IVF success has tripled in the UK over the past 20 years

A recent report from the UK Regulator, the HFEA, shows that nearly one-third of all embryo transfers in under-35s have resulted in a baby

Despite that heartening information, NHS fertility funding has fallen across England

Fertility patