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IVF treatment: How It Works, Costs and Eligibility

In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a popular method to assist individuals experiencing fertility issues to conceive. In this blog, we’ll unpack the mechanics of IVF, discussing the process itself, associated costs, eligibility criteria, and success rates. Hopefully with a better understanding of the intricacies of IVF can help empower you those on this fertility journey, providing insights and support as they navigate the path to parenthood.


How Does IVF Treatment Work?

In the course of IVF, an egg is extracted from the ovaries of the woman and combined with sperm in a laboratory setting. Subsequently, the fertilized egg, referred to as an embryo, is reintroduced into the woman’s uterus to undergo growth and development. This procedure can employ either the individual’s eggs and their partner’s sperm or utilize eggs and sperm obtained from donors.

The IVF process encompasses six key stages, including the suppression of the natural menstrual cycle through medication, stimulation of the ovaries to produce multiple eggs, monitoring and maturation of eggs using ultrasound scans and medication, egg collection through a needle inserted into the ovaries, fertilization of eggs by mixing with sperm, and finally, the transfer of one or two fertilized eggs (embryos) into the womb. Following embryo transfer, a 2-week waiting period is required before conducting a pregnancy test to determine the treatment’s success.


Who’s Eligible for IVF on the NHS?

Determining eligibility for IVF is guided by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) fertility guidelines, which recommend offering IVF treatment on the NHS in England and Wales to women under the age of 43 who have been actively trying to conceive through regular unprotected intercourse for a duration of 2 years. Alternatively, eligibility extends to those who have undergone 12 cycles of artificial insemination, with at least 6 cycles involving intrauterine insemination (IUI). However, the final decision regarding NHS-funded IVF in England is at the discretion of local integrated care boards (ICBs), and their criteria may be more stringent than those suggested by NICE.


How Much Does IVF Cost?

For individuals ineligible for NHS treatment or opting to pay for IVF, private clinics are an option. Costs can vary, with a single cycle of treatment costing anywhere from £3,500 to £7,000 when using your own eggs, or up to £12,000 if you need donated eggs. This has encouraged Brits to look further afield for their treatment, with countries such as Greece, Czechia and Turkey all being popular destinations. You can read more about doing IVF abroad here.


What’s the Success Rate of IVF?

The success rate of IVF is influenced by the woman’s age and the identified cause of infertility. Higher success rates are typically observed in younger women, with IVF generally not recommended for those over the age of 42 due to lower chances of success. Success rates, based on live births per embryo transferred, were 32% for women under 35, 25% for women aged 35 to 37, 19% for women aged 38 to 39, 11% for women aged 40 to 42, 5% for women aged 43 to 44, and 4% for women aged over 44 in 2019.


Having Trouble Conceiving?

Initiating a conversation with your general practitioner (GP) is recommended if experiencing difficulties conceiving. The GP can provide guidance on enhancing the likelihood of conception. Getting a male fertility test early on can help pin point where the issues lie, and now with at-home sperm tests like this one us at ExSeed, it’s never been easier to check your sperm health without leaving the house. In cases where all measures prove ineffective, a referral to a fertility specialist, potentially for IVF, may be suggested.

It’s important to have understood the risks of IVF before commencing treatment. IVF doesn’t guarantee pregnancy and can be physically and emotionally demanding, so counseling is recommended to support individuals through the process. Health risks associated with IVF include side effects from the medications used, the potential for multiple births, ectopic pregnancy, and ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS).

Maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding alcohol, smoking, and caffeine during treatment are suggested to improve the chances of a successful pregnancy with IVF.

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