If you’re interested in doing IVF or egg freezing in California, there are a few things you might want to consider before picking a fertility clinic or a fertility doctor.
Whether it’s cost, financing options, location or approach, there are unique aspects of the clinic selection process that can have a big impact on your experience and potentially your outcome.
When it comes to choosing a fertility clinic in California that is best for you, many people often do not know where to start.
If you’re feeling uncertain and confused about what matters in the selection process, you are certainly not alone.
But don’t worry, in this article we guide you through the process to help you navigate the elements that you should take into account when trying to find a fertility clinic in California.
(You can also check out ELANZA's Clinic Discovery tool here if you're ready to start comparing clinics!)
Where is the clinic in California?
In California, there are roughly 70 fertility clinics, which is one of the highest number of clinics per state than anywhere else in the US - so there are plenty to choose from.
The majority of fertility clinics in California are concentrated in the major metropolitan areas.
In Northern California, you’ll find them in San Francisco, San Jose/South Bay, and Sacramento.
In Southern California, they are more spread out down the coast, from Orange County to Los Angeles and down to San Diego.
If you’re not close to one of these areas, you may want to consider having your first consultation via telehealth appointment first, just to get a feel for the doctor.
Why does proximity matter when picking a clinic?
During your fertility treatment journey you will be visiting your chosen fertility clinic on a regular basis.
You may only have a few visits in the initial stages while your doctor does an assessment and you receive blood tests, etc. (read more about that here). But the proximity will really matter once you start an ovarian stimulation cycle in which your doctor will want you to come into the fertility clinic anywhere from once a day to once every 3-4 days.
This is a really important part of the process so that he or she can identify how your follicles are growing and if the treatment protocol needs to be adapted.
The amount of time you’ll end up spending in the clinic is often a surprise to people, which is why having a clinic be accessible to your home or work can make a really big impact on the overall experience.
Consider the route you take to and from work, if you work from home, look at fertility clinics near your home. Most often the monitoring appointments will take place first thing in the morning so make sure you check if you may get caught in rush hour traffic.
Why the personality of the doctor and clinic is paramount
At different stages of your fertility journey, you will be dealing with various individuals, you will be interacting with clinic staff, your chosen fertility specialist and, sometimes, an embryologist (the specialist that manages the laboratory aspects of the treatment).
When searching for a fertility clinic it is important that you spend time getting to know the people who will be assisting you on this journey.
As a fertility patient, you can’t begin your search for a fertility doctor without knowing what is important to you and what you would like your doctor to provide.
More often than not your fertility journey will continue over many weeks or months, you need to ensure that you are comfortable with your chosen fertility specialist.
The truth is that just because your OB/GYN or your friend recommended a clinic or doctor, doesn’t mean that they’re your cup of tea as well.
As this can be such a stressful and important time in your life, finding a doctor that ‘sees’ you, hears you, and meets you where you’re at can make a massive difference in your overall experience, and potentially your outcome.
You might consider approaching the clinic/doctor selection process almost like dating.
The good news is that there’s someone for everyone.
Some people want a no-nonsense, straightforward approach and others want more counseling and assurance that the doctor gets to know your unique needs. There is no wrong answer!
What’s important is that you find one that gives you what you need.
Some initial considerations are:
Do you have special circumstances (e.g. PCOS, fibroids, DOR, etc) that the doctor specializes in?
Do you care if the doctor is a male or female?
Does it matter to you that you see the same doctor throughout the treatment cycle?
Is the doctor empathetic to your religious beliefs?
Is it important to have a doctor or clinic that has services for LGBTQ+?
Here’s another fun game: This or that, which traits/attributes do you prefer?
A younger doctor OR one that’s more experienced
A doctor with top marks in terms of research OR more friendly bedside manner
Male or female
Small clinic setting with fewer bells and whistles OR one with slick operations yet less focus on individual care
The easiest way to get this information, without having to pay the hundreds of dollars for a consultation, is to look through our fertility doctor directory.
You can get a feel for the doctor and the clinic and their unique approach.
From there, you can decide if it’s worth taking the next step towards booking a consultation (make sure to ask about any discounts from ELANZA by referencing ELANZAWellness.com when you call or email!)
When searching for a clinic, it’s often assumed that success rates are the most important thing to look for.
But what does “success” actually mean? Where do you find them? How accurate are they?
And, how important are they, really?
What does “success” mean in the context of fertility treatment?
According to the current standard of thinking, the ‘live birth rate’ is synonymous with ‘success’ when it comes to the performance of a fertility clinic.
While this can seem like a bit of a morbid assessment, it is universally recognized as the data point that most accurately defines if a clinic has been able to help a person go from ovarian stimulation cycle to healthy baby.
For example, “pregnancy rate” isn’t a good measure because of the often high rates of miscarriage throughout the process.
What this number doesn’t take into account is if those births were from single birth or what’s called ‘multiple births’ because twins conceived through IVF have greater risks for morbidity and mortality in comparison with singletons.
This could also be narrowed down to exclude preterm or low birth weight births, however, the analysis of whether or not this is directly related to the clinic’s performance is difficult to measure.
