Question: We are thinking of having an IVF but we are not sure which IVF Centres we should choose. Are all IVF Centres the same? What are the factors we should take into consideration?
Dr Helena’s Answer:
The world of Assisted Reproductive Medicine had evolved rapidly and the demand for reproductive services had increase by leaps and bounce as fertility rate in many countries had dropped dramatically. In Malaysia, the demand for fertility services had led to the establishment of many fertility centres.
However, are all fertility centres and fertility the same? What are the factors and issues we need to consider when choosing a fertility unit or a particular Doctor?
Here are some useful tips on how you choose your doctor and the fertility centre
(1) Does the fertility centre has good reputation for its success rates and quality control?
Unlike in other countries such as Australia or UK, in Malaysia, there is no compulsory reporting system for a fertility unit’s success rates and live birth rates. Therefore, it is extremely hard to get information about a particular Centre’s success rates. Some centres do publish their rates on their website, but again these rates are not verified by authorizing bodies and the way of calculation of success rates differs from one centre to another, making it very difficult to compare apple to apple. Therefore, it maybe worthwhile to check with people you know who had been through IVF at these centres, to gather more information about a particular centre
Due to a recent incidence of mixing-up patient’s gametes in one particular centre in Singapore, many countries such as Singapore had now made it mandatory to have international accreditations for the fertility centres in order to have license to operate. Although this has not been the case in Malaysia, a small number of reputable IVF centres had been granted international accreditation after going through robust auditing process. One of the example of this accreditation is called RTAC Certification. The Reproductive Technology Accreditation Committee (RTAC) is a subcommittee of the Board of the Fertility Society of Australia and reports directly to that Board. It is charged with the responsibility of setting standards for the performance of ART through an audited Code of Practice and the granting of licences to practice ART within Australia. It further licences an International Version of the Code of Practice for the use by Certifying Bodies in countries outside Australia and New Zealand. These are some important markers to ensure good quality control and would serve as one of the key deciding factors for patients when they choose a particular IVF centre.
(2) Does the fertility centre has qualified doctors and lab scientists?
Fertility doctors are mainly Gynaecologist with special interest and training in Fertility. The lab scientists are called embryologists and their training involved reproductive lab sciences. It maybe worthwhile checking the doctors and embryologists qualifications to ensure they have the appropriate training to handle your IVF.
(3) Does the team at the Fertility Centre make you feel comfortable?
Fertility journey can be a daunting experience and hence a professional team who makes you at ease is important to support you through this journey. A team who is genuinely concerned about your wellbeing, sincere about helping you in every step of your fertility journey is the backbone to your fertility success
(4) Did the doctor spend enough time assessing your fertility issues and personalized your treatment plan?
Many people has a misconception that IVF is a standard cookbook and the doctor/ fertility centre just need to follow the recipe to achieve a pregnancy. Whilst this conception is true to some extent when it involves standard operating procedures in IVF, however, there are areas with subtle differences which can make a whole lot of difference to the outcome of an IVF. Variation such as choices in types of protocols used in patients, dosage and types of medications, clinical monitoring, protocols in the fertility lab and decisions on the timing of embryos transfers are some of the examples. A good IVF Doctor would be able to critically analyze a couple’s fertility problem and personalize the treatment plan for individual needs
(5) Does the fertility centre has new technology which has been proven useful clinically?
IVF world is always full of excitement with advent of new technology everyday. As much as we would like to embrace all the new technologies by investing on new machines and lab equipment, which in turn would increase the cost of IVF for patients, one need to ask whether these new technologies are proven useful clinically. Therefore, it is important to find out whether the added tests/ technology on the standard IVF is indicated for your condition. It is important to discuss with your doctor the risk and benefit of the extra tests/ technologies before going through your IVF.