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 rigorously test it. Considering that it takes on average 10 years to bring a new drug to the market, IVF add-ons have moved into the fast lane.
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. This would take years of running huge randomised trials which are very expensive and not feasible since most clinics are independently run. At first glance, some add-ons appear beneficial but may actually have no effect, or may even be dangerous. Others can be beneficial for specific groups of people and make no difference to another group.
If there is early promising evidence that a particular treatment can help patients but it has not been robustly tested, is it wrong to offer it to paying customers? IVF clinics want to be able to provide patients with the best chance of success, but this can be misconstrued as taking advantage of vulnerable people by charging for unproven treatments.
The list of add-ons is growing all the time and so is the cost of treatment. 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 that it does not improve success rates if a semen sample is normal. Another example may be endometrial receptivity (ERA) testing - anyone can have an ERA test but many results show it may only be useful for women with a history of 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.
You can find more information about specific add-on treatments below.