Add-ons are treatments which are not included as standard with a normal IVF cycle, but may help to improve success rates. Many of the treatments are often still experimental with conflicting results, however there are also many which can make a big difference to your outcome. So how do you know which treatments will work for you and which are a waste of time and money?
The truth is that the answer is far from straight forward. IVF has been around for less than 50 years so there are still many unknowns and there is a lot of research happening all over the world. This means that new technology is constantly being developed, but there has not been enough time to test it. Considering that it takes on average 10 years to bring a new drug to the market, IVF add-ons are being developed faster than they can be thoroughly tested. Some of these new technologies may be hugely beneficial but they cannot be officially recommended for use until it has been proven that they are both safe and effective. On the other hand, some of them appear beneficial at first glance but may actually have no positive effect, or may even be dangerous.
This dilemma is difficult for IVF clinics because often there is early promising evidence that a particular treatment can help patients but if it has not been robustly tested with large clinical trials, is it wrong to offer it to patients? And furthermore, it is wrong to charge for the treatment? We often hear IVF clinics describe it as a no win situation because patients want access to the most recent advancements if it could improve their chances of success, but clinics are then accused of taking advantage of vulnerable people by offering false hope when the evidence is not yet stringent enough.
The list of add-ons is growing all the time but some of most popular treatments include:
- Timelapse Imaging
- Embryo Glue
- Assisted Hatching
- Endometrial Scratch
- ERA Testing
- Preimplantation Genetic Screening (PGS)
- Elective Freeze-all Cycle
- Artificial Oocyte Activation
- Sperm DNA Fragmentation Testing
- Intrauterine Culture
The key is to do as much research as you can. Understand what is being offered, how effective it is and whether it is right for you. Some add-ons are suitable for everyone and others may only be useful for a specific subgroup of people. For example, some clinics offer ICSI to anyone, but there is evidence to show it has no benefit to patients who have a normal semen sample. Another example may be endometrial receptivity (ERA) testing - any patient can have an ERA test but many results show it may only be useful for women with recurrent implantation failure. The IVF clinic should provide you with clear, easy-to-understand, unbiased information which explains everything you need to know but you should absolutely research information for yourself too.