Exposed: The Worthless Fertility Treatments that Can Cost Women £1,000

  • Women are paying thousands for potentially dangerous fertility treatments 
  • Tests and jabs offered by some private clinics branded ‘useless’ by doctor
  • Some cost as much as £1,000 a time and are given to women repeatedly 
  • Treatments’ side effects can range from mild headaches to meningitis 

By Fiona Macrae, Science Correspondent for the Daily Mail

Women desperate to become mothers are paying thousands of pounds for fertility treatments that are at best useless and at worst dangerous, a leading doctor has warned.

Ippokratis Sarris, a consultant gynaecologist in central London, said some private clinics are almost blinding women with science by offering tests, jabs and other treatments for which there is little or no evidence.

These range from antibodies extracted from the blood of hundreds of people, to mixtures based on egg yolk. Some cost £1,000 a time – and are given repeatedly. However, side effects can range from headaches to

Dr Sarris, lead consultant at Create St Paul’s, Europe’s biggest IVF clinic, said women should not be afraid to ask their doctor for proof that the treatment works.

Create medical director, Dr Geeta Nargund, said: ‘I see patients who have spent tens of thousands of pounds on unproven tests and medication and it is heartbreaking.’

Top of the list of IVF ‘myths’ are widely-used blood tests that look for signs that a woman’s immune system is preventing a pregnancy.

Some count levels of so-called natural killer cells – a specific type of white blood cell that some doctors think stop pregnancies from ‘taking’ and trigger miscarriages.

The tests cost around £1,000 a time and often need to be repeated. But Dr Sarris said: ‘Despite impressive names, there is no evidence to show that these faults of the immune system are really responsible for the failure of healthy embryos to implant.’

A bad result can cause unnecessary anxiety – and lead to women being given ‘expensive, untested and potentially dangerous treatments’.

Top of the list of IVF ‘myths’ are widely-used blood tests that look for signs that a woman’s immune system is preventing a pregnancy

These include intralipids – a mayonnaise-like mixture of egg yolk, soya bean oil and sugar.

Originally developed as a liquid meal replacement for seriously ill patients, it is also given to women with high levels of natural killer cells. Given through a drip, it costs up to £300 a time and a woman might have seven or eight treatments. It is generally safe but there is a lack of evidence that it actually works.

A second treatment for natural killer cells, known as intravenous immunoglobulin, or IVIg, can trigger problems that include severe allergic reactions, meningitis, kidney failure, deep vein thrombosis and strokes.

It is made from antibodies extracted from the blood of more than 1,000 different donors

Dr Sarris said that while some small studies suggest that IVIg boosts the odds of pregnancy, they are all seriously flawed. He advises any women offered the treatment to ‘challenge their doctor for the proof and need for this untested and potentially dangerous drug’.

He also warns against buying fertility herbs, which can cost more than £1,000 for a six-month course – but lack proof they work.

Similarly, Dr Sarris says there is no need to spend a fortune on special multi-vitamins because generic packets will suffice.

Dr Stuart Lavery, of the British Fertility Society, said the key to treatments is telling patients the costs and possible risks. ‘The majority of people in this field are good doctors and do care,’ he said. ‘I wouldn’t criticise a patient for trying new approaches. It is all about informing the patients and being honest.’