Funding IVF – Coping with the cost

Can you afford IVF? Are your plans realistic? What’s free on the NHS? Are you covered by insurance? What can you do to cut the costs?

People talk about how much it costs to raise children, but how much will you pay to have a child through IVF? If you are unable to get any NHS-funded treatment, what are your options when it comes to going private?

Theatre director Jessica Hepburn believes she spent £70,000 on IVF in the UK by remortgaging her home twice, maxing out her credit card and taking out loans. She even borrowed from family and friends. That is no doubt an extreme case, but it does highlight how costs mount up and also the need to plan ahead.  Jessica, in her mid-40s, admits she had no idea about the costs of treatment when she first started IVF, believing people might look at the big cost – the IVF process – but ignore the fees for drugs, scans, egg collection and transfer of embryos.

“It feels like Monopoly money”

In her book about her IVF journey, The Pursuit of Motherhood, Jessica said: “It feels like monopoly money. You go into your clinic and they take £2,000 to £3,000 off your credit card, and you don’t even blink. You’ll pay whatever it costs. You tell yourself: I have to find the money. What if I don’t do everything they suggest, and discover that might have made a difference? You’re chasing a dream, and paying them is the only way to get it.”

“Rip-off prices.”

Couples have been paying ‘rip-off prices’ for IVF in Britain according to leading fertility expert Dr Robert Winston.

He told The Guardian Newspaper in 2014: “Private in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) is charged not on what it actually costs to deliver the treatment, but what it is thought the market will bear.”

Private clinics offering IVF, donor insemination and other treatments seem to be opening every week in response to demand. One reason is that the NHS is cutting back on the availability of free fertility treatment due to cuts in funding. NHS funding for IVF depends on where you live. You may be offered two rounds or one. Getting three is becoming rare. Worryingly, some are closing treatment altogether.

NHS in the UK cuts IVF treatment

As NHS budgets come under pressure, a ‘postcode lottery’ is developing. Parts of Essex are stopping treatment for healthy couples. South Norfolk wants to cut funding from two IVF cycles per couple to zero and Somerset from two cycles to one.

More of these ‘baby boundaries’ could follow and waiting lists could stretch to years. Many will refuse to treat you if you or your partner have a child or you have a high body mass index (BMI).

Beware of ‘hidden’ costs

More than half of IVF cycles are paid by couples and this is sure to increase. One cycle can cost between £4,000 and £10,000. Some London clinics charge more than £15,000. Medical insurance will pay for infertility tests, but not treatment.

Most ‘standard’ IVF fees at clinics don’t include any special medication, culturing your embryos to blastocyst stage (to improve chances of success) or transferring them – the cost can be £1000 to £2500 extra.

It’s crucial you plan your finances

So the message is that there’s plenty of uncertainty surrounding IVF costs. That makes an already tough emotional process harder if you can’t fix your costs and plan ahead for the treatments you’ll need.

All of this makes it more important than ever to budget carefully and work out your finances if you go private. Calculate what you earn and spend to see what you can afford.

Do your homework

If the NHS won’t pay for your IVF then it’s time to think about going private.  The best advice we can give is: spend time researching.

  • Free tests and scans – check with your GP to see if they can be done on the NHS
  • Shop around – get a full breakdown of costs from each IVF clinic and shop around for the best deal
  • Beware of extra costs – know what other services you might need and what you will pay
  • One cycle isn’t enough – most women need three cycles of treatment so factor this in
  • Egg sharing is cheaper – you donate healthy eggs and the clinic gives you free IVF treatment. Talk to your clinic about this option
  • Some clinics offer a percentage refund if you’re unsuccessful.

Can’t afford to go private?

A gadget called DuoFertility claims to help couple by timing ovulation. Although not suitable for every couple, the makers say it has the same success rate as IVF.

At under £500, it could be worth a try. Let us know if it works.



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