Many people who search for IVF clinics abroad are over 40 and they want to find the best IVF clinic which specialises in this age group. Women who are over 40 are not usually entitled to NHS treatment and have to rely on self-funding. As I’ve discussed before, the cost of private IVF treatment in the UK can be so expensive that many people either have to beg and borrow the money from their family or perhaps remortgage. And if the treatment isn’t successful the first time then more debt is taken on.
What to look for in an IVF clinic abroad if over 40
IVF clinics abroad in countries such as Greece, Spain, the Czech Republic and Cyprus for example offer much lower prices for fertility treatment. But what should you look for in a clinic if you are over 40.
Over 40’s Statistics
Ask the clinic for statistics specifically for the over 40 age group. Clinics usually have this information. In fact, many have to submit detailed anonymous information about their patients to their country’s IVF regulatory body (for example SUKL in the Czech Republic).
For IVF treatment, the pregnancy outcomes are poorer in women over 40. Women are born with all the eggs that they will ovulate throughout their lives. So as you age, your eggs do too. And errors can occur which make it more likely that an embryo won’t survive past early development. So if a clinic reports a high pregnancy rate for women over 40’s using their own eggs then it is prudent to query this data. It may be that they are transferring 3 or 4 embryos at a time which can result in a multiple pregnancy. This can cause serious problems for the mother and babies and should be avoided.
Many clinics are now introducing this technology into their laboratories. You can find out more about embryo monitoring here but it basically allows the embryologists to monitor closely a patients embryos as they develop in the incubator. This is important because it can tell them which embryos are not dividing properly and achieving their developmental milestones. For women over 40 who may have embryos which may have the potential to have genetic abnormalities than a younger woman, embryo monitoring can help the embryologist select the best embryos for transfer. It is non-invasive and if you only have a few embryos, you want to make sure that the best ones are transferred. It also means that there is less of a requirement to put 2 or 3 embryos back which can result in a multiple pregnancy. If the clinic has embryo monitoring equipment, it may help narrow your choice of clinic.
Preimplantation Genetic Screening (PGS)
This technique involves removing a few cells of the developing embryo and these are screened for genetic abnormalities. For women over 40 who are at risk of their embryo developing Downs syndrome or other genetic abnormalities, this technique can tell which embryos are free of the abnormality.
Some IVF clinics have much more experience with women over 40 than others. Women over 35 years are at higher risk of developing diabetes and high blood pressure during pregnancy and so it is very important that the pregnancy is monitored closely. Your IVF clinic should explain the risks associated with the treatment in your age group. Responsible clinics will ensure that you are informed of the risks and are followed up at home by your own medical practitioner.
Mammogram before IVF
A responsible clinic will check that you are fit and healthy to go through treatment. As we age, we are more prone to disease like heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Some clinics will insist that you provide a recent mammogram or have one done at their premises. It may be something that you are uncomfortable with, and people do have opinions on it. If you are unsure why it is needed or worried about the added expense, discuss this with your doctor. I personally think that making sure you are healthy and free of disease should be a priority. A clinic which considers these aspects would provide me with a degree of comfort. Mammograms are over in a few minutes and a degree of discomfort for a short time is nothing if it will save your life.
I hope that this has provided a mini-checklist to help narrow down your choice of IVF clinic if you are over 40. Do you have an opinion on the best clinic for this age group?
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