what is an assisted conception clinic?
An assisted conception clinic offers treatment and services to help anyone struggling to start a family. Some are part of a large hospital, often known as an assisted conception unit (ACU); some are stand-alone clinics which exist solely to support people experiencing fertility issues; and others are part of a broader gynaecological and sexual health practice or women’s clinic.
Clinics are staffed by a mix of fertility specialists, from consultants to embryologists to nurses and even counsellors. Their purpose is to explore and understand the fertility challenges you’re facing and prescribe the most suitable plan of action for you to give you the best chance of getting pregnant.
when should I go?
If you’ve been trying to get pregnant for a long time but without success, you might be referred by your GP for further investigation at an assisted conception clinic.
If you meet specific criteria, set by your local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), you may be able to get one or more treatment cycles funded by the NHS. If this is the case, you will most likely be referred to an ACU within your local hospital.
If you’re not eligible for funding for fertility treatment such as IVF – for example if you’re in your 40s – you might need to explore private treatment options.
You might also choose to use a private clinic if you want to get started straight away and your NHS clinic has a long waiting list; or you’ve had unsuccessful cycles on the NHS and want to try a different clinic – one with higher success rates for example.
how do I choose a clinic?
You should research the basics: what treatments do they offer?; what are their success rates?; how long is their waiting list?; what’s the cost breakdown?. Check out our clinic search page for more information.
Not all clinics are equal – either in their success rates or in cost – so it pays to do your homework. Also bear in mind that if you require treatment such as IVF, you’ll be required to make frequent – sometimes daily or even twice-daily – trips to your clinic. So you might want to weigh up the relative merits of the clinic with great success rates that’s 100 miles away versus a more local clinic with slightly lower stats. There are so many factors influencing treatment outcome that although success rates are a good indicator of clinic practices, don’t look at them in isolation.
It’s really important to trust your instinct when choosing a clinic. Did you like the consultant? Did they listen? Did they explain things clearly? You may need to try out a number of treatments at your chosen clinic so it’s vital you feel you can trust your consultant and can communicate well with them.
Make a shortlist of your preferred clinics and ask to visit them all if possible and look around the facilities. Don’t be nervous about asking your preferred clinic for testimonials and look out for patient reviews – you’ll often find certain names crop up frequently online and in forums (either for good or bad reasons!).
what fertility support do they offer?
Assisted conception clinics will usually offer the full range of fertility treatments, but check with your clinic. These might include: Investigations – often the cause of your fertility issues are unknown so the clinic will firstly try to establish the underlying problem. They might run tests ranging from simple blood tests through to scans, sperm tests, and more medical procedures such as laparoscopy (to check for any blockages or issues with the fallopian tubes, or conditions such as endometriosis). Once your consultant has gathered a bit more information about your particular problems, they can outline a bespoke treatment plan for you; Fertility drugs – if there’s a known issue with your egg production or your cycles, you might be prescribed a drug to regulate your cycle (such as Clomid); Fertility treatment cycles – if your investigations have pinpointed a specific issue, your consultant might recommend IUI (intrauterine insemination); IVF (in vitro fertilisation); or IVF with ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection). Your clinic might also offer ‘extras’ within an IVF cycle, such as assisted hatching (helping the embryo to implant) but research these thoroughly as some procedures have recently been shown to have little or no effect on success rates and can be costly additions to a regular IVF cycle; Frozen embryo transfer and storage of frozen embryos and sperm; Fertility preservation treatment e.g. for cancer patients; PGD (preimplantation genetic diagnosis) – this treatment is often used in people who are known to have a condition which could be genetically passed onto their child e.g. if one of the parents has cystic fibrosis; Donor services e.g. donor sperm and donor egg sourcing and matching; Counselling and advisory services. Check out our Fertility 101s if you want more info on these services.