The great baby scandal: Are couples being ripped off by expensive and unnecessary IVF bolt-ons?

New research has revealed couples could be forking out thousands for unnecessary IVF bolt-on treatments [Photo: Getty]
New research has revealed couples could be forking out thousands for unnecessary IVF bolt-on treatments [Photo: Getty]

Deciding whether or not to have a baby is one of the trickiest decisions any couple might face. But once you’ve decided you want one, you could well discover it might not be as easy as you think.

Recent statistics reveal that around one in seven couples will suffer from infertility and many of them will seek medical help in the form of IVF. So, the latest research looking into IVF procedures and their success rates won’t make for easy reading.

A study commissioned by BBC Panorama and conducted by Oxford University has revealed that desperate couples could be forking out thousands of pounds for bolt-on IVF treatments that have little effect on pregnancy success rates.

The add-on treatments range from a £50 blood screening test to £8,000 egg-freezing packages are often offered to couples on top of standard IVF procedures. But according to the research many of the claims made by the fertility clinics about the benefits of these additional treatments are not actually backed by scientific evidence and in some cases they can have a negative impact on pregnancy success rates.

The study, published in the British Medical Journal, found that 26 of the 27 commonly sold extras had no clinical evidence proving that they increased the chance of having a baby.

Some of the bolt-on treatments couples could be offered include blastocyst culture, the practice of waiting longer to transfer embryos from a laboratory into the womb in the hope that they will be healthier and lead to a higher chance of pregnancy, which can cost around £800.

Assisted hatching, which is offered for around £450 and involves creating a hole in the outer layer of an embryo to improve its quality, is another treatment offered.

Then there’s Preimplantation Genetic Screening, which aims to test embryos for abnormalities, and, in some studies, has been suggested to lower birth success rates.

Are couples being exploited by some IVF clinics? [Photo: Getty]
Are couples being exploited by some IVF clinics? [Photo: Getty]

Professor Carl Heneghan, Director of Oxford’s Centre for Evidence Based Medicine, the BBC’s Panorama that the exploitation of people hoping to conceive was “One of the worst examples I’ve ever seen in healthcare”.

“The first thing you would expect to happen is that anything that makes a claim for an intervention would be backed up by some evidence,” he said.

“Some of these treatments are of no benefit to you whatsoever and some of them are harmful,” he continued.

“I can’t understand how this has been allowed to happen in the UK.”

Professor Heneghan called for greater investigation and information provided to couples embarking on the IVF process.

“There is a need for more information on interventions to be made available by fertility centres, to support well-informed treatment decisions.”

Panorama: Inside Britain’s Fertility Business is broadcast on BBC One at 20:30 on Monday November 28 (except Wales) and will be available on the BBC iPlayer afterwards.

What do you think of the new research? Have you had any experiences of bolt-on IVF procedures? Let us know @YahooStyleUK

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