During this event, Professor Alan Thornhill, Fertility Expert & Coach shared some useful tips you can use before you embark on your IVF journey, for example, how to choose the right clinic, what questions to ask or where to look for credible information.
There are lots of different definitions and viewpoints around fertility coaching. One of the terms to define ‘fertility coaching’ is ‘Supporting people on their journey to becoming parents. There are many styles of coaching and types of coaches because there’s not one size fits all. You can find all kinds of coaches that can help you with nutrition, emotional support, lifestyle, mindset, stress, natural methods, and so on. Alan Thornhill, in his talk, focused on 7 tips that will help you prepare for your IVF journey, what questions you need to ask and how to handle it all.
Top tip #1 – all you need to know about IVF
Many times, patients ask if they need to become an expert in this. The truth is that you do. You need to do a bit of homework before you do IVF because if you don’t, you’re going to lose a lot of understanding of what’s being put in front of you. You do need to know the basics, learn about the terms, how it’s done, what kind of tests are out there that might help you and so on. Be aware of the sales agenda on the website and expect that you’ll see 95% of the same or similar information out there. It’s simply because the basics of IVF are the same everywhere.
Top tip # 2 – ask the right questions
Many times patients are not sure how to ask proper questions, or simply say no or complain. You need to remember that you have rights, so you don’t have to say yes to everything offered to you. If anything is not clear or you’ve never heard about a particular drug or test, keep in mind, you can ask for details or simply say no if you’re not convinced. You’re the one signing the checks, if you’re not sure about things, ask for the details and explanation. Always make sure you will ask a clear question so that you can get a clear and precise answer. If you find that hard to articulate when you’re speaking to a doctor or your medical team, then write it down, put it in an email, and then you’ve got a record of it as well. You can also confirm this with somebody else, so you can be clear about what you want. Put it in writing, but be persistent, if you don’t get an answer straight away, ask again. If it’s difficult for you to ask the question or you can’t even think straight, perhaps it would be good to go with a friend or a family member, just so they can perhaps take notes, and ask the questions that you’re forgetting.
Lots of cycles don’t go quite the way you want them to, and if something seems off to you, keep in mind that you can make a complaint. There’s a complaints process, all clinics have required to have a complaints process, it’s best to try to resolve it amicably at first because that’s the best way to get the thing you want.
To summarize, be friendly and firm. If you don’t say anything and the clinic doesn’t notice it, they’re probably not going to say anything to you. Therefore, if you’re not happy with something, you do need to make that clear.
Top tip #3 – choosing the right treatment & clinic
The most important thing is to go to the right clinic for you. Don’t go for the best clinic with the highest success rates. It’s all about your particular case and needs. Make sure you do thorough research to make sure you’re having the best treatment and clinic for you. You need to find trusted resources or a scoring scheme, even the UK regulator has a scoring scheme. Always be cautious and look at the reviews and how many reviews are there. It’s got to have a lot of reviews, but the truth is there are not that many clinics with massive numbers of reviews, and it tends to be skewed towards extremely happy patients, and extremely unhappy patients. You also need to look at your personal needs and finances, consider having treatment in the UK, your home country or overseas, and be aware of different laws regarding IVF in different countries.
You also need to understand the results. There are lots of different ways of presenting results, for example, you can present results as the live birth cycle started, or you could say clinical pregnancy rate per embryo transfer. Although those things are related, and a clinic with a very high live birth per cycle started may also be one with a high clinical pregnancy rate per embryo transfer, they’re not the same thing. If you’re comparing clinics, you have to compare them correctly. That’s a really important thing.
It is good to get to know the clinic before you start your IVF treatment. You can visit clinics, usually, you can do free consultations and virtual consultations. It’s worth getting to know some of the staff and understanding what your journey might be if you go to that clinic before you start signing checks and going there.
It’s very easy to have a consultation just to have your hormones checked or for the male partner to have sperm checked, and then suddenly you’re a patient of this clinic, and you haven’t done all of this stuff in advance. I think you should do all of this stuff before you choose a clinic and not just fall into the funnel.
Tip #4 – seek good resources
It’s good to ask perhaps your friends and family who perhaps had some experience already and can share with you their own experience. Be aware that your needs can be quite different as well, so beyond that, choosing a clinic only focusing on friends and family is not the best thing to do. You should be doing thorough research as your fertility situation might be different. Just because your friend had a particular procedure, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right for you. It’s important to listen and make your own decisions.
One other place for information is bulletin boards, although be aware as those are not the best places to find facts. They are good as they create this community, you’ve got people you can speak with, but people are usually sharing their own experience and what worked for them or not, it’s their opinions, but that is not the reason you’re there, you went there to get a very clear indication of whether this is good for you or not.
Beware of bulletin boards, not that they’re bad, they’re fulfilling a great need and a function for people, but I don’t think they are necessary places to go and find facts.
Top tip #5 – be sceptical
There’s a lot of misinformation out there. When someone tells you something, and you just think that just doesn’t fit with anything you’ve ever heard before, it’s probably not true, or it might be worth asking a few more questions. First thing, sense check. Another thing is you ask a question to anybody in the medical profession particularly, and you’re met with silence, which means they just don’t want to answer you or ignore you. Silence could be over the email as well, this is not a good sign. When people don’t answer your question, it can mean they’ve got something to hide, or they don’t want to answer it or it just means they’re rubbish at customer service, so why would you spend your time?
If you do a virtual consult or you visit the clinic, look at the body language. When somebody’s not telling you the truth or is uncomfortable about what they’re saying to you, watch the body language, it’s really important, and that’s why sometimes an email is not enough.
If you’re not feeling the trust, if your gut is saying there’s something wrong here, you should probably walk away because if it doesn’t work out and you’ve got to be prepared for it failing, and you think at least everybody was trustworthy, and they looked after me. However, if you’re thinking, I didn’t trust them from the start, and I failed, that is not a good place to be.
Top tip #6 – financing & understanding costs
You need to have a plan for more than 1 cycle. If you are thinking it’s going to work on the first go, for some of you it will, but it might not, and you’ll be in for a shock, and that’s not a good place to be. It might be good to talk to a financial planner and advisor because if this is going to end up being quite a lot of money, you probably want to factor this into your financial planning. You do need to get a costly treatment plan from the clinics, and in the UK, it’s a requirement. You’ve got to consider the difference between basic IVF and that there might be some extra things like add-ons which might be beneficial in your case. They shouldn’t just be part of everybody’s cycle every time, but you should ask when that’s offered to you and why it’s been offered.
Another thing that patients aren’t told about is that you can buy their medications from the pharmacy or at least attempt to. It’s quite clear on some clinic websites that they charge a markup for the benefit of you being able to pick up the drugs at the clinic, but if you’re prepared to pick them up from the pharmacy, you’ll usually get them cheaper. That’s an instant way to save money.
Top tip #7 – keep your relationship on track
The first thing to do before you even embark on the IVF journey is to be aligned on what you want. You’re going to get through a lot of challenging times on this journey and if you’re not aligned on what you want, it’s going to make it that much more difficult to get the result that you both want. Communicate together, and communicate with others. Reach out to people, there are some support groups, speak to your friends, you should speak to somebody outside that situation. You should communicate with your clinic as well, say what you want, what you like, what you didn’t like, what went wrong and if you don’t understand something ask, so you get the information you need to carry on, don’t make assumptions. If you think something is missing in your program, ask them about it. Lastly, support each other, be there for each other, try to understand what the other partner is going through, and communicate, so that you are on the same page.