Coping with the cost of IVF treatment

Fertility treatment offers a real glimmer of hope for the one-in-seven couples who struggle to conceive. However, couples who undertake such treatment need to prepare for an emotional - and often expensive - journey.

While treatment is theoretically available free of charge from the NHS, the reality is often very different. Eligibility for free IVF varies so much across England and Wales that couples are effectively facing a postcode lottery.

According to a survey by Conservative MP Grant Shapps, many of the primary care trusts (PCTs) that run local health services are not following guidelines on the provision of IVF set by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE), the body which decides the treatments available on the NHS.

NICE guidelines say that women aged between 23 and 39 should be offered up to three cycles of treatment. However,eligibility varies depending on the rules of the PCT operating in each region.

Shapps' report, The Messy Business of Conception, says PCTs vary over factors such as the eligible age of patients and number of IVF cycles offered. Grant Shapps says: "Inconsistencies in the implementation of the guideline have created 'baby boundaries' where couples are effectively being told that they cannot have a baby while their friends on the other side of the street, who have a similar set of circumstances are able to obtain three cycles of IVF provided for them by the NHS."

Your GP should be able to give you details of what you're entitled to on the NHS but, be warned - if you are accepted for treatment the waiting list can be very long. Also, 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.

NHS treatment can either be in an NHS facility or a private clinic that has a deal with the PCT.

Going private

If your local PCT won't pay for IVF then it's time to think about going private. The NHS will normally bear the costs of tests to ascertain the problem - albeit with a waiting list - but when it comes to treatment you will have to pay for it yourself.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) is the watchdog responsible for licensing clinics in the UK. Its website has an interactive tool to help you search for 85 clinics around the country.

To be treated privately, you will still need to meet the clinic's eligibility criteria, which will consider factors such as your age and circumstances. But the good news is that many will treat older women than the NHS can. Clinics vary in what they offer, who they will treat and at what price, so shop around for the one that meets your needs and budget.

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) at the same time. Whether or not this price includes initial consultations, counselling and drugs depends on the clinic. Some will offer a reduced rate if you sign up for more than one.

Additional expenses you need to consider include time off work and the cost of travelling to and from hospital appointments. At the moment, there is no legal right to time off work for fertility treatment.

Counting the cost

If you have been confirmed as having fertility problems, you might be tempted to start treatment straightaway, but it is a good idea to work out how you will pay for it first. While private medical insurance (PMI) may cover the cost of diagnosing a fertility problem it doesn't cover the cost of treating it.

Paul Lynes, spokesperson of Standard Life Healthcare says: "We don't cover it on our policies, although we do pay for investigations into the cause of infertility (after two years of continuous cover) on many of our policies. This is standard in the PMI industry."

Diagnostic tests are usually paid for by the NHS but waiting times vary; patients with a long wait ahead might choose to claim on their PMI policy or pay for the tests themselves.

Funding options

There are several options for funding treatment. But the reality for many couples is that they will have to borrow. Traditional wisdom says its best to save for large expenses using tax-free ISAs and high interest rate savings accounts. But as treatment can become less successful with age, planning ahead and saving up is unlikely to be an option for couples who are desperate to start a family.

Credit cards will often be your first port of call. Many cards have longer 0% introductory on purchases.


Finances might not be at the forefront of your mind, but with expenses likely to rack up it pays to get the best value deal.

If you need to borrow larger sums or need more time to pay the debt off, personal loans are an option. Rates tend to be lower the more you borrow, so it might be a good idea to borrow the potential total cost of IVF treatment in one go rather than taking out a new loan for each cycle.

However, remortgaging might be the cheapest ways of raising extra cash.

Talk to your lender about a further advance, whereby you make a separate payment each month on the loan. Whether this is cost-effective or not depends on your lender; while some will let you have a cheap rate of interest, or at least match the interest charged on your existing mortgage, others will insist the loan is on their standard variable rate, which is inevitably higher. Shopping around for the best rate on further advances isn't straightforward.

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Your Comments

i think its awful that not every couple in the country is offered free ivf. I have severe endomitriosis and luckly concived my dd nearly 7 years ago. since she was 2 we have been trying to expand our family I have suffered 4 Mc's 3 very close together then 1 last year after 4 rounds of clomid that i had to pay for. I have had 2 go's of iui and my consultant wants me to do ivf next but after paying for all the other treatments i don't know how i am going to afford that as well. I know i should be thankful for what i have got but feel like there is somthing missing. I have looked into egg sharing to get the cost of ivf down but they don't want me because i have endo!!!!! its getting soooooo frustrating. if only the goverment would help in some way. Even an intrest free loan would do!!!

hi there i am twenty five, and very thankful that i have a 4yr old little boy, but due to 2 previos eptopic pregnancies i am left unable to have children naturally, and even if i was considered ivf on the nhs i would still have to pay for any medication needed which ranges price wise from £800-£1600 me and my partner struggle to pay the bills evey month and dont think we would either get a loan as our credit score is very poor why should there be such a big price to help people wanting a family

My advice to anyone thinking about IVF is think very long and hard before undertaking it. Not only is it a financial nightmare, but the stress it puts on a relationship is way more than you might imagine. My wife and I undertook IVF, both in Switzerland and the UK, and it was a stressful, disappointing and traumatic experience for us both, which resulted in my wife having her FSH miscalculated, leading to ohs and a torted, gangrenous ovary. She could have lost her life. We now have a beautiful adopted little girl, from Rwanda, and could not be happier. I would place adoption above IVF every time. Be very very careful - IVF can be a pretty awful experience.

i am 24 years old and have had 3 ectopic pregnancies so will never concieve naturally i have no credit history but want a baby more than anythin in the whole world i have approached a few places but of the companys want to help me because i dont have a partner i cant get it free on the nhs it just seems so unfair and i really dont know what to do.