It is really important to note that the live birth rate is simply a proxy for performance of a clinic. But in reality, success rates vary in the context of patient and treatment characteristics, such as age, infertility diagnosis, number of embryos transferred, type of ART procedure, use of techniques such as ICSI, and history of previous births, miscarriages, and ART cycles.
Where to look for success rates
In the US, there is no official regulatory body for assisted reproductive technology (ART) treatments; however, clinics are required to report their data to the CDC. Some clinics choose to pay to be a part of the Society for Reproductive Technologies (SART), which further breaks down the numbers and provides more access to data around each clinic’s performance.
That said, not all clinics think it’s necessary to have a membership.
NOTE: just because a clinic isn’t a member of SART, doesn’t make them a bad clinic.
Many have stated that they prefer not to be a member because it causes unnecessary administrative burden without much benefit to the clinic or patient.
Regardless, if success rates are important to you, make sure to cross-check any success claims on a clinic’s website with those from the CDC and SART as they may be inclined to show the numbers they deem as ‘success’ or they could be showcasing outdated numbers.
Success rates are inherently flawed
Due to the fact that success rate is the only real data point for people to make a choice about a clinic, the competition to keep these numbers high can incentivize clinics to choose patients that will only provide the best outcomes.
Anecdotally speaking, there are ways of bolstering success rates by denying patients that are within a certain age group, those with a high BMI, or significant reproductive health issues.
The other factor to consider is that success rates are down to the clinic, not the doctor and the CDC doesn’t often publish them until years after they’ve been submitted, making it even harder to feel like you’re making an educated decision.
“For most clinics, you're going to have very similar success rates. What's more important is that you get what you need to succeed for you as a unique individual.”- Carolyn Givens, MD at Pacific Fertility Center
“I personally think that looking at success rates is completely bogus when you're trying to evaluate a fertility clinic. Success rates...are so standardized these days,” said Gabriel Bogner, co-founder of MATE Fertility. “You want to look more at the qualitative data...I think it needs to be switched around from ‘this is the number’ to ‘what was the overall patient experience?”
Support offered at clinics is a real consideration:
Many individuals find coping with infertility or fertility challenges a very daunting and emotional task.
With this in mind, it might be helpful to find out what type of support the fertility clinic near you offers.
Many fertility clinics in California are starting to place great importance on the overall wellbeing of their patients, which is good to know.
It’s hard to know what the fertility journey will look like for you so having a solid support system in place may prove to be extremely helpful, whether or not you think you need it at first.
For this reason, your fertility clinic and doctor should not only consider your physical wellbeing, although the fertility process is very scientific, it can be reassuring to know that your wellbeing in its entirety is cared for.
Every individual’s fertility journey is different and we all deal with disappointment and loss in our own manner.
Receiving news that treatment has not been successful can be devastating, not only for you as the patient but for your partner or loved ones too.
For this simple reason, you should look for a clinic that does more than the ‘science’ behind it all.
Before you choose a fertility clinic it is often nice to know what they offer over and above consultations with your fertility physician.
Do they have a patient care team that is willing to always assist and answer any questions that you might have?
Does the fertility clinic near you offer additional services such as in-house fertility psychologists?
Insurance and the costs of fertility clinics in California
Unlike many other states in the US, health insurance companies in California are not mandated to cover fertility treatments such as IVF (in-vitro fertilization) and egg freezing.
While this is hopefully going to change, there are a few health insurance providers that cover fertility treatments.
Specifically, IVF insurance coverage in California is available through employer-sponsored health insurance plans and generally cannot be obtained through individual health coverage.
What this means is that fertility treatments may be covered by your employer as an additional benefit.
If you live in California and you are looking at how you can have your treatment covered by insurance, you have two options.
1. The only option to purchase individual coverage for in vitro fertilization is to move to a state that mandates every insurance to cover fertility services.
2. Another alternative would be to prove that IVF is medically necessary, for example due to a severe genetic condition. Low sperm count or blocked fallopian tubes will generally not qualify for those exceptions.
You can read more about what you need to know about fertility treatment, insurance and the law here
Employer sponsored health care
In many instances, if you are undergoing fertility treatments in California you would want to work for an organisation that already has this as a benefit to employees.
If you are wanting to find out more information about what your company offers in terms of insurance with respect to fertility treatments, we suggest speaking to your HR department first.
Read more about how to get fertility benefits here.
Plan rules for IVF coverage
Even if your health insurance covers (IVF) in vitro fertilization, there are often processes that need to be undergone before proceeding to the actual IVF.
Often the insurance will stipulate that you would have had to attempt alternatives such as intrauterine inseminations before the IVF coverage is available to use.
Therefore, many people in California considering IVF or alternative fertility treatments will have to cover these costs.
Therefore, the cost of your treatments might play a larger deciding factor when searching for a clinic or a fertility specialist.
When it comes to the payment of fertility treatment in California, there is some light at the end of the tunnel.
There are various different ways in which you can pay for your fertility treatments.
Because of the lack of insurance for fertility treatments in California, many fertility clinics in California offer financial assistance.