What should privately-funding IVF patients look for in a fertility clinic? While the process of choosing a fertility clinic for IVF treatment in the UK can be tumultuous and somewhat confusing, we all, on an instinctual level, expect certain things.
With time often of the essence, we expect treatment to proceed quickly. We expect the staff, both doctors and the nurses we'll see so much of, to be understanding and supportive. We expect the staff to be experienced and excellent at their jobs, in order to give us the best possible odds of getting pregnant and having a baby. In the process, we may hope that the treatment we undergo doesn't break the bank — but since we already know it will, we at least expect the clinic to suggest only the treatments that will increase our chances of walking away with a newborn, rather than the ones that are merely expensive scientific gimmicks that won't really make a difference. We expect to be in on the process, from start to finish, to understand what is happening and to be included in the decision-making process rather than being a passive subject.
You have a tough decision on your hands, then, if you do not qualify for IVF on the NHS and have no choice but to pay out of pocket — but also much greater flexibility in deciding where you will receive your IVF treatment in the UK. Which of the very best fertility clinics in the Midlands is right for you?
What IVF-Related Treatments Do Midlands Fertility Clinics Offer?
All clinics offer access to egg and sperm donors, IVF, and ICSI, while they also provide a wide range of additional treatments, which differ from clinic to clinic. What do you need to know about the kinds of treatments you can access at fertility clinics in the Midlands?
CARE Fertility is one of the largest and busiest clinic groups in the country — over 27,000 babies have been born with the help of CARE's 15 clinics across the United Kingdom and in Dublin to date. Its three Midlands-based clinics, in Nottingham, Northampton, and Birmingham, offer an extremely broad range of cutting-edge treatments:
- IVF and ICSI, including for patients with communicable viral infections.
- Fertility preservation and surgical sperm collection.
- Natural IVF.
- Pre-implantation genetic screening, blastocyst cultures, EmbryoGen and BlastGen, EmbryoGlue, and so-called endometrial scratches — interventions that make a healthy pregnancy more likely for certain patients.
- Multi-cycle discounts are available, along with an IVF refund programme, and those women who would like to help others while saving on the cost of their own treatment may be candidates for their egg sharing programme.
The group makes it especially clear that it is welcoming and supportive to same-sex couples and single women. Family is, as it says, "for everyone".
CARE Manchester clinic director and former HFEA Chief Inspector Debra Bloor told SteadyHealth:
"The CARE group, uniquely, has common laboratory procedures and processes across all of our clinics. When we evaluate a new process or technology, we can compare the results from all the treatment cycles across all of CARE, which in turn means we are able to make evidence-based evaluations of treatments more quickly and effectively than other clinics.”
No matter which CARE clinic you choose, you can, then, expect the very same standard of care and scientific excellence.
A fertility giant with over 70 clinics across the globe in 13 different countries, IVI is another leader in scientific innovation. IVI Midland, located in Tamworth, was established in 1987, making it the most experienced fertility clinic in the region. IVI Midland provides surgical sperm collection and an egg sharing programme in addition to IVF and ICSI. Pre-implantation genetic screening and diagnosis are also carried out here. EmbryoGlue, closed culture incubation, and blastocyst cultures, options that can increase your odds of success, are offered at IVI Midland for an additional fee.
The Centre for Reproductive Medicine in Coventry is part of the University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust. The clinic offers IVF, ICSI, surgical sperm collection, IVF for patients with communicable viral infections, and an egg sharing programme. With its EmbryoScope incubators, endometrial scratch procedure, and assisted hatching, optional at an extra cost for those patients who wish to maximise their chances of a successful pregnancy, it is at the cutting edge of science. Blastocyst transfers are, meanwhile, routine at this clinic.
Part of the Fertility Partnership, the Nottingham-based Nurture Fertility benefits from, a Fertility Partnership representative told us, "shared knowledge, research, and skills across some of the most successful clinics in the UK". Whether you need IVF, with or without ICSI, you require surgical sperm collection, fertility preservation, or are seeking IVF as a patient with a communicable viral infection, your needs can be met at Nurture Fertility. Those patients who qualify can reduce the cost of their treatment by participating in Nurture's egg sharing programme.
