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Finding out you don't qualify for NHS-funded IVF is stressful enough — the process of choosing the clinic you'll entrust your future to still awaits. Which of the IVF clinics in Wales and South West England can best meet your personal needs?

Do you live in Wales or South West England, and are you hoping to have your self-funded IVF close to home? The landscape of fertility clinics is sparser in your region, in a very real sense — unless you're willing to travel, you don't have anywhere as much choice as people living in London, South East England, or the Midlands. The fact that there are fewer fertility clinics in Wales and the South West does not make choosing the right fertility clinic for you any easier, though! 

As a patient who does not qualify for NHS-funded IVF or who actively chooses private care, you're looking for a clinic with excellent success rates, one that will deliver the results you're looking for. You also expect personal, human, care at a price that doesn't break the bank, and for your treatment to proceed swiftly without a long waiting list. What clinic in your area can meet your personal needs and provide you with the IVF treatment in the UK that offers you the very best odds of success?

IVF: What Treatments Do Fertility Clinics In Wales And The West Country Offer?

Opening their doors in 2008, the Cardiff branch of the state-of-the-art London Women’s Clinic offers a full range of fertility treatments — IVF and ICSI, pre-implantation genetic screening and diagnosis, IVF Lite with lower doses of drugs and a less of a risk of side effects, fertility preservation, and surgical sperm collection. Blastocyst cultures and assisted hatching are available for those who may benefit. In conjunction with the London Sperm Bank, the London Women’s Clinic recruits gamete donors, and both patients who are able to share their healthy eggs and those who are in search of an egg donor may be interested in the clinic’s egg sharing programme. Because the London Women’s Clinic in Cardiff specialises in IVF Lite, it is an especially safe choice for those women who suffer from PCOS.

Bristol-based patients and those living in Swansea will, meanwhile, be able to have all their scans and consultations at their local branch of the clinic, but will have to travel to Cardiff for their egg collection and embryo transfer. 

Based within the Neath Port Talbot Hospital, the Wales Fertility Institute Neath is governed by the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board. The clinic is committed to providing “a comprehensive range of consultations, investigations and assisted reproduction treatments in a relaxed, friendly atmosphere, delivered in a non-judgemental way”, and you can be treated here if you need or would benefit from:

  • IVF and ICSI
  • Surgical sperm collection
  • Pre-implantation genetic screening
  • In vitro maturation
  • Blastocyst transfer

The Wales Fertility Institute Neath has an embryo donation programme as well as an egg donor programme, and it works with those who require surrogacy on their path to parenthood. Its bare-bones website unfortunately doesn't offer a price list, and despite multiple requests for information, the clinic itself didn't provide us with one either. They did, however, inform us that around five percent of their cycles are funded privately. The Wales Fertility Institute Neath doesn't have any waiting lists, is is currently able to "begin working with a client as soon as they are ready to proceed with treatment". Clinic representative Steve Combe also told SteadyHealth that they don't have strict patient acceptance criteria:

"There are currently no restrictions. However, the client will be fully informed of all issues which may or will impact fertility and pregnancy success rates in order for them to make an informed choice on whether they wish to proceed."

He added that patients are able to choose their own doctor, but that this may result in a "longer wait to be seen, which will be explained to the client". 

The Bath Fertility Centre, licenced since 1994, has been around for a very long time, helping patients in need of IVF, ICSI, surgical sperm collection, and fertility preservation in a friendly and relaxed environment. The Bath Fertility Centre has procedures in place to assure they select the best-quality embryo for transfer and to give you the best possible chance of achieving a pregnancy; it uses time lapse technology, and can offer you laser-assisted hatching, sperm DNA testing, and an endometrial scratch, along with blastocyst transfer. The Bath Fertility Centre has an egg sharing programme as well as a refund programme.

An NHS-governed clinic, the Bristol Centre for Reproductive Medicine provides surgical sperm collection and fertility preservation in addition to IVF and ICSI. It has an egg sharing programme, can carry out an endometrial scratch procedure, offers mild IVF for those patients who would be at risk undergoing a conventional IVF protocol, and you may be eligible for their three-cycle discounted packages as a self-funding patient.

Around since 1998, the South West Centre for Reproductive Medicine is based at the Ocean Suite of Derriford Hospital in Plymouth. This small clinic provides IVF, ICSI, surgical sperm collection, and does blastocyst transfers. A price list for privately-funding patients is, unfortunately, not publicly available. 

Fertility Exeter, licenced in 1992, is a highly experienced clinic governed by the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS foundations trust. Offering IVF, ICSI, surgical sperm collection, fertility preservation, and an egg sharing programme, Fertility Exeter is available to those who qualify for NHS-funded IVF treatment and self-funding patients alike. The clinic does not charge additional fees to those who would benefit from blastocyst transfer and laser-assisted hatching.

IVF Success Rates At Clinics In Wales And The West Country

Which of the fertility clinics had the best IVF and ICSI success rates? Let’s examine the HFEA data on clinical pregnancies for the period of July 2015 to June 2016, the most recently available data, for each of them.

The Cardiff branch of the London Women’s Clinic started 315 fresh IVF/ICSI cycles with patients’ own eggs. Of these cycles, 245 reached the embryo transfer, and the clinic attained an overall pregnancies per cycle rate of 27 per cent — consistent with the national average.

What percentage of women in your own age group achieved a clinical pregnancy during each of these cycles? Let’s take a look:

  • Age 35-37: 30 per cent
  • Age 38-39: 23 per cent
  • Age 40-42: 10 per cent

The London Women's Clinic in Cardiff also started 119 frozen IVF/ICSI cycles with patients' own eggs. Of these, 116 made it to the embryo transfer stage and the clinic had a 38 per cent clinical pregnancy success rate, compared to a national average of 34 per cent. 

