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.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) fertility guidelines makes recommendations about who should have access to IVF treatment on the NHS in England and Wales.
But 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.
Women under 40
According to NICE, women aged under 40 should be offered 3 cycles of IVF treatment on the NHS if:
- they've been trying to get pregnant through regular unprotected sex for 2 years
- 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 shouldn't be offered.
If tests show IVF is the only treatment likely to help you get pregnant, you should be referred straight away.
Women aged 40 to 42
The NICE guidelines also say women aged 40 to 42 should be offered 1 cycle of IVF on the NHS if all of the following criteria are met:
- they've been trying to get pregnant through regular unprotected sex for 2 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've been informed of the additional implications of IVF and pregnancy at this age
Again, if tests show IVF is the only treatment likely to help you get pregnant, you should be referred straight away.
IVF on the NHS
NHS trusts across England and Wales are working to provide the same levels of service. But 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)
Although NICE recommend that 3 cycles of IVF should be offered on the NHS, some CCGs only offer 1 cycle, or only offer NHS-funded IVF in exceptional circumstances.
Ask your GP or contact your local CCG to find out whether NHS-funded IVF treatment is available 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 1 cycle of IVF can cost up to £5,000 or more. There may be additional costs for medicines, consultations and tests.
Make sure you find out exactly what's included in the price during your discussions with the clinic.
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.