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Wondering where to go for privately-funded IVF in North England? SteadyHealth reviews the treatments, cost, success rates and care at five of North England's fertility clinics.

Like going to university, buying a house, and getting married — all things that will often haunt you financially for rather a while — having a baby is one of those major life milestones. Although raising a child from birth to age 21 sets you back by an estimated £229,251 in the United Kingdom [1], most people don’t expect that trying to conceive will cost them much at all.

For the more than 50,000 women who undergo IVF treatment in the UK every year, however, the journey to parenthood is emotionally and financially right up there with the other significant steps in life. Nearly six in 10 of IVF cycles are funded privately, rather than by the NHS, and your average self-funding patient spends £11,378 on fertility treatment. Depending on the exact treatment you need, a single cycle can easily cost more than £5000. [2]

People who qualify NHS-funded IVF may have some choice as to where they have treatment, but a whole array of options is open to privately-paying customers. Just as well, really! With your family’s future squarely in the hands of the fertility clinic, you want to make sure that the fertility clinic you go with meets your personal needs.

Just how do you choose a fertility clinic — one of the most important decisions you’ll make in your life? Knowing how stressful the process is, we're reviewing the best fertility clinics in the North of England to make a confusing and stressful process a little easier. (Having started our project covering the best clinics across the UK with a review of Manchester fertility clinics for private IVF, those clinics aren't included here.)

The clinics we're reviewing are:

  1. The Newcastle Fertility Centre at Life [3]
  2. The James Cook University Hospital’s Department for Reproductive Medicine, based in Cleveland [4]
  3. Jessop Fertility, based in Sheffield [5]
  4. The Hewitt Fertility Centre, based in Liverpool [6]
  5. The Hull IVF Unit [7]

What Treatments Do Fertility Clinics In North England Offer?

With Jessop Fertility licenced by the UK fertility watchdog, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) in 2001, and the remaining clinics back in 1992 around the time the HFEA was first established, all these clinics are extremely experienced.

Since we're writing about where to go for privately-funded IVF, all these clinics perform both IVF and ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection — where a single sperm cell is injected directly into an egg). They have you covered for all the standard pre-treatment investigations, for frozen embryo transfers if you need them, and for counselling, as required by law. All clinics recruit egg and sperm donors. Egg sharing, wherein a woman in need of healthy eggs receives them from another woman undergoing IVF, who in turn gets treated at no cost or at a highly reduced price, is an option for suitable candidates at all five clinics too. Beyond that, however, treatments begin to diverge.

The Newcastle Fertility Centre at Life offers fertility preservation and surgical sperm extraction, can carry out pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, and is able to work with patients who have communicable viral diseases. They perform blastocyst transfers and use the cutting-edge Vitrosafe incubator system.

Most interestingly, the Newcastle Fertility Centre at Life has a separate clinic for young people with fertility struggles, as well as a special focus on mitochondrial disease. The clinic offers pronuclear transfer (PNT), more commonly known as "three-parent IVF", a revolutionary though controversial procedure that reduces the risk of passing on mitochondrial DNA disease by using the "shell" part of a donor egg.

At the James Cook University Hospital’s Department for Reproductive Medicine, you’re at the right place if you need surgical sperm collection and fertility preservation, but also if you are looking to benefit from blastocyst transfers or assisted hatching. EmbryoGlue, a culture medium used to increase pregnancy and birth rates, is likewise on the “menu” at the James Cook University Hospital.

Especially of note are the facts that James Cook has the ability to carry out tubal microsurgeries and that it offer minimally-invasive endometriosis treatment.

Jessop Fertility treats patients in need of surgical sperm collection and fertility preservation. This clinic uses both PrimoVision and EmbryoScope time lapse systems, can carry out blastocyst transfers, and offers endometrial scratches to patients taking part in a research study. Pre-implantation genetic screening is available at Jessop Fertility.

Jessop Fertility's specialised recurrent miscarriage clinic is its most noteworthy feature, however — and women who have suffered through multiple losses may pay particular attention to this clinic.

