30th October 2018
This week the Victoria Derbyshire show found that women over 34 are being automatically refused IVF treatment on the NHS in 12 areas of England. IVF should be offered to women until age 42, yet 80% of areas are failing to do this.
Why we’re advocating for fertility fairness
This means that fair access to fertility treatment is a postcode lottery. This isn’t fair to the thousands of people struggling with fertility problems across the UK.
This approach to IVF – as well as not following the national guidelines – clearly doesn’t reflect the societal shift towards having children later and later. In fact, over-40s are the only age group with a rising conception rate. So having an age cut off of 34 is totally out of step with our society.
And it’s not just age where women face a postcode lottery. Areas also differ greatly on the number of rounds of IVF offered on the NHS. Nearly 90% of clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) fail to offer the recommended three cycles of IVF treatment.
IVF provision in England and the UK really varies. The website www.fertilityfairness.co.uk is a brilliant resource for understanding what changes may be taking place in your area. For example Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG, Croydon CCG and Basildon and Brentwood CCG have all recently reduced the number of IVF cycles to zero. This is because of financial pressures. Some of the changes are very stark, Basildon and Brentwood CCG reduced from three cycles to zero.
The Fertility Fairness charity
Fertility Fairness also has a great spreadsheet which goes through the important things you need to know about IVF in your area, including:
- The number of cycles offered.
- The definition of a “cycle”.
- The age range, for men and women, including whether the cycle is offered to people aged 40-42.
- How long you need to have been trying to conceive.
- Whether you’re allowed to have previous children to be eligible.
- The providers of IVF.
- Which MP is responsible for those local services.
So for example, you can see what is happening in your local area:
- Sutton CCG IVF – fertility services allow for one fresh cycle and one frozen cycle, with a female age limit of 23- 40 and no male age limit. You need to be trying to conceive for 2 years.
- NHS Manchester CCG – allows one fresh cycle and all viable frozen transfers, with an age range of 23 – 39, 40 -42 and you need to be trying to conceive for 3 years. At least partner must have no living children.
You can also look across regions to understand the regional differences:
- IVF North Yorkshire – within North Yorkshire and Humber, for example, there are 8 CCGs with different levels of provision.
- Lancashire CCG ivf – within Lancashire, for example, there are also 8 CCGs with different levels of provision.
Access to fertility services
The NHS guidelines advise that three cycles of IVF should be offered to women under 40, and one cycle to women aged 40-42 (providing there is no evidence of low ovarian reserve) who have been trying to conceive naturally for 2 years, and have no children.
You should speak to your GP about what is available in your area, and can also consult the website www.fertilityfairness.co.uk or the website for your local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG). Often, the criteria only require you to have been trying for one year over the age of 35 – so you should consider seeing your GP sooner if you’re approaching 40.
If you’re not eligible for NHS treatment or you decide to pay for IVF, you can have treatment at a private clinic. The cost of private treatment can vary, but one cycle of IVF usually costs at least £5,000. This means that for many people, this option is sadly out of reach.
Navigating this system – with different rules in different areas – is very confusing, and women need more support. Infertility and mental health are intricately linked. Half of women who experience infertility see it as the most upsetting experience of their lives. There are lots of different ways you can access support, from infertility support groups online to support from a fertility counsellor.
If you are experiencing infertility, know that you are not alone and that there is support out there.
Fertility Network UK campaign
The Fertility Network are doing a brilliant job of raising awareness of this issue with their Scream4IVF campaign.
Want to make a difference and take action? Add your voice to the Fertility Networks Scream4IVF campaign today.
It’s so important that we break the infertility taboo, and we also need to see more about fertility in the news. So it’s great that the Fertility Network are shining a light on this issue.
Do you want to understand your fertility? Join Adia today and purchase your fertility blood test.