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Fady I. Sharara, MD, FACOG
Selecting an IVF Program
Virginia Center for Reproductive Medicine

Selecting an IVF Program

When selecting an IVF program, information is crucial. Several points are important to consider, including the qualifications and experience of personnel, types of patients being treated, support services available, cost, convenience, live birth rates per IVF cycle started, and multiple pregnancy rates. Every couple wants to use the most successful IVF program, but many factors contribute to the overall success of a program. For example, some clinics may be willing to accept patients with a low chance of success. A clinic may specialize in certain types of infertility treatment. Costs may vary between programs. A couple may prefer a program based upon interpersonal interactions with the IVF team, or may feel more confident in the recommended treatment plan.

Consequently, it may not always be appropriate to compare programs based only on the published pregnancy rates.

Credibility is critical also. Does the program adhere to the guidelines set forth by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM)? Is the program a member of the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART), a society affiliated with the ASRM? Is the IVF lab accredited by the College of American Pathologists and SART, or by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations? These organizations require IVF programs to have personnel who have been trained in reproductive endocrinology, laparoscopic surgery, sonography, hormone measurement, tissue culture technique, and sperm/egg interaction.

Are the physicians board certified in reproductive endocrinology and infertility? Does the program report its results to the SART Registry and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)?

Most of the programs in this area are large and have many physicians and locations. Prospective couples need to address whether they prefer such programs over smaller programs that offer significantly more “face” time, hand holding, usually a single location, and a lower number of physicians who follow their care from beginning to end. The size of the program does not necessarily imply better success rates, in fact some small programs have better rates than some larger programs.

Success of the IVF Program

The SART website (www.sart.org) is a very good source of information to obtain IVF outcomes for each reporting program in the greater DC area. The 2005 information has been recently reported on the SART website. Prospective patients should include many factors in their decision making, including cost, success rates, centers and physicians reputation, ease of access and convenience, whether or not the center is self-contained (eliminating the need to be seen at satellite clinics and then having the procedures done elsewhere), and the support staff, among others. The internet offers a lot of information, but it can be a double-edged sword, and many patients can become easily overwhelmed by the amount of information available on the web. Make sure you do your homework well before choosing an IVF program.

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