IVF is only offered on the NHS if certain criteria are met. If you don't meet these criteria, you may need to pay for private treatment.
In 2013, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published new fertility guidelines that made recommendations about who should have access to IVF treatment on the NHS in England and Wales.
However, individual NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) make the final decision about who can have NHS-funded IVF in their local area, and their criteria may be stricter than those recommended by NICE (see below).
Women under 40
According to NICE, women aged under 40 should be offered three cycles of IVF treatment on the NHS if:
- they've been trying to get pregnant through regular unprotected sex for two years, or
- they've not been able to get pregnant after 12 cycles of artificial insemination
If you turn 40 during treatment, the current cycle will be completed, but further cycles should not be offered.
If tests show that IVF is the only treatment likely to help you get pregnant, you should be referred for IVF straight away.
Women aged 40 to 42
The NICE guidelines also say that women aged 40 to 42 should be offered one cycle of IVF on the NHS if all of the following four criteria are met:
- they've been trying to get pregnant through regular unprotected sex for two years, or haven't been able to get pregnant after 12 cycles of artificial insemination
- they've never had IVF treatment before
- they show no evidence of low ovarian reserve (where eggs in your ovaries are low in number or quality)
- they have been informed of the additional implications of IVF and pregnancy at this age
Again, if tests show that IVF is the only treatment likely to help you get pregnant, you should be referred for IVF straight away.
IVF on the NHS
NHS trusts across England and Wales are working to provide the same levels of service. However, the provision of IVF treatment varies across the country and often depends on local CCG policies.
CCGs may have additional criteria you need to meet before you can have IVF on the NHS, such as:
- not having any children already, from both your current and any previous relationships
- being a healthy weight
- not smoking
- falling into a certain age range (for example, some CCGs only fund treatment for women under 35)
In some cases, only one cycle of IVF may be routinely offered, instead of the three recommended by NICE.
Ask your GP or contact your local CCG to find out what the criteria for NHS-funded IVF treatment are in your area.
If you're not eligible for NHS treatment or you decide to pay for IVF, you can have treatment at a private clinic. Some clinics can be contacted directly without seeing your GP first, but others may ask for a referral from your GP.
The cost of private treatment can vary, but one cycle of IVF can cost up to £5,000 or more. There may be additional costs for medicines, consultations and tests. During your discussions with the clinic, make sure you find out exactly what's included in the price.
Some people consider having IVF abroad, but 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.
You can read about private fertility treatment and the issues and risks associated with fertility treatment abroad on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) website.
You can also search for HFEA-regulated fertility clinics in the UK.