Additional options open to Nurture patients who benefit are:
- Pre-implantation genetic screening.
- The endometrial array receptivity test.
- Assisted hatching.
- Blastocyst culture.
- A sperm DNA fragmentation test.
- EmbryoScope embryo monitoring.
The Leicester Fertility Centre — part of the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS trust — is another fertility clinic that has been licenced since the HFEA's inception, but established before it. Its highly experienced team is able to help you if you need surgical sperm collection, fertility preservation, and if you need IVF, with or without ICSI, also if you have a communicable viral infection. EmbryoGlue is routinely used during its cycles, and a blastocyst culture and EmbryoScope embryo monitoring are offered at no additional cost. Even taking that into account, the Leicester Fertility Centre has some of the best prices in the region. Suitable candidates can further reduce the cost of their self-funded treatment by becoming part of its egg sharing programme.
Based in the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital, the Shropshire and Mid-Wales Fertility Centre is an NHS-governed clinic committed to providing patient-centered care for both NHS and self-funding patients. The egg and sperm sharing programmes can benefit the right patients, and the clinic uses EmbryoScope incubators to give you the very best chances of success. Blastocyst cultures are offered to those patients whose embryos are suitable.
What Are The Success Rates Like At Midlands Fertility Clinics?
A fertility clinic's success rates do not give you an indication of your personal odds of getting pregnant, but they do provide crucial insights into its level clinical competence. Which of the fertility clinics in the Midlands has the best success rates? We'll examine the HFEA's data on clinical pregnancies between the period of July 2015 and June 2016. 
These cycles resulted in clinical pregnancies 43 per cent of the time, or, by age group:
- A 40 per cent success rate for women aged 35-37
- A 34 per cent success rate for those aged 38-39
- A 22 per cent success rate for women between the ages of 40-42
Of CARE Nottingham's 391 frozen embryo cycles with patients' own eggs during the same time, 355 reached embryo transfer, and its efforts resulted in a pregnancies per cycle rate of 37 per cent across all age groups. Donor egg cycles, too, were consistent with the national average — CARE Nottingham started 101 such fresh cycles of which 88 reached embryo transfer, resulting in an impressive clinical pregnancy rate of 54 per cent of the time. Frozen cycles with donor eggs had a pregnancies per cycle success rate of 29 per cent, a statistic that applies to 51 commenced cycles of which 44 made it to the embryo transfer stage.
Northampton and Birmingham residents can expect the very same standard of care and scientific excellence, and while CARE Birmingham is a brand new clinic that doesn't yet have a track record, the success rates attained by CARE Fertility as a group inspire confidence.
IVI Midland commenced 446 IVF/ICSI cycles with patients' own fresh eggs, and 386 reached the embryo transfer stage. These cycles had a pregnancies per cycle rate of 41 per cent, compared to a national average of 31 per cent, and by age group:
- Age 35-37: 47 per cent
- Age 38-39: 31 per cent
- Age 40-42: 37 per cent
Frozen embryo cycles in which patients' own eggs were used had a pregnancies per cycle rate of 34 per cent, and whilst 185 such cycles were started, 181 made it to embryo transfer. The success rates for the 34 fresh cycles with donated eggs that reached the embryo transfer stage, along with 15 frozen cycles, were also in line with the national average.
The Coventry Centre for Reproductive Medicine started 649 fresh IVF/ICSI cycles with patients' own eggs. Of these, 520 reached the embryo transfer stage, leading to a clinical pregnancies per cycle success rate of 33 per cent, statistically in accordance with the national average but also poking slightly above it.
Per age group, the clinic's fresh cycles with patients' own eggs had the following success rates:
- Under 35: 40 per cent
- Age 35-37: 29 per cent
- Age 38-39: 22 per cent
- Age 40-42: 18 per cent
- Age 43-44: not applicable
The all-age pregnancies per cycle success rate for frozen cycles with patients' own eggs was 26 per cent, a statistic that applies to 140 cycles, of which 132 made it to embryo transfer. Cycles with donor eggs were also in accordance with the national average — 38 per cent for fresh cycles.
