Choosing a Clinic
Several years ago, when I was choosing an IVF clinic in Abu Dhabi I really didn’t know where to begin. When I did my first IVF in San Francisco there were so many resources available to help me choose the right one but that wasn’t really the case in the UAE. There was a major clinic who had clearly taken advantage of Google Adwords because their name was at the very top of every search I did. I wasn’t really finding many other options when I searched. They seemed to be the only game in town.
Those days are over! There are now so many different options to choose from in the UAE and you see them advertised all over the place. That is fantastic for us as patients but it can make it a bit tricky to choose the right one for you. As a member of IVF Support UAE you are entitled to a free consultation at many of these clinics and I definitely recommend that you take advantage of that perk and make several appointments.
There is no “best” clinic in town. Each one will have big fans who swear that they would never have become mothers without Dr. XYZ at a specific clinic. Just as each clinic will have IVF failures and people who say that they had bad experiences there. Also, it’s good to keep in mind that most people will only have experience with one clinic so keep that in mind when someone tells you that their choice is “the best.”
Every clinic in the UAE must meet certain standards of care. You can be assured that each one has been monitored and certified before they open their doors for business.
Whereas in the US every fertility practice is required to report their success rates to the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) each year, making it easy to check the success rates at any clinic you may be considering, that is not the way it’s done in the UAE. Some of the clinics volunteer this information on the websites, some do not. And there’s no way to tell if that number is accurate or what they are basing it on. The CDC counts a success as a live birth, no matter how many babies are born per transfer. Twins and triplets are only considered as a single success. But since there is no regulation of that in the UAE you cannot know for certain what is being considered a “success.” It could mean a positive beta test, a heartbeat, or a live birth.
Because you will not be armed with this information it can be even trickier to choose your doctor and your clinic. Here are my top tips.
Trust your gut. I really believe you will know if you are not in the right place for you. Forgive the California-Girl in me (I am from Los Angeles, after all) but you will probably get a good or a bad vibe from wherever you go. Pay attention to that. Your comfort is so important in a situation like this.
Bring a list of questions. Bring a piece of paper or a notebook with questions that you have written down and be sure you get the answers. Maybe your husband will be with you for your consultation, but if he isn’t you want to be sure that you can relate all the relevant information he needs to know. Your head might be swimming with new info after your appointment, especially if it’s your first one, so be sure you can keep track of what you need to know.
Here are some examples:
"Based on the information I have just given you, what do you think my chances are of getting pregnant?"
"What kinds of tests will I need to do? What tests will my husband need to do?"
"Do you recommend PGS (preimplantation genetic screening) for me? What is the additional cost?"
"Will I be able to freeze my embryos if I develop Ovarian Hyper-stimulation Syndrome (OHSS)?"
Make sure IVF isn’t the only option. Ask how many cycles of intrauterine insemination (IUI) and how many cycles of IVF they do each year. A clinic that pushes their patients directly to an IVF without discussing less costly alternatives like IUI may be more interested in the commercial aspect of their practice. If the doctor isn’t interested in discussing less costly, less invasive fertility treatment with you before jumping into IVF, that could be a red flag.
Think critically about your appointment. It’s important to feel comfortable with your doctor, but beyond that there are things you should pay attention to during your consultation.
How easy was it to make an appointment and communicate with the staff? You will be making a lot of individual appointments during your cycle so if you have trouble communicating with front desk staff that could be an issue.
Will they do injections for you if you aren’t comfortable giving them to yourselves? Personally, I am a big advocate of learning to inject yourself during your IVF cycle because it allows you to control a part of your experience. Also, if you are frightened of it, it is such a great feeling to overcome that fear. But, I know it’s not for everybody and a lot of clinics in the UAE will allow you to come in and have their nurses inject you each day. If you want this service, how does it work at each clinic you are considering?
Are they open for procedures 7 days a week? If your eggs are ready to be collected or your embryos transferred on a Friday, will they accommodate you? You may not be able to schedule regular scans on a Friday but be sure that they are available for you every day if you need them.
Location is important. You will be spending a lot of time at this place. Is it easy to get to from your home? From work? Is traffic easily managed? Is parking a nightmare? Once you are in the swing of your IVF cycle you will be going there up to several times a week.
Financing. If your insurance doesn’t cover IVF, and most do not, then get a clear picture of how much it will cost and when it needs to be paid. You may not have a full answer to this question at your consultation since some of the cost will depend on medications and testing which may not be decided at such an early stage, but get a general idea of what it will cost and when it needs to be paid so you can prepare for your cycle properly.
Keep trusting your gut! I will end with the same tip I started with. You have options. Most clinics have a lot of confidence in their abilities, and for good reason. They know that they have had a lot of success. But you are an individual and don’t feel like you need to stay with a clinic because they tell you they are the best, or your friend had her baby with them, or they have a clever Facebook campaign. You don’t owe them anything (as long as you pay your bill!) so if you don’t feel right about them then go find someone else.
That is not to say that if your cycle was unsuccessful then you should move on to another clinic. On the contrary, actually. I am a big advocate for sticking with the same clinic for a second cycle if the first didn’t work. They can take what they learned about you during your first one and apply it to the second. But if you feel that the clinic is not the right one for you then you do not owe it to them to stay. Trust your instincts.