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Choosing a fertility clinic for self-funding IVF is notoriously stressful, not to mention a tad confusing! SteadyHealth reviews five East England fertility clinics to help you decide which can best meet your personal needs.

Do you live in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, or Norfolk, and are you hoping to have privately-funded IVF treatment closer to home rather than travelling to London or elsewhere? Being treated at a fertility clinic close to you will save you time and reduce stress during a notoriously turbulent time of your life, but you'll be asking yourself — what is the best fertility clinic near me?

Those people who don't qualify for IVF on the NHS face the hardship of having to pay for their treatment out of pocket, but they do have the chance to evaluate the merits of all their local and semi-local clinics, and decide which fertility clinic will best meet their personal needs of excellent care and the best odds of success. Just how do you go about choosing a fertility clinic in the UK, though?

We’re reviewing five fertility clinics offering IVF and a range of other treatments in East England:

  • The Herts & Essex Fertility Centre, based in Cheshunt, HFEA-licenced since 2010 and deemed to be a “medium-sized clinic” by this UK fertility watchdog. [1]
  • The Bourne Hall Fertility Clinic, a large clinic group with locations in Cambridge, Colchester, King’s Lynn, Norwich, Peterborough, and Wickford. [2]
  • Cambridge IVF, a small but experienced clinic licenced since 1992 and governed by the Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. [3]
  • Simply Fertility, licenced since 2013 and based in Chelmsford, Simply Fertility is part of the Fertility Partnership, which has fertility clinics all over the UK. [4]
  • The Brentwood Fertility Centre, the result of a partnership of Nuffield Health and the London Women’s Clinic. Note that, while Nuffield’s website doesn’t make this clear, the London Women’s Clinic’s site says that your egg collection, fertilisation and embryo assessment and transfer aren’t performed at the clinic itself — for this, you have to travel to the LWC’s Harley Street lab in London. A London Women’s Clinic representative was able to confirm this for us. [5,6]

What Treatments Do Fertility Clinics In East England Offer?

All of five clinics offer both IVF and ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection — a procedure in which a single sperm cell is injected directly into an egg cell, used in cases of male subfertility) [7], all the necessary standard pre-treatment investigations, and frozen embryo transfers. All clinics recruit egg and sperm donors and offer egg sharing programmes — a collaboration between two women, one of whom receives high-quality eggs from the other, while the other benefits by getting IVF treatment for free or at a highly discounted price. The Bourne Hall Clinic and Herts & Essex Fertility Centre additionally offer sperm sharing to eligible patients.

As they are obliged to do by law, all clinics offer counselling, something the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) rightfully considers an integral part of fertility treatment [8] — nine in every 10 patients undergoing fertility treatment report feeling depressed, after all, and the emotional support counselling offers can help you get through this time more easily.

All the fertility clinics are able to conduct blastocyst cultures and transfers — this means embryos that are five, six, or seven days old will be placed into your uterus [9]. While three-day embryos were routinely transferred not too long ago, blastocyst transfers are now on the rise.

Blastocyst transfers aren’t right for everyone, but they do allow for the selection of the most viable embryos if the embryos get to that stage. Assisted hatching, a technique that can improve your chances of pregnancy if you’ve been through implantation failure before, if you’re over 38, or if you have poorer-quality embryos, is also offered at all clinics.

Surgical sperm collection, also called surgical sperm retrieval, helps men who produce sperm cells but aren’t able to ejaculate them naturally. This may be caused by an obstruction of the tubes that carry sperm to the penis, by a prior vasectomy, by congenital abnormalities, or by very low sperm counts. Two techniques are used — PESA (Percutaneous epididymal sperm aspiration) and TESE (Testicular sperm extraction). [10] Those East England residents who require surgical sperm collection can be treated by the Herts & Essex Fertility Centre, the Bourne Hall Clinic, the Brentwood Fertility Centre, and Simply Fertility.

