Doctor Diaries: How to protect yourself from IVF scams

Here's why you may be getting cheated if you choose the wrong IVF specialist.

I am an IVF specialist, and take pride in providing high quality medical care to infertile couples. IVF is a remarkably successful treatment and can dramatically improve the chances of giving an infertile couple the baby they so deeply desire. However, because of the huge demand for IVF treatment, lots of IVF clinics have now mushroomed all over India, but many are of poor quality and provide substandard care.

I am a strong believer in the credo Knowledge is Power, which is why it's very disappointing to see how clueless most IVF patients are about what happens in the IVF lab. After all, if they do not take the trouble to educate themselves about the process, how will they be able to differentiate a good clinic from a bad clinic?

What's even worse is that most 'IVF doctors' are completely unaware of exactly what procedures take place in the lab. Sure, they know that eggs are fertilized and embryos are grown in the petri dish in the incubator, but their knowledge doesn t go deeper than that. They are essentially clinicians who are trained as gynecologists; and all the lab work is typically left to the embryologist. To a certain extent, this can be overlooked, if the lab also has a full-time qualified embryologist. However, most IVF clinics in India find that this is a luxury they can ill afford. These clinics just have to make do with the services of traveling embryologists or poorly qualified lab technicians. When it comes to lab procedures, every single step is crucial in achieving the desired result.

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Unfortunately, there are just too many inexperienced embryologists or very poorly qualified ones doing the rounds. They are able to manage the straightforward IVF cases; however they aren t always able to work with challenging patients. For example, they may not have the ability or skill to handle testicular sperm , and many will simply tell the man with azoospermia that it s best for them to use donor sperm, rather than offer them the option of TESE-ICSI, which gives them a chance to have a baby with their own sperm. Many will concoct a variety of excuses to pull a cloak over their incompetence, and take advantage of their patient's ignorance. Therefore , even when a patient has a large number of good quality spare embryos , instead of freezing them for her, they lie through their teeth and tell her that the pregnancy rates with frozen embryos are poor. They will then simply discard them , or donate them to other patients.

How can you protect yourself ?

The key is to insist on openness, and transparency by asking for documentation. In these labs, there is very poor documentation of what happens to the eggs and embryos in the labs. If mishaps occur, they will be neither documented nor reported. A poor quality lab will never be able to produce good quality embryos and that is exactly what happens here. But the patient has no inkling of what is happening behind the confines of the lab s walls and everything is kept under wraps. Before the transfer, the patients are occasionally given a cursory glimpse of the fragmented embryos on a TV screen, and the doctor claims these are good quality embryos !

They don t give patients a copy of their embryo s photographs, and many claim that taking photos of embryos damages them, which is a lie. If your IVF doctors refuses to give you a photo of your embryos, this should be a red flag , as more often than not, it is an indication that the lab is poorly equipped or maintains dismal quality standards. Thus, many labs may have no power backup for the lab equipment and in case of a power failure (which is common in many parts of our country), the embryos will arrest in the incubator. However, this information is hidden from the patient.

Sadly the poor patient bears the brunt of this gross incompetence. When an IVF cycle fails, the blame is often laid on poor egg quality . The patient is asked to look for other options, such as donor eggs. Most patients are na ve and since they are also ill-informed, many just accept their fate. Little do they suspect that the doctor has taken them for a ride. It is important that IVF patients empower themselves with Information Therapy and scram from such IVF scams the minute they notice anything amiss.

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