Following Pamela Tsigdinos’s Avalanche Book Tour, and reading Julia Leigh’s incisive comments about the IVF industry, has led me to ponder again on how the whole experience of fertility treatment is still so shady and confusing from the very outset.

I was a patient at “Ireland’s number one fertility clinic”. I wrote about my experience with Sims IVF in Dublin here. I’ve been thinking about the lack of transparency in the industry – still unregulated here in 2016 – and how uneasily it sits with the blind faith and thousands of euro that patients pour into it. I was wondering if anything had improved in six years.

How does one justify being Ireland’s self-proclaimed “most advanced fertility clinic“?

Their website says:

We achieve world-class success rates – which we are happy to publish and compare”.

And:

Thousands of babies have been born to Sims Clinic patients since our inception in 1997”.

OK, so that would not stand up on Dragon’s Den. Where are the figures? I scour the site for success rates.

But still I find only biochemical and clinical pregnancy rates for 2013 and 2014. No live-birth rates anywhere.

You don’t need a PhD to know that completed biochemical pregnancies are nothing to write home about: they are essentially early miscarriages. A clinical pregnancy can simply mean that clinical signs of a fetus were present at around six weeks, whatever the outcome.

Maybe their live-birth rates are lower than average because they take on too many poor-prognosis patients like me, or lots of over-40s. I know this is a real conundrum for well-meaning clinics in a competitive industry.

To muddy the waters further, “decent” clinics that willingly take on older and poor-prognosis patients can tend to nuke their women with high-dose meds and add-ons, in order to boost the odds.

So how do you make an informed decision, when you are starting out? In Ireland, you hit up the online message boards, ask around and hope for the best.

I do know that in this information-savvy age there is absolutely no excuse for a long-established fertility clinic to insult the intelligence of its punters by publishing only biochemical and clinical pregnancy rates.

Do those just starting out know that “world-class success rates” do not translate into actual babies?

When many more fail (70%) than succeed at standard IVF, this should be reflected more straightforwardly at the outset before clinics mess with women’s minds and bodies.

But if there were more transparency, there’d be fewer profits, right?

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