Fertility preservation means collecting and storing sperm or egg cells for a person to use at a later date — often because they’re about to undergo treatments that will make natural conception impossible later on, such as cancer treatment or gender reassignment surgery, but also to allow younger women to leave the possibility of having a baby later in life open. [11] In the latter case, it’s often referred to simply as “egg freezing”. Those future patients who require fertility preservation can be treated at the Herts & Essex Fertility Centre, the Bourne Hall Clinic, Cambridge IVF, and Simply Fertility.

The EmbryoScope time lapse system, introduced in 2009 and now the most used in the world, enables the selection of the best embryos without ever having to remove them from the incubator. [12] The system increases pregnancy rates while reducing the risk of miscarriage, and it’s used by Cambridge IVF and Simply Fertility. The London Women’s Clinic and Bourne Hall Fertility Clinic, meanwhile, use other time lapse systems that perform similar functions.

Simply Fertility is, according to the HFEA, the only East England clinic to be able to offer IVF to patients with communicable viral diseases such as HIV.

IMSI (Intra Cytoplasmic Morphologically-Selected Sperm Injection) is basically ICSI before which a lab scientist also takes a good look at the shape and characteristics of individual sperm cells. While it’s not currently scientifically clear if this increases pregnancy rates, it might. [13] The procedure is offered by the Bourne Hall Fertility Clinic and Cambridge IVF.

EmbryoGlue is a culture medium that makes pregnancy more likely [14], and you can have this at the Herts & Essex Fertility Centre, Cambridge IVF, and Simply Fertility. An endometrial scratch makes implantation more successful in patients who have had several failed IVF cycles but produce good-quality embryos [15]. This service is available at all the clinics.

Pre-implantation genetic screening is offered at the London Women’s Clinic, and at Simply Fertility through their partnership with Reprogenetics in Oxford. PGS identifies the number of chromosomes in an embryo, increasing your chances of pregnancy, and reducing your risk of miscarriage, twin pregnancy, and ensuring that your transferred embryo has the correct number of chromosomes. [16]

The Bourne Hall Fertility Clinic, Herts & Essex Fertility Centre, Simply Fertility, and the London Women’s Clinic all explicitly say they are open to patients who require a surrogate mother to become parents.

What Can You Expect To Pay At East England’s Fertility Clinics?

It’s funny, really — on a normal day, £100 might not be anything to turn your nose up at, but you’re preparing for self-funding IVF! As soon as you start dealing with amounts in the thousands, a hundred quid here and there doesn’t seem to make much of a difference. The fact is that differences in cost aren’t that great between fertility clinics within the East of England, which holds true for most other regions as well.

While clinics package their costs slightly differently — some including the pre-treatment tests you will need in their initial consultation and others listing them separately, and some listing the HFEA fee as a stand-alone item, while others include it — the overall cost for comparable treatments at the various clinics will amount to roughly the same.

We’ve listed the costs of some sample treatments for your review.

Initial consultation:

  • Simply Fertility: £200
  • Herts & Essex Fertility Centre: Listed both as £250 and £300 for some reason, and either way it includes semen analysis and HBA and Anti Mullerian Hormone (AMH) tests.
  • Bourne Hall Fertility Clinic: An initial consultation with a gynaecologist will cost you £200, while a consultation with an andrologist has a fee of £250.
  • Cambridge IVF: £200
  • Brentwood Fertility Centre: £295 (includes a scan and counselling session)

IVF:

  • Simply Fertility: £2900
  • Herts & Essex Fertility Centre: £2895
  • Bourne Hall Fertility Clinic: £3300
  • Cambridge IVF: £3,150
  • Brentwood Fertility Centre: £3650

​​​

ICSI:

  • Simply Fertility: £4050
  • Herts & Essex Fertility Centre: £3820
  • Bourne Hall Fertility Clinic: £1100 (without IVF)
  • Cambridge IVF: £4,200
  • Brentwood Fertility Centre: £1250

Frozen Embryo Transfer:

  • Simply Fertility: £1500
  • Herts & Essex Fertility Centre: £1395 (including HFEA fee - 80 GBP?)
  • Bourne Hall Fertility Clinic: £1300
  • Cambridge IVF: £1,800
  • Brentwood Fertility Centre: £1350

Medications for IVF:

  • Simply Fertility: £500-£2400
  • Herts & Essex Fertility Centre: £1300-£2800
  • Bourne Hall Fertility Clinic: starting from £1200
  • Cambridge IVF: £1,000-£3,700
  • Brentwood Fertility Centre: £800-£1100

What other things might you like to know?

