In vitro fertilisation, also referred to as IVF is a technique developed to help those with fertility issues concieve. It's a technical process and has the reputation for being extremely expensive, but how much does IVF treatment really cost? And how can you come up with an IVF payment plan?
IVF offers a real sliver of hope for the one-in-seven who struggle to conceive. But couples who find themselves on the first rung of the fertility treatment ladder need to prepare themselves for an emotional – and potentially expensive journey. Thankfully, we’ve done the dipping in the fertility treatment waters to bring you the must-know about financing IVF.
Is IVF free on the NHS?
Though theoretically fertility treatment is available free of charge from the NHS, inconsistencies in eligibility and availability mean couples are often left facing an IVF postcode lottery. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines say that women aged between 23 and 43 who have been trying for a baby for two years, or who have had 12 cycles of artifical insemination, should be offered up to three cycles of treatment. These guidelines also suggest that women aged between 40 and 42 should be offered one cycle on the NHS, if they've been trying for two years, have not had IVF treatment before, and show no evidence of low ovarian reserve.
That said, the final decision in England is made by local Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), and their crtiteria might be stricter. Depending on local policies, you may have to meet additional criteria before you are accepted. These can include things like how many children you already have, your weight and whether or not you smoke. In some cases, you might only be offered one round, rather than the usual three.
If you are accepted for treatment, be aware that the waiting list can be long. Also consider that unless you are exempt from paying prescription charges, you will still have to pay for fertility drugs, which cost between £800 and £1,600 per course of treatment.
How expensive is it to have IVF privately?
If your local PCT can’t pay/won’t pay for IVF then you could consider going private. Recent figures from the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority (HFEA) reveal that three out of five IVF cycles were funded privately.
The HFEA puts the cost of a cycle of IVF at between £4,000 and £8,000, but it's more if you have ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection), if your partner also needs treatment eg for a sperm retrieval operation and if you need to store sperm or embryos. It's worth noting, the final cost of your treatment will depend on a number of different factors, and prices will vary from clinic and clinic. Sometimes the cost of IVF will change during your treatment, as your doctor might decide to prescribe you alternative drugs.
It’s also worth finding out if your clinic charges extra for scans and consultant appointments during treatment. Additional expenses you’ll need to factor in include time off work and the cost of travelling to and from hospital appointments. Bear in mind that at the moment, there is no legal right to time off work for fertility treatment.
Although it might be tempting to try and find cheaper treatments abroad, the NHS advises against it: 'there are a number of issues you need to think about, including your safety and the standard of care you'll receive. Clinics in other countries may not be as regulated as they are in the UK.'
The HFEA has published a list of private fertility clinics on their website, so it's worth doing your research before booking an appointment.
Why is IVF so expensive - what is the process?
In simple terms, IVF is a technical process. The doctors will remove an egg from your ovaries and fertilise it with sperm in a laboratory. Your embryo is then returned to your womb to grow and develop into that much wanted baby. There are six different stages of IVF:
- The first step of IVF usually involves a doctor giving you medication to suppress your natural menstrual cycle.
- Once your natural cycle has been suppressed, the doctor will prescribe you medication to encourage your ovaries to increase the amount of eggs produced.
- You will have an ultrasounds to check on the development of your eggs and the doctor will give you a course of medication to help the eggs mature.
- The eggs will be removed from your ovaries via the vagina, using a needle to collect them.
- The eggs are then mixed with sperm in a laboratory for a few days to allow them to be fertilised.
- Finally, one or two of the fertilised eggs, now medically referred to as embryos, will be placed into the womb.
Like natural conception, you will not know you are pregnant straight away and will need to wait around two weeks before doing a pregnancy test to see if IVF has worked.
IVF Payment Plan
Just like any big payment you’ll need to consider how you’re going to fund it. If you know you need fertility treatment you’ll no doubt be keen to get going straightaway, but though finances may not be at the forefront of your mind it is a good idea to put your sensible hat on for a second and think about how you’re going to pay for it first.
There are lots of options for funding treatment, but for many it boils down to borrowing. And as we all know borrowing = debt! Many couples take out loans, use interest free credit cards and some even remortgage to fund their IVF.
It’s worth remembering that some clinics offer IVF cycles at a reduced cost if you donate some of your eggs for others to use egg sharing, although this option will not be for everyone.
What is the current IVF success rate?
Of course, the success rate of IVF really depends on the age of the woman going through the treatment and the reason why she has struggled to concieve naturally. Generally, the younger you are, the more likely it is that IVF will be successful. According to the national averages in 2016, the percentage of IVF treatments that resulted in a live birth are:
- 35-37 year old women: 35%
- 38-39 year old women: 39.6%
- 40-42 year old women: 26.5%
- 43-44 year old women: 19.8%
>> Read more: I'm not pregnant yet, when should I worry?
>>Watch: Izzy Judd talks about IVF