IVF clinics are exploiting the desperation of people like me – and there’s no law to stop it

Preying on the vulnerability of someone so desperate for a child that they are getting into debt and on the brink of a mental health crisis is nothing short of criminal

Rachel Tompkins
Thursday 27 June 2019 13:13 BST
A new study found that IVF clinics are offering expensive ‘add-on’ treatments which may hamper their clients’ chances of successful conception
A new study found that IVF clinics are offering expensive ‘add-on’ treatments which may hamper their clients’ chances of successful conception (Shutterstock)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


Anyone who has ever tried for a baby will know how all-consuming it can be – especially when it just isn’t happening. I got married when I was 29 and came off the pill shortly after, keen to start a family. After years spent trying not to get pregnant, as I focused on my career and social life, I soon realised just how difficult it could actually be. I was surrounded by friends, colleagues and even strangers on the Tube all proudly displaying their pregnancies, with bulging bellies and “Baby on board” badges. As the months passed and tests revealed I had “unexplained infertility”, I began to feel utterly hopeless.

So when my husband and I were finally referred for IVF treatment it felt a bit surreal, but also an incredible relief. The immense pressure of this impossible task wasn’t on my shoulders any more – it was in the safe hands of the experts. I kept my treatment as quiet as possible, keen to protect myself from having to share the disappointing news when it failed. And each time I sat in the hospital waiting room overlooking the rooftops of London, I recognised the desperation on the other patients’ faces all too well.

I was fortunate that, on this occasion, I wasn’t footing the bill myself as I qualified for NHS treatment. But I wouldn’t have thought twice about paying whatever it cost if it would improve my chances of conceiving.

That’s why I was appalled at the news that private IVF clinics have been encouraging couples to pay for “add-ons” to their treatment schedules that, rather than boosting success rates, may actually have been hampering their chances of a successful pregnancy. And at great cost too.

Preying on the vulnerability of someone so desperate for a child that they are often already getting into debt and pushed to the brink of mental health problems can surely be nothing less than criminal. I, like many others on their fertility journey, became so wrapped up in the process that I would have tried absolutely anything the doctors suggested. These opportunist clinics are committing the most heinous abuses of trust and power.

Thankfully, my first round of IVF worked. On 12 December 2012 our son was born, a miracle in so many ways, even in his prodigious date of birth. Fast forward two years, though, and efforts to conceive a sibling resulted in miscarriage after miscarriage.

Heartbroken, we turned to IVF again – but this time we weren’t eligible on the NHS. We went to a different clinic and had to foot the bill ourselves, and at more than £5,000 plus medication it wasn’t an insignificant sum. When we were offered “add-on” treatments such as endometrial scratching and embryo glue, I wasn’t in the right mind to spend hours researching the scientific research behind how successful these were. Again, I trusted the doctors for that.

Which is exactly what most people do when they’re investing not only their money, but also their hearts and their sanity, in fertility treatment.

As it happens no amount of add-ons worked for us that time, or the next. After spending more than £10,000 on a dream that wasn’t meant to be, we were faltering. Sanity and savings aren’t infinite.

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Incredibly our story took a happy turn: we did conceive again, on our own, with no costly treatments or clinics to help. Our second son was born in May 2016. Another miracle.

Not a day goes by when I don’t count myself beyond lucky to have both my children. But even thinking about the fact that some of these clinics are preying on vulnerable people like myself just to make money is totally abhorrent. Surely tighter measures need to be in place so that desperate people aren’t taken advantage of and put through any more heartache than they’re already facing.

Just because IVF is available privately it doesn’t mean that desperate, trusting people like myself should be abused for pure profit. The law needs to change.

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