i have the exact same problem iv suffred from endometriosis for 5 years i have a six yea old daughter and would love another child im not entitled to a try on the nhs as i already have 1 child and didnt have my problems when she was concived i thinks it awfull and im not sure how to pay my self x

Hi there, i have just started looking in to IVF and your comments are keeping me grounded- thanks. I am 35 and recently married for the first time after waiting for "the one!" He was married before and has 2 beautiful daughters 250 miles north and with difficult ex we dont get to see them as much as we would like. I found it gauling that because he has children from a previous marriage we are not entitled to IVF on the NHS. We have been trying to clear debts off to immigrate but now decided to stick it out here and no idea how we will pay for private treatment but we will find a way. 2 cycles and thats it though, then we look at adoption. Good luck all.x

i am 20 years old and my partner is 36 we have been together 2 years and have decided to try for a child. i have fertility problems and have recently found out i have a very low chance of conceiving and he has two older children from a previous relationship...will this stop us being able to get treatment on the nhs?

After trying for a baby for two years and two very early miscarriages we sought help from the local hospital. They've completed all tests which haven't shown any problems and the drs have said for the last year they're very confident we'll get pregnant soon, and in an extreme case IVF might be necessary but we'd have the first treatment for free. I've now been told that I probably do need IVF and that now we'll have to pay for it as I turned 40 three weeks ago! This is absolutely disgusting that we've now got to find the money for the first treatment after being promised we wouldn't have to pay for it, as my birthday falls three weeks after my hospital appointment and not three weeks before it! And even worse, before going to the hospital, my GP asked me to keep trying for an extra six months before she would refer me - meaning we've been delayed even further through no fault of our own. To say I feel cheated and a little bit robbed is an understatement.

Im 27 been trying for 7 years but due to sufffering endo have had no luck conceving ever. I am waiting to here if im elegable under nhs for ivf but im doubtfull, as the area criteria starts at thirty and if i have to wait much longer i am gonna need surgery to relieve the symptoms of the endometriosis. its just so difficult when you see others complaining when they already have children, what about the ones who have none! Funding it ourslves is realistically impossible without putting us into major debt. It's a never ending disappointment. But what else is there to do?

Good luck to all of you, i can relate to it all. i have severe endometriosis and no shot at natural baby, which was discovered after we lost a baby which was ectopic. Partner has 2 gorgeous kids so we have to pay for IVF ourselves (loan time), and to top it all we've just found out that the IVF almost certainly won't work for us. Egg donation would involve even more travelling, time, money, stress, fear and waiting - all of which is off putting. We've been pursuing adoption all along but have just been told that we'll have to wait until the inevitable failure of IVF is over before we can even go on the ridiculously long waiting list to adopt!!! Everyone seems to be saying the same things - it's not fair, i've been repeatedly misinformed, and the clock is ticking. I don't have any words of wisdom for myself let alone anyone else. It is incredibly heart-breaking to be in this situation, i cry most days about both the baby we lost and the children i fear we'll never have. I guess if i had any message for anyone it'd be this - 1) YOU ARE NOT ALONE. 2) AVOID MATERNITY CLOTHES DEPARTMENTS AT ALL COSTS - THEY ARE THE MOST DEPRESSING PLACES ON EARTH.

I had private ivf at age 30 as i wasn't entitled to NHS as my FSH levels were 13 the cut off is 12 so i just missed it. We used all our savings and were extremelly lucky for it to work first time and now have an adorable baby boy which just goes to show that there criteria doesnt work. We would love to do it again but are unsure if we could stretch ourselves as it is such a big cost and clinics dont offer a payment plan. IVF is very hard physically and emotionally there really should be something set up to help those who have to pay. I remember sitting in the clinic with all the NHS patients as the treatment was no different thinking i wonder if they realise how they lucky they are to get a free go. It cost us around £6000 in total and saying all that i would do it again in a heartbeat if i knew it would work.

I am 24 and never fallen pregnant, me and my partner have now been trying for 2 years getting no where. I decided to speak with my doctor who put me through a number of tests. It turns out both of my tubes are blocked. I had surgery only to find out they were actualy worse then they though and that the surgery might not help at at. If i do now fall pregnant naturally there is a high risk of eptopic pregnancy. I do not qalify for IVF on the NHS until i am 32. I think this is apaling as my partner is now 31 by the time i am in the right age group he might be to old and the cost of IVF is just to high especialy if it does not work first time. I would love nothing more then me and my partner to have a happy little family one day. Some people do not realise how lucky they are.

I have a son from my ex partner and me and my partner have been trying for a baby for ages ive had an miscarige and an eptopic and only have one tube and had problems conceiving naturaly, i dont know why you can only get ivf on nhs with you dont have any kids my partner doesnt but goes by the women, all we want to do is to be a family why do we have to pay for it

Test Tube Baby The first IVF baby was Louise Brown, born at 11:47 p.m. on July 25, 1978 at Oldham General Hospital, Oldham, England through a planned caesarean section. She weighed 5 pounds, 12 ounces (2.608 kg) at birth. Dr. Patrick Steptoe, a gynecologist at Oldham General Hospital, and Dr. Robert Edwards, a physiologist at Cambridge University, had been actively working on finding an alternative solution for conception since 1966.

I am 26 and recently found out i need ivf, but because my partner has a child from a previous relationship we do not qualify for funding from the NHS, although i have no children myself. It was extreamly upsetting for me to hear this and i feel the NHS is punishing me because he has a child. Now im unsure of where to go for help and advise on a private clinic with reasonable fees. There are thousands of couples in my situation and i think its unfair. Every couple should have the choice to be parents. There is a website which fundraises for couples needing IVF, please if you find yourselves in a position to donate please do so,