Well, the Herts & Essex Fertility Centre notes that it offers a 10 per cent discount to those patients who have had unsuccessful IVF cycles with them already, Through Access Fertility, they also offer IVF refund programmes to women under 40 using their own eggs — 90 per cent of those who apply are accepted — and muti-cycle discounts are available as well. 

The Bourne Hall Clinic works with Access Fertility in the same way, and it offers monthly payment plans. Simply Fertility again works with Access Fertility. 

At the Brentwood Fertility Centre — a partnership between the London Women's Clinic and Nuffield Health, you'll remember — you may, meanwhile, make use of a three-cycle package wherein you receive three cycles for the price of two. Potential patients of the clinic who are doing research online may be confused by the fact that Nuffield Health's website doesn't provide a price list — though it says it does. The clinic itself confirmed that that the prices listed by the London Women's Clinic are correct when we phoned them, and those are the ones we presented you with. 

IVF Success Rates: How Do Clinics In East England Measure Up?

How do the fertility clinics in the East of England measure up? We review data on clinical pregnancy rates per cycle between July 2015 and June 2016. This data is published by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority. (But here, you won't have to look a ton of different pages to be able to compare success rates between clinics!)

Unless otherwise noted, all clinics’ success rates are in line with the UK’s national average, displaying evidence of their clinical competence. As long as a clinic doesn’t perform below the national average, small differences won’t realistically say anything about your own chance of getting and staying pregnant. The clinic you choose will discuss your own, personal, odds of success with you in detail, and as long as you know the clinic is competent, that’s really what you need to look at.

Note that the smaller the number of cycles a clinic performs, the less reliable their success rates are — that is, the less the success rates you see say about the clinic’s ability to produce the same success rates again in future, for better or worse. As the HFEA says: "Small clinics aren’t worse but their success rate is more likely to be affected by [...] small changes in the number of births in one year.” [17]

The Bourne Hall Clinic has so many locations that we’ve decided to report the success rates for their main Cambridge location.

A whopping 1585 fresh IVF/ICSI cycles were commenced here with patients’ own eggs, and 1399 made it to the embryo transfer stage. The clinic’s efforts saw a 33 per cent pregnancies per cycle rate for all age groups (516 pregnancies in total), and divided by age, their successes amounted to:
  • Women under 35 — 40 per cent
  • Women aged between 35 and 37 — 29 per cent
  • Women aged 38 and 39 — 25 per cent
  • Those between 40 and 42 — 22 per cent

The Bourne Hall Clinic’s Cambridge location also started 433 frozen IVF/ICSI cycles with patients’ own eggs, leading 388 embryos to reach the transfer stage, with a 22 per cent pregnancies per cycle rate.

The Herts & Essex Fertility Centre started 422 fresh IVF and ICSI cycles with patients’ own eggs, of which 375 reached the embryo transfer stage. Thirty-two per cent of patients achieved a clinical pregnancy (per cycle) as a result — a total of 135. To take a closer peek at clinical pregnancies per cycle success rates by age group, they’re as follows:
  • Patients under 35 — 41 per cent
  • Women aged between 35 and 37 — 34 per cent
  • Women aged 38 and 39 — 24 per cent
  • Patients between 40 and 42 — 26 per cent

Ninety-six of the 98 frozen cycles started with patients’ own eggs reached the embryo transfer, meanwhile, resulting in a pregnancies per cycle rate of 39 per cent.

