If you're struggling to conceive, your first port of call should be your GP as they can advise you on fertility testing and the best course of action.
You may be eligible for treatment on the NHS, depending on your circumstances. Although you can often get private treatment more quickly, it can represent a life-changing expense, so it’s worth considering all your options carefully, assuming time is not a crucial factor.
How much does IVF cost?
If you aren't eligible for IVF treatment on the NHS, you can – of course – go private. The cost of IVF in the UK is usually around £5,000 per cycle of treatment. The price of a course will vary from one clinic to another and will also vary depending on what treatment you require. You can find details of your local IVF clinics on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority's website.
If you aren't successful first time and go on to have multiple IVF cycles, clinics will sometimes offer discounts on subsequent cycles.
Some clinics offer egg-sharing services whereby you can donate some of your eggs to a woman in need and receive a discount on your IVF treatment in return, but you'll have to check with your clinic to see if this is available.
What's included in the IVF treatment cost?
"We've just done a cycle and it cost more than we expected – although the clinic was upfront about charges. The total cost of the cycle, from first appointment to pregnancy test, was £13,000. The core IVF was £7,800"
Many clinics will offer 'packages' of services, but these won't always include the costs of medication or scans – these may be added on top of your final bill. You should also be aware that you might also not use all the services included in your package – but you'll likely still pay the full cost of the package.
You should always ask for a full price list of services and go through it thoroughly when planning your treatment with your doctor to avoid any unexpected surprises when it comes to paying up. The amount of drugs and related paraphernalia (syringes and so on) you'll require for your treatment will vary depending on your needs.
Can I have IVF on the NHS?
You have to meet specific criteria to be offered IVF on the NHS. NICE guidelines recommend that:
- Women under 40 should be offered up to three cycles of IVF if they've been trying to conceive for more than two years without success or they have had 12 cycles of artificial insemination and this hasn't worked.
- Women trying to get pregnant at 40 to 42 years of age should be offered one IVF cycle if, as above, they have 12 cycles of unsuccessful insemination or have been trying for two years and they have never had IVF before and they don't seem to have low ovarian reserves (very few eggs) and they've been informed of the risks of IVF at 40 plus.
- Additionally, if fertility testing has shown that IVF is likely to be the only method via which you will ever conceive you should be offered it straight away if you fit the other criteria, too.
It's worth remembering, however, that local Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) will also have their own criteria to add to this.
What is a CCG?
CCGs replaced Primary Care Trusts in 2013 and there are 207 in England. They are clinically-led statutory bodies that are responsible for planning and commissioning health care services in local areas.
Their job is to get the best possible local health outcomes to the area's population by assessing local needs and priorities.
You may find that in your area, you won't receive treatment if you are overweight, smoke, are over 35 or one of you has children from a previous relationship, for example. You can contact your local CCG or ask your GP about the situation in your area.
The Guardian found that NICE guidelines are voluntary and what has emerged is essentially a “postcode lottery” – so you may find that getting IVF on the NHS is harder than the guidelines state.
Should I have IVF overseas?
Some couples seeking IVF are increasingly looking to fertility clinics abroad due to the eye-watering costs of fertility treatment in the UK and the difficulty of getting it on the NHS.
There are a number of extra considerations to make associated with these so-called “IVF vacations”:
- Do your homework on the clinic thoroughly, as you would in the UK.
- Don't get pulled in by the price alone – you should be aware that hospitals abroad will operate differently from those in the UK.
- Rules about “upselling” treatments that you might not actually need will vary.
- Other hospitals' approaches to carrying out treatment may well be different from those you're used to, if you've had cycles in the UK beforehand.
- There may well be a language barrier as well, so you should be sure that you can communicate your needs properly with the staff.
- Check the clinic's safety record and the level of regulation that is required in the country, too. These will also be different from the UK – but not necessarily of a lower standard if you choose the right clinic.
If you're having IVF with your own eggs, then by the time you've factored in travel expenses, insurance etc you probably don't save that much money – plus you have to deal with the stress of last minute travel, possible transport strikes, language barriers etc.
It's possible that you'll have to return to the country for repeated treatments, so Costa Rica might not be the most convenient place for a series of return trips. And don't forget to factor the costs of accommodation and flights into the cost of your IVF treatment.
You should also consider the emotional impact of undergoing IVF treatment. It's common to feel low and vulnerable when you're going through it, so you'll want to have your treatment somewhere you feel comfortable.
There are also a range of moral and ethical considerations to make when seeking overseas IVF treatment. In Turkey, for example, fertility treatment is only available to married, heterosexual couples.
Take time to do your research and ensure you are happy with what's on offer. It's worth reading up on the rules in different countries surrounding surrogacy and donor confidentiality as well.
Mumsnetters' experiences of IVF treatment costs
“Debt is such a difficult factor because if IVF works, it'll happily be paid off over time. If it doesn't, it still needs to be paid off, but may be a bit more painful to do. On the other hand, as age has an impact, waiting too long while saving can be counterproductive.”
“We asked for money as a wedding gift to go towards our next IVF round, I've always been very open and determined to break the suffer in silence norm. We then took a further year to save the rest – now I'm 14 weeks pregnant with our wedding present.”