In Canada fertility clinic success rates are a guessing game

According to an article on, the quality of Canada’s many fertility centers varies enormously. For patients seeking out IVF choosing the right facility is virtually a guessing game.

Government agencies in both the U.K. and the United States require clinics to report their success rates — how many pregnancies or births they produce per treatment — which are then published online. Despite the growing popularity of the largely for-profit business in Canada, this country lacks any independent source of information about which clinics will give patients the best chances of having a child. In fact, a federal agency tasked with at least collecting that data — and possibly releasing it — was disbanded a year ago.

Hard evidence from other countries suggests that results can differ markedly from clinic to clinic, arguably due in part to varying abilities at creating embryos and transferring them into patients’ uteruses.

Some doctors in the specialty, while warning of possible pitfalls, agree it may be time to take action here. “I think there’s a lot of value in trying to provide transparency and honesty to patients,” said Tom Hannam, who heads a Toronto-based clinic.

Meanwhile, getting medical help to have children continues to surge in popularity, with 23,000 treatment cycles performed in 2011 at 32 clinics across the country, up 50% just since 2008. The association representing assisted-reproduction physicians and other professionals has for years collected statistics on its members’ work, with a small sub-committee examining clinic-specific success rates and even offering remedial help to outliers who fall well below the average.

But the Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society [CFAS] has always rejected the idea of letting the public see those individual-clinic results, suggesting the figures could be misleading to patients — and potentially prompt dangerous changes in practice.

Our experience in the U. S with the SART and CDC reporting shows that those statistics can be confusing and difficult to interpret for consumers, but they do provide a general idea of how a clinic is doing in a particular age group or treatment class such as egg donation.

In our book, “Conceptions & Misconceptions,” we show how to interpret those statistics and look at other issues which are important in selecting the right fertility center.

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