Questions to Ask When Choosing an IVF Clinic

Eran Amir

CEO and Founder of GoStork

Starting in vitro fertilization (IVF) is a big decision and a life-changing step in the process of having a baby. It can also be an emotional roller coaster that requires a substantial amount of money as well as dedication to the process. This is your choice of which IVF clinic to work is such an important one.

Choosing the best IVF clinic for you is highly dependent on your personal situation. Nonetheless, there are several common factors everyone should consider during their research and decision-making process.

What should I consider when choosing an IVF clinic?

Most fertility clinics have a structured discussion prepared for new patients outlining basic processes and procedures as well as answering FAQs. That said, you should also come prepared with all of your own questions – in case they’re not covered in the overview. Below are the high-level categories to start thinking about even in advance of your first meeting:

  1. Years of experience
  2. Success rates
  3. Extent of patient-centered care offered
  4. Specialists’ certifications and experience
  5. Technology used 
  6. How they handle testing
  7. Customer ratings and reviews
  8. Costs
  9. Timeline
  10. Consistency
  11. Pre-Testing and/or potential restrictions
  12. Convenience

And now let’s get into more details about what specific questions to ask and why: 

1. How long has the fertility clinic been in business & how many treatments do they perform per year?

The number of years a fertility clinic has been operational is a good indication of its success, reputation, and commitment as does the number of (successful) treatments they perform per year. Which leads perfectly into…

2. What are its success rates (more specifically for a patient like me)?

Fertility clinics are bound by law to report and verify data annually related to the assisted reproductive technology (ART) cycles carried out in their clinics, as well as the outcomes of these cycles. This data can help you get a better idea of your average chances of success per ART cycle or transfer – though of course, ART success rates do vary from person to person.

Rather than just considering the overall average, you should really look deeper. Clinics that provide quality data will also include numbers on the nature of infertility cases they treat. A clinic with a disproportionate share of young, relatively easy-to-treat patients will automatically have higher success rates. If you fit this bill, that clinic may work well for you, but for more complicated cases this figure might not necessarily reflect your own situation. A study published in the Journal of Health Economics found that ART patients respond to quality data when choosing their preferred fertility clinic – another reason the absence of easily accessible data can be a serious red flag. 

3. Is the fertility clinic patient-centered?

It’s fairly common knowledge that IVF involves a series of highs and lows – which are not always easy to manage on your own. This is why you need providers who really care. The majority of ART patients consider a high level of medical information and patient-centered care as important. In fact, a lack of patient-centeredness is the most cited non-medical reason for switching fertility clinics.

Patient-centered care, together with psychosocial services prove helpful in dealing with high fertility-related stress in the relationship, personal and social domains. You can learn more about this in a study published in Human Reproduction.

Support is integral during the IVF journey, a number of clinics also offer access to patient support groups. 

4. Are your providers board-certified?

You want the best possible care delivered by the best in the industry. So, definitely double-check physicians’ certifications. You can do this through the provider’s website — and you can even go a step further and verify certifications on the American Board of Medical Specialties website.

In order to obtain a general Obstetrics and Gynecology board certification from the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, physicians must complete four years of specialty training. For a subspecialty certification in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, the physician must be board-certified and complete a fellowship program lasting 36 months, at minimum. You should opt for an IVF clinic that offers board-certified IVF specialists, with certifications in obstetrics, gynecology, reproductive endocrinology, and infertility. 

In addition to doing the necessary checks on the practicing physicians, you’d want to take into consideration the experience, education, and training of other medical staff in the clinic who will also be assisting you along the way. This is usually indicated on the provider’s website.

5. What technology does it use? How many eSETs are performed versus 2BETs?

An elective single embryo transfer (eSET) enables you to enjoy the same success rates when transferring one embryo but with a greatly reduced risk of multiples. This is due to significant advancements in clinical and embryological techniques. In a double blastocyst embryo transfer (2BET), two embryos are transferred. The risk of multiples is high as one of the embryos (or – less frequently – both) can split and produce identical twins. 

eSETs are evidence that the clinic follows currently accepted best practices and makes use of equipment of the highest standard . 

6. Do you do in-house testing?

Ask the fertility clinic how they handle the tests required as part of the IVF process, specifically FSH, LH, estrogen, and progesterone hormone level testing. Larger clinics handle these in-house, others use third parties. For the latter, check that the testing facilities they’re using are reputable.

7. What do other patients say?

Looking at past patient’s experiences is another great way to gain insight into the fertility clinic and its practices. Reputable IVF clinics openly feature reviews from patients, but your research shouldn’t stop here. Check third party review websites and online communities for testimonials from past patients. Keep an eye on reviews posted for both the fertility center as well as the individual doctor(s) who practice there prior to making an appointment for an initial consultation.

Apart from this, it helps to ask family members, friends, or members of support groups who have undergone fertility treatments for suggestions and recommendations.

8. What costs can I expect?

You want to ask for a full breakdown of costs and not just the price tag attached to the IVF procedure. Ask the clinic to provide you with a list of all costs related to testing and medications (and feel free to ask if they accept payments in installments). For a more complete figure, factor into your calculations the cost of a hospital delivery.  

We suggest you start by researching what your insurance will cover and what it won’t. Though you should reach out to your insurance provider, you can also ask your fertility doctor for advice as they may have insight as to medication coverage. Many couples who go the IVF route end up paying more than they expected out of pocket – it helps to have accurate expectations rather than surprises. 

Whereas a typical IVF cycle costs anywhere from $12,000 to $17,000, this does not include fertility drugs, specialized testing, and the birth. Clarify with your insurance provider what is regarded as “voluntary” medical care, and what is not. Coverage greatly depends on the insurance company, state-specific legislation, age, reasons for infertility and your relationship status. Currently, 14 states* mandate that insurers cover infertility treatments including IVF; two states (California and Texas) require that insurance companies offer coverage for infertility treatment.

See the NCSL website for a complete list of state laws related to insurance coverage for infertility treatment.

9. What is the timeline in general for the entire process?

As you plan out your upcoming months, if will help you to know things like what is the overall treatment timeline, how soon you can start, how many times you’ll need to visit the clinic, etc.  Going even beyond that; you can look into if pregnancy isn’t achieved, how long you’ll need to wait to try again.

10. What routine aspect of the process can I count on?

Going through fertility treatments can be stressful for some, and it may bring some stress relief to know in advance that you can count on how frequently/consistently the clinic will communicate updates to you, or even that you will consistently have the same physician throughout all of your treatments. 

11. Are there any qualifications involved that may restrict my treatment?

If you’re concerned about this for any reason (potentially related to your age, relationship status or anything else) – save yourself time by asking in advance and the clinic should be honest with you.  You can also ask if any tests are required in advance — and why. Again, this is your personal journey, feel comfortable asking and expect transparency.

12. Where is it located and how flexible is their schedule?

You may need to visit the clinic often during treatment so we suggest you take travel time into consideration. An IVF clinic close to home does have its benefits, especially if you’re usually busy with work or family life. Additionally, whether they have weekend or evening appointments is always good to know when you consider how to most conveniently fit your process into your daily life. 

In conclusion

Deciding on a fertility clinic is both an important and highly personal process. When it comes to achieving pregnancy, finding an IVF clinic that offers quality treatment and care – delivered in a patient-centered and supportive manner – is the goal.  Good luck on your journey!