The Hewitt Fertility Centre is another hub for scientific innovation. Patients seeking fertility preservation, surgical sperm collection, and pre-implantation genetic screening are at the right address here. The Hewitt Fertility Centre can treat you if you have a communicable viral disease, too. It uses EmbryoScope incubators, and performs endometrial scratches, blastocyst transfers, and assisted hatching. The Hewitt Fertility Centre makes it clear that it is open to working with patients who are in need of a surrogate to carry their pregnancy.

IMSI (Intra Cytoplasmic Morphologically-Selected Sperm Injection), essentially ICSI before which a lab scientist closely examines sperm cells through a microscope and chooses the most promising specimen, is a treatment that makes the Hewitt Fertility Centre stand out. Though it is not clear whether IMSI boosts pregnancy rates at present (something the staff at Hewitt are very transparent about), it is an additional option some couples may wish to pursue.

Hull IVF works with patients who need surgical sperm collection and fertility preservation, and is open to working with patients who require surrogacy. The clinic carries out blastocyst transfers, and you can have both EmbryoGlue and an endometrial scratch, procedures that may increase your odds of becoming pregnant, here.

IVF Success Rates: How Do North England’s Fertility Clinics Measure Up?

Everyone wants to know what the success rates of "their" fertility clinic are before they decide to become a patient, and with good reason. Success rates in accordance with, or even above, the national average tell you that a fertility clinic is clinically competent, that you can trust their expertise. This is why we're examining the HFEA's data on clinical pregnancy success rates between July 2015 and June 2016, the most recent data on offer. [8]

Success rates do not, however, tell you everything. The smaller a clinic is, the less reliable the stats are, as individual patient factors and simple chance play a larger role in determining outcomes. By the same token, a clinic's overall success doesn't tell you anything about your own chances of getting and staying pregnant — this is something you will discuss with your chosen clinic in detail.

The Newcastle Fertility Centre started 672 IVF and ICSI cycles in which patients' own, fresh, eggs were used. Of these, 611 reached the embryo transfer stage. These cycles resulted in an overall pregnancies per cycle rate of 27 per cent — 181 women got pregnant here over the course of a year.

Curious what the success rates were for women in your own age group? Let's take a look:

  • Women under 35:  32 per cent
  • Patients aged 35-37: 25 per cent
  • Those between the ages of 38 and 39: 22 per cent
  • Women aged 40-42: five per cent — below the national average

The Newcastle Fertility Centre also commenced 220 frozen IVF/ICSI cycles with patients' own eggs, and 192 of these made it to the embryo transfer stage. Sixty-one women got pregnant as a result, 28 per cent of the total number of patients in this category.

At the James Cook University Hospital’s Department for Reproductive Medicine, 281 fresh IVF and ICSI cycles were started with women’s own eggs, and 269 of these made it to the point of embryo transfer. Exactly 100 women got pregnant as a result — a per-cycle success rate of 36 per cent.

Divided by age group, that amounts to the following success rates:

  • Women under 35:  37 per cent
  • Patients aged 35-37: 39 per cent
  • Those between the ages of 38 and 39: 27 per cent
  • Women aged 40-42: 25 per cent

A modest 33 frozen embryo cycles took place during the same time, all but one of which reached the embryo transfer stage. The pregnancies per cycle success rate was 24 per cent, which is still considered in line with the national average due to the small number of cycles.

Jessop Fertility's staff oversaw the start of a total of 617 fresh IVF and ICSI cycles, and 507 of these reached the point of embryo transfer. As a result of these cycles, 156 pregnancies were established, which equals a success rate of 25 per cent.
  • Almost half of these cycles were in women under 35, an age group that had a success rate of 28 per cent
  • Patients aged 35 to 37 had a 24 per cent success rate
  • 28 per cent of women aged 38 and 39 got pregnant
  • The clinic achieved a 17 per cent clinical pregnancies per cycle success rate in women aged 40-42

Jessop Fertility's patients additionally underwent 271 frozen IVF/ICSI cycles, 257 of which resulted in embryo transfer. These cycles had a success rate of 21 percent.

