Cut price IVF – but at what cost?

Cut price IVF fertility servicesCost is obviously a factor for many couples considering undergoing IVF treatment to start or grow their family but as an article recently published in Fairfax newspapers discussed, it should not be considered in isolation of accurate information on success rates and your probability of taking home a healthy baby. The number of cycles required to achieve a successful outcome can start to add up financially as well as emotionally so that what looks low cost up front may not be such a cost effective option after all.

While newly established discount IVF clinics are advertising their service as quality fertility treatment without the “bells and whistles”, we believe couples making this difficult personal decision need to be aware of the potential differences in their chance of success at these clinics compared to full service clinics like Genea. After all, IVF is a medical treatment so it’s important to understand what’s considered “bells & whistles” in your treatment.

The three main points to consider when comparing IVF clinics and making what is a very personal decision:

1. IVF Success rates

Ask clinics what their success rates are compared to the industry average. Each year a report is released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare that shows exactly what the average success rates are, across all Australian and New Zealand clinics.

At Genea, patients have a 30 per cent greater chance of achieving a pregnancy than the average of all other Australian and New Zealand clinics combined[1].

Low cost clinics tend to deliberately give lower doses of stimulation to attain a small number of eggs. This could lead to more cycles being required for you to take home a healthy baby and therefore greater overall cost. A large study from Britain showed that the chance of pregnancy in young women was virtually halved if only two to four eggs were attained in an IVF cycle, rather than say nine to 14 eggs[2].

Some discount clinics also don’t offer embryo freezing/vitrification. This means there is no opportunity to store embryos that may remain after an embryo transfer from a fresh cycle. So if you are not successful on the first attempt the only option is for another stimulated cycle. At Genea, where we have additional embryos, we freeze them to minimise the need for further stimulated cycles. Rather than a “bells and whistles” service, we consider this standard protocol which means embryos can be frozen for future cycles instead of requiring a complete cycle re-start. Frozen embryo transfers cost much less than a full cycle re-start and led to more than 20,000 babies being born in Australia and New Zealand between 2005 and 2010[3].  Many in the IVF specialty have concerns that a combination of low dose stimulation and a lack of embryo freezing is financially unfair to patients.

Day 2 or Day 3 embryo transfers tend to be undertaken at low cost clinics rather than Day 5. Day 5 transfers have been shown to increase the chance of success because growing the embryos longer in the lab before transferring them lets the embryologist determine which embryos have the highest development potential and best chance of a successful pregnancy.

Less monitoring via blood tests and scans at low costs clinics means that there is less accurate prediction of follicle numbers and development for egg collection. This also impacts on the clinic’s ability to adjust drug dosages based on your body’s response to the treatment.

2. Personal care

Ask if you will have a dedicated doctor and support team, it makes a huge difference to the experience and can significantly impact on the success of your treatment. Will the clinic treat you when your body is ready, not whenever it suits the availability of their doctor?

At Genea, patients are allocated a dedicated team including embryologists, nurses and counsellors who all work closely with their chosen fertility specialist to support patients throughout their cycle. The team build strong bonds with our patients and knows and understands their clinical and personal history as a result of this personalised offering. Our patient satisfaction rate is currently 96 per cent.

  • At low cost clinics you may not receive sufficient pain relief or anaesthetic for your egg collection or embryo transfer. During these procedures it’s critical that you don’t move too much so appropriate medications can be critical to manage the right outcome and clearly minimise patient discomfort.
  • Low cost clinics employ a one size fits all approach to treatment so it’s not personalised for your needs or medical history. Indeed, patients are usually expected to take the contraceptive pill before the cycle starts, to “line everybody up” for egg collection at the same time. Too bad if your eggs are over or under-developed by that day!
  • Doctors can be on roster so you could have different doctors throughout your cycle.
  • Low cost clinics do not do pregnancy monitoring for the first seven weeks, meaning a lack of continuity of care and lack of support, particularly if there is a history of miscarriage.

3. Cost

Understandably, cost is a factor when selecting a clinic and so while it is important to understand how much is charged per cycle, remember too, that when success rates are not strong, you may need to undergo more cycles and that adds up.

At Genea, almost 90 per cent of our patients who have a baby do so within three cycles or less. We may cost more than other clinics but we are the only clinic that invests up to 10 per cent of our revenues annually in scientific research and development to improve your chance of success. And it shows, with a 30 per cent better chance of taking home a healthy baby – and that’s what matters most. We offer world leading fertility with a full service model of care while you’re going through treatment. Our patients are looking for the best chance and many need far fewer cycles to achieve their dream of taking home a healthy baby. A study showed that 66 per cent of patients under 36 who were unsuccessful at another clinic took home a baby with Genea.

At Genea it will take patients 1.5 transfers less to achieve a baby than the average of all other clinics in Australia and New Zealand combined[4]. There is not only a cost benefit to this (less cycles) but it can make a substantial difference to the time it takes you to achieve a healthy baby. Time is clearly a critical factor as well as reducing the emotional and relationship stress that can often occur after multiple cycles.

As Sandra Dill, chief executive of infertility support group Access Australia, was quoted saying in the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age, affordability of IVF treatment is an important issue but couples need to understand their realistic chances of success.

Considering these facts is an important stage in your journey but at the end of the day, often it is other people’s experiences which help us to make our final decisions. Read Kasey Edwards’ article for a particularly insightful and personal perspective on this issue.

[1] Data based on the Assisted reproductive technology in Australia and New Zealand 2010 publication and Genea’s 2010 submission to ANZARD. Genea’s 30 per cent greater chance is calculated based on live birth rates per embryo transfer at Genea compared to the average of all other clinics in Australia and New Zealand.

[2] Sunkara et al Human Reproduction 2011 – Association between the number of eggs and live birth in IVF treatment: an analysis of 400,135 treatment cycles.

[3] Assisted reproductive technology in Australia and New Zealand publications 2005 – 2010.

[4] ANZARD Data collection 2009.

Posted: 27/06/2013 4:28:49 PM by Elizabeth Gosch | with 1 comments
Filed under: IVF, IVF Cost, Success Rates
Thank you for great idea. this is really helpful. Thank you for sharing
14/11/2016 2:47:22 PM

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