment was CARE Fertility‘s Nottingham centre. The clinic’s aim is rooting in a belief that ‘family is for everyone’. I am reminded that they ‘can’t promise a baby – [they] wish [they] could!’ They do provide all of their patients with ‘accurate, transparent information and [offer] a treatment that is individual to them’. What the clinic can promise their patients is ‘kindness, empathy and support from experienced nurses, doctors, scientists and support staff’. They do ‘everything [they] can to achieve a successful outcome’ and, if the treatment is unsuccessful, they ‘help patients move forward with a different treatment’ or ‘deciding to stop treatment’ which can be ‘very painful and distressing’. Sometimes they have to ‘acknowledge that the chance of success is very slim’ and they have to ‘help [patients] come to terms with that fact’.
Most of the clinic’s enquiries come from their website because their ‘potential patients can check [their] results, treatment options, fees and check out reviews on Trustpilot’ but they also offer ‘free information events’ at the clinic. The events allow new patients to ‘come and meet the team, look around and ask questions before deciding to choose CARE’ Fertility. Patients can make an appointment for a free one-to-one visit with the ‘patient liaison teams’ and have ‘another chance to check out the clinic’. These visits and enquiries allow patients to find the ‘right place’ for them to have IVF treatment. Having treatment is a ‘very private and emotional time for most people’ so it’s important that they can pick a clinic that is ‘comfortable and feels at home’.
IVF is an emotional process as well as a medical one. The ’emotional impact of infertility can be devastating’. Many people going through IVF treatment have a ‘tendency to keep treatment private’; they don’t talk to family or friends even though the ‘monthly reminder that you are not pregnant can be immense’. Patients go through ‘a long wait to be diagnosed, may have had treatment else or are embarking on a different route – perhaps donor eggs.’ The clinic is ‘well aware’ of the toll treatment can have and they offer a variety of support. Patients that ‘take up counselling find it beneficial’ and they ‘wish they had tried it sooner’. CARE Fertility have ‘specialist counsellors who are available before, during and after treatment’, ‘walk and talk days in the countryside’, a ‘CARE buddy scheme’, and a ‘dedicated patient support co-ordinator’. The walk and talk days give patients an opportunity to talk to others in similar circumstances’. The buddy scheme offers a similar experience online as it puts patients together 24/7 and provides ‘forums dedicated to each stage of treatment and beyond’. CARE Fertility guarantees that ‘there is always another patient who can help and give advice and support whatever time of night or day’. Many of CARE Fertility’s staff have ‘had fertility treatment themselves and want to support patients through and on to a successful outcome’. All of their staff are ‘experienced and understand the potential pressure having IVF can cause’.
The NHS says that 1 in 7 couples have difficulty conceiving so I wanted to know what advice the clinic had for those struggling to conceive. The main message they gave was ‘don’t delay asking for help’; if you are trying for a baby and it’s taking too long – then see your GP’. This advice is especially pertinent to those aged ’35 and older’. ‘Most people do conceive within a year of trying’; it may be that the solution is ‘really simple’ but if you do need more help to conceive don’t hesitate to ‘seek medical advice, talk to your friends or visit the CARE [Fertility] website’. ‘There are lots of people who are struggling’ – ‘you are not alone’.
So, what does the future of IVF look like? With the advances in IVF knowledge and technology the clinic expect to see an increase in the likelihood of the procedures working. ‘New treatments, new medicines, additional therapy and tailored treatments for individuals all help to target [their] efforts for each person’. The clinic assess monitor their patients carefully because ‘there is no “one size fits all”’. Often these tailored treatment plans include ‘suggesting alternative testing or treatment such as pre-implantation genetic testing or use of donor eggs or sperm to increase the chance of having a successful pregnancy’. Improvements in lab technology and freezing processes have ‘significantly increased’ the success with frozen embryos. The clinic is already able to do a lot for couples trying to conceive so it will be exciting to see the progress made in the future. Currently, during the first cycle of IVF, the clinic can see ‘how a patient responds to medication; the information from that one cycle can ‘help inform the clinicians and the patient for subsequent cycles if the first doesn’t work’. They can ‘check egg or sperm quality’, ‘monitor embryo development using time lapse incubation’ (known as ‘CARE maps’), monitor the lining of the womb and observe any abnormalities during ultrasounds.
There have been more than 40,000 ‘CARE babies’ born and CARE Fertility are ‘looking forward’ to the next 40,000.
I’m so grateful for the chance to ask questions directly to CARE Fertility and get an insight into the amazing services they offer. This discussion was incredibly useful for me to understand the IVF treatment procedures further. I’m excited to see what the future holds for medical advances in IVF and am hopeful that the stigma around discussions on infertility, miscarriages, and getting help continues to decline.