The Wales Fertility Institute Neath started 346 fresh IVF/ICSI cycles with patients’ own eggs, of which 260 reached the embryo transfer stage. Twenty-nine percent of these cycles resulted in a clinical pregnancy, and per age group:

  • Age 35-37: 25 per cent
  • Age 38-39: 27 per cent
  • Age 40-42: not applicable
  • Age 43-44: not applicable

During this same period of time, 54 frozen IVF/ICSI cycles started with patients’ own eggs, of which 53 made it to embryo transfer, resulting in an overall success rate of 19 per cent.

The Bristol Centre for Reproductive Medicine begun a grand total of 844 IVF and ICSI cycles with patients’ own fresh eggs, 765 of these reached the embryo transfer stage, leading to a clinical pregnancies per cycle success rate of 33 per cent. By age group, that means the following success rate:

  • Age 35-37: 31 per cent
  • Age 38-39: 33 per cent
  • Age 40-42: 27 per cent
  • Age 43-44: 9 per cent

This time period also saw the start of 161 frozen cycles with patients’ own eggs, of which all reached the embryo transfer stage, resulting in a clinical pregnancy 45 per cent of the time. A very small number of donated embryo cycles took place too, the results of which were consistent with the national average.

The Bath Fertility Centre commenced 398 fresh IVF and ICSI cycles with patients’ own eggs. Of these, 357 reached the embryo transfer stage, and the clinic’s efforts led to a pregnancies per cycle rate of 29 per cent, or by age group:

  • Age 35-37: 23 per cent
  • Age 38-39: 20 per cent
  • Age 40-42: 12 per cent
  • Age 43-44: 0 per cent (not non-applicable, actually zero per cent.)

When looking at these success rates, keep in mind that they’re less reliable when a smaller number of cycles has taken place, as the outcome is easily swayed by individual patient factors rather than being a reflection of the clinical competence of the clinic. These success rates are, however, in line with the national average, as calculated by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority.

The Bath Fertility Centre started 231 frozen embryo cycles with patients’ own eggs as well during the same time, and 228 made it to embryo transfer. The overall clinical pregnancies success rate for this category was 31 per cent. A very small number of donor egg cycles also took place, leading to a success rate consistent with the national average.

The South West Centre for Reproductive Medicine started 293 fresh IVF and ICSI cycles with patients’ own eggs. Of these, 229 reached the embryo transfer stage, with a clinical pregnancies per cycle rate of 32 per cent. How did women of your age pass at the South West Centre for Reproductive Medicine? Let’s see:

  • Age 35-37: 30 per cent
  • Age 38-39: 20 per cent
  • Age 40-42: 16 per cent
  • Age 43-44: not applicable

The South West Centre for Reproductive Medicine commenced 98 frozen IVF/ICSI cycles with patients' own eggs as well during this time, of which all but one reached the embryo transfer stage. Their pregnancies per cycle rate of 15 per cent is officially below the national average, even taking the small cycle number into account. 

Beginning 338 fresh IVF/ICSI cycles with patients’ own eggs, 247 of Fertility Exeter’s cycles reached the embryo transfer stage. There was a 20 per cent clinical pregnancies per cycle rate during this time — 28 per cent for women under 35, 11 per cent for women aged 35-37 (below the national average), and 18 per cent for those between 38-39.

Their frozen embryo cycles with patients’ own eggs had a pregnancies per cycle rate of 25 per cent. A total of 72 such cycles took place, with 68 reaching embryo transfer. No donor cycles were recorded by the HFEA during this time.

What Do Former Patients Think Of The Fertility Clinics In Wales And The West Country?

Patient experiences are, of course, somewhat subjective — it's entirely possible for one person to really "click" with a nurse or fertility consultant and for another person to get on with the same staff rather poorly. In addition, different patients encounter different members of staff, likewise influencing their experience. Hearing what former patients, people who have already walked in the shoes that are awaiting you, have to say can still give you valuable insights into a clinic's atmosphere and competence. What do former patients say about the clinic you may be considering?

Speaking to a number of former patients of the London Women's Clinic in Cardiff who were treated between 2013 and 2015, we were surprised how many reported that the clinic was administratively disorganized. Patients who were treated there more recently, however, had different stories to tell. Despite the fact that the London Women's Clinic is a private, for-profit, clinic, they felt that its staff were very transparent about the cost of treatment and not trying to sell them treatments they wouldn't benefit from. One lesbian couple who had reciprocal IVF also commented that they felt very "normal" while being treated; this indicates that the clinic is LGBT friendly. 

Wales Fertility Institute Neath patients we heard from all had a great experience with the staff, describing them as caring, professional, and all-around lovely. Several did complain of a lot of red tape, but what can we say? This is to be expected from any NHS-governed clinic.

Bath Fertility Centre patients didn't have anything nice to say about the interior of the clinic itself — but a lot about the staff and their expertise. At the Bath Fertility Centre you can, they say, expect "personal service" provided by kind and caring staff who understand what you are going through. They also reported that communication with the clinic is easy and straightforward, which is a real bonus. 

People who received treatment at the Bristol Centre for Reproductive Medicine described a "relaxed atmosphere" but also said that treatment proceeded quickly. One patient appreciated always being greeted with a smile, and said the nursing team was always available to answer any questions she had. 

One woman who was treated at Fertility Exeter noted that she specifically went there because they accept patients with low AMH levels, while other clinics may not. She described the staff as being the best she could have wished for. 

South West Centre for Reproductive Medicine patients offered mixed reviews; some described the clinic as fairly impersonal and cold, while others were happy with the treatment they received at the clinic.

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