The Hewitt Fertility Centre team started a grand total of 2103 fresh IVF and ICSI cycles in which patients tried to get pregnant with their own eggs! Of these, 1649 reached embryo transfer. Hewitt's clinical pregnancy success rate is extremely reliable because of the large number of cycles, at at 31 per cent, is identical to the national average. This means 645 women got pregnant.

How did Hewitt patients in your own age range fare? Let's see:

  • Women under 35: 38 per cent
  • Patients aged 35-37: 29 per cent
  • Those between the ages of 38 and 39: 20 per cent
  • Women aged 40-42: 17 per cent
  • Women between the ages of 43 and 44: 8 per cent (Pay attention to this — the other clinics did not perform fresh cycles with patients' own eggs for this age group!)

A notoriously large clinic, the Hewitt Fertility Centre also started 1253 frozen embryo cycles, of which 1222 reached embryo transfer. These cycles had a success rate of 33 per cent.

Hull IVF started 413 IVF and ICSI cycles with patients' own fresh eggs — 353 of which reached the embryo transfer stage. They had an overall pregnancies per cycle rate of 28 per cent, and 116 women got pregnant.

Let's divide that by age group:

  • Women under 35: 33 per cent
  • Patients aged 35-37: 25 per cent
  • Those between the ages of 38 and 39: 26 per cent
  • Women aged 40-42: 11 per cent

As for frozen embryo cycles, Hull IVF started 90, and 88 reached the embryo transfer stage. They had a 32 per cent success rate in this category.

What Do Former Patients Think Of North England’s Fertility Clinics?

We heard from several former patients of the Newcastle Fertility Centre at Life. One got pregnant on her second round of IVF and spoke of the clinic's atmosphere as warm and welcoming. The second didn't get pregnant yet, but noted that the care and support she and her husband received was excellent. Since we've heard from patients who've said things like "it worked, so the clinic was good" before, I think that the impressions of a patient who hasn't yet gotten pregnant says quite a lot. Another was delighted to report that her first IVF attempt worked, and she again referred to the staff as "lovely".

Over at the James Cook Hospital, former patients had a lot to say about Dr Fayez Mustafa — all good things, that is! One patient specifically shared that the staff made a special effort to make sure she was informed of what was going on at all times, and noted that the staff weren't only always reachable by phone, but also always prepared to answer questions. 

The staff at Jessop Fertility are, according to a few people we heard from, "fab" and "lovely". One patient said she appreciated the clinic's transparency regarding the cost of treatment, as well as the fact they do not charge extra for EmbryoGlue.  

The Hewitt Fertility Centre's former patients are all extremely confident in its scientific and medical abilities as a research centre. One described the clinic as "professional and efficient". A few noted that the atmosphere was less personal and caring than they would have liked, which is, considering that the Hewitt Fertility Centre is a truly massive clinic, hardly surprising. Though the less personal feel may put some people off, others will actively prefer "keeping their eyes on the job", and getting their emotional support elsewhere.

One former Hull IVF Unit patient who was initially unsure where to go but chose Hull IVF for geographical reasons told us that she felt respected as a patient throughout her treatment, and would recommend the clinic to anyone. 

What Else You Need To Know?

Are you considering being treated at a clinic that isn't on our list, and wondering why we didn't cover it? If your clinic is in or very near Manchester, you'll find it in our review of Manchester fertility clinics. If it isn't, we excluded it because its HFEA inspection ratings were less than five out of five or because it's a new clinic that doesn't yet have a track record of its performance.

The James Cook University Hospital's Department for Reproductive Medicine actually has a HFEA inspection rating of 4/5 at the moment — due to its higher multiple (twin) birth rate, something the clinic is currently working on reducing. We chose to include this clinic because of its success rates and specialised treatment. While we were initially planning to include the Assisted Reproduction Unit (ARU), University Hospital of Hartlepool, a clinic with excellent success rates, we excluded them because they will not be performing IVF in the future. [9]

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