Finally, couples should know that while they’re considering the numbers, higher success rates don’t necessarily mean a better fertility clinic. Mark V. Sauer, M.D., professor of ob/gyn and director of the division of reproductive endocrinology at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in Manhattan, advises it’s important to consider the differences between university programs and private practices. A private fertility practice may engage in selective choosing of patients to keep the success rate artificially high. It can also classify more difficult cases as “research,” creating a loophole which allows it to take these higher-risk patients out of the reported statistics. So in some cases, a fertility clinic with a slightly lower success rate may actually be more medically-skilled and more willing to take on challenging cases than fertility clinics that look better on paper.
Dr. Surrey recommends that patients ask the following questions to help make sense of the statistics they receive:
• What kind of fertility evaluation will I be undergoing?
• What are your criteria for including me or excluding me from your program?
• What percentage of patients in my age group may be excluded?
• Has your program had consistent success rates over a period of time?
• What services does your program offer? (A broad range including ICSI, cryopreservation, egg donation, and genetic screening of embryos is important.)
• Have there been major changes within your medical or laboratory staff in the last one or two years? (A significant change could have an impact on statistics.)
• Which, if any, of your reported success rates apply specifically to me?
Armed with a list of the appropriate questions to ask and an understanding of IVF statistics, women considering this fertility treatment will be better able to know what a clinic’s success rates really mean, and hopefully choose the clinic that gives them the best chance of bringing home not a statistic, but a real, live baby.
A version of this story originally appeared in the Winter 2005 issue of Conceive Magazine.