Cambridge IVF’s 97 started IVF and ICSI cycles with patients’ own, fresh, eggs — 87 of which reached embryo transfer — led to a pregnancies per cycle rate of 26 per cent. To put it differently, 25 women achieved a clinical pregnancy. The very small sample almost makes it statistically pointless to report on the clinical pregnancy rates by age group, but we’ll do it anyway:
  • Women under 35 — 33 per cent
  • Women aged between 35 and 37 — 33 per cent
  • Women aged 38 and 39 — 29 per cent
  • Women between 40 and 42 —  no cycles started

Of the clinic’s 60 co IVF/ICSI cycles with patients’ own eggs, all but two reached the embryo transfer stage, and these cycles had a success rate of 30 per cent.

Brentwood Fertility’s staff oversaw the start of 85 fresh IVF and ICSI cycles with patients’ own eggs, and 65 reached the embryo transfer stage. Twelve of the women got pregnant. With a pregnancies per cycle rate of 14 per cent, even based on this small sample, the overall performance in this area was officially below the national average.

Where did this happen? Brentwood Fertility’s cycles in women under 35 had a success rate of 35 per cent, in line with the national average. Their 19 per cent success rate for women aged 35 to 37 (16 such cycles were started) was also respectable. The clinic had a success rate of zero per cent for women between the ages of 38 and 39, however, and no cycles took place beyond those ages.

Fourteen frozen IVF/ICSI cycles were started with patients’ own eggs, all of which reached the embryo transfer stage. In this area, Brentwood Fertility had a success rate of 14 per cent as well.

Simply Fertility, licenced in 2013, is a case apart — while the HFEA, the UK’s fertility watchdog, indeed indicates that the clinic is licenced to perform IVF, it then goes on to say that Simply Fertility is a “a small clinic offering partner and donor insemination treatments” — no mention of IVF there! Needless to say, the HFEA doesn't provide IVF success rates for this clinic. 

What’s going on? Where the HFEA fails, the clinic itself provides answers. "Since June 2017 we have been treating our patients on site in our new facility with very encouraging results," it says. Prior to that time, IVF patients were “managed locally by us and then went to our sister Clinic (Boston Place Clinic) in Marylebone, London for their embryology and embryo transfer”.

The Fertility Partnership of which Simply Fertility is a part is certainly a reputable and long-standing IVF provider across the UK, and the Boston Place clinic started 426 fresh IVF/ICSI cycles with patients’ own eggs. A total of 362 made it to embryo transfer, and the resulting 32 per cent clinical pregnancies per cycle success rate is nicely in line with the national average. If you’re wondering what success rates apply to women of your age, even though this isn’t the exact clinic you’re considering, here you go:

  • Women under 35 — 41 per cent
  • Women aged between 35 and 37 — 41 per cent
  • Women aged 38 and 39 — 36 per cent
  • Women between 40 and 42 —  19 per cent

The Boston Place clinic additionally started 193 frozen cycles with patients’ own eggs, of which 189 reached embryo transfer. These cycles had a per-cycle success rate of 40 per cent.

What Do Former Patients Say About Fertility Clinics In East England?

Former Simply Fertility patients we heard from were mostly very happy with the clinic — and if you're the kind of person who'd love to choose your own fertility consultant, you may like to know that they especially raved about Dr Subrata Gangooly. One person complained that she had to wait for a long time to get an appointment. 

Patients appreciated the relaxed atmosphere at the Bourne Hall Clinic in Cambridge, to which the lovely manor it's located in definitely contributes. One patient said that she couldn't recommend the clinic more warmly, not just because she was successful during her second cycle, but because the care was excellent. Another, who was treated at their Colchester location, simply said they were "great". 

Some former Brentwood Fertility Centre patients praised the friendly nursing team. We also heard from those who complained of lost blood tests and poor bedside manners, however. 

The Herts & Essex Fertility Centre is, women who have been treated there report, extremely friendly. One patient noted that she appreciated the fact that they never made her feel bad for asking lots of questions, both in person and by phone — the staff always had time for her. Another told us that the fertility consultant she saw was very upfront with her about her odds of success, while yet another said she really like being given photos of her embryos. 

One woman who has cycled with two different clinics — and is thus able to compare — said that Cambridge IVF was the clinic she preferred. Another described the treatment and care she received there as "excellent". 

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