Nurture patients started 681 fresh IVF and ICSI cycles with their own eggs, with 596 cycles reaching embryo transfer and an overall pregnancies per cycle success rate of 43 per cent — 47 per cent for women aged 35-37, 35 per cent for those aged 38-39 and 29 per cent for women between the ages of 40 and 42.
The clinic also counted 174 frozen embryo cycles started with patients' own eggs. and 172 made it to the embryo transfer stage. The clinic had a pregnancies per cycle rate that, at 55 per cent compared to a national average of 34 per cent, exceeds the national average, even with this relatively small sample. A smaller number of cycles using donor eggs were started; 39 fresh, and 11 frozen, leading to a pregnancies per cycle rate of 62 per cent and 55 per cent respectively.
A total of 283 IVF and ICSI cycles were started at the Leicester Fertility Centre with patients' own eggs, with 258 making it to the embryo transfer stage. A comparatively small number, the pregnancies per cycle success rate was 33 per cent — 29 percent for women aged 35-37, 21 per cent for those between the ages of 38 and 39, and 17 per cent for women aged 40-42. Frozen embryo cycles with patients' eggs, 105 started and 100 reaching embryo transfer, led to a 24 per cent success rate.
Three-hundred and twenty-three fresh IVF and ICSI cycles were started using patients' own eggs — 263 reached the embryo transfer stage, and of those that didn't, the most common cause was that the patient hadn't produced enough eggs. With 32 per cent of these cycles resulting in clinical pregnancies, the Shropshire and Mid-Wales Fertility Centre's success rates are in line with the national average.
If you're curious what clinical pregnancy rates were like for women in your own age group, here is the data:
- Age 35-37: 40 per cent
- Age 38-39: 32 per cent
- Age 40-42: 9 per cent
- Age 43-44: not applicable
Twenty-one percent of the 166 frozen cycles the clinic commenced with patients' own eggs, 163 of which reached embryo transfer, resulted in a clinical pregnancy. The success rates for its very small number of donor-egg cycles were also in accordance with the national average.
What Do Former Patients Think About Midlands Fertility Clinics?
"The staff were friendly, remembered my name and knew my story", one former Shropshire and Mid-Wales Fertility Centre patient said. "They explained what was happening, and did their best to make me feel comfortable. The care was great, and I appreciated the clinic being smaller."
Former patients didn't have a bad word to say about the Leicester Fertility Centre. Unusual for an NHS clinic, they all described it as both professional and caring, rather than a fertility clinic merely focused on the medical aspects of treatment. One former patient who is now a mother said: "My hubby and I had been very nervous before our initial consultation but there was really no need. They have a really nice atmosphere and make you feel like you really matter."
One patient who had NHS-funded treatment at Nurture Fertility said she couldn't recommend the clinic more warmly — they were quick to answer all her questions, and friendly but professional. The 96 patients, who chose to rate Nurture on the HFEA website (more than for any other clinic we've seen) gave the clinic five out of five stars.
The former Coventry Centre for Reproductive Medicine patients we heard from almost all had positive experiences as well. Most were happy with the quality of care, while one patient complained that the staff she encountered had poor bedside manners and that it was hard to get them on the phone. We encountered the same situation ourselves when trying to get in touch with the clinic.
One patient who received treatment at IVI Midland told us that, while she never questioned the staff's expertise, the clinic had a distinct conveyor belt feeling. Another shared that she actually preferred this approach — "I wasn't there for a pat on the back or to find a new best friend, but for results, and that's just what I got."
One CARE Nottingham patient assessed the clinic as not just providing a friendly atmosphere, but also going out of their way to schedule appointments at a time when it was convenient to her. "The fact that they offer many tests that aren't available at other clinics was what initially appealed to me," she said, "but their flexible and caring approach was what made my experience so positive." Having also spoken to patients who were treated at other CARE clinics, in Manchester and Tunbridge Wells, we know that her experience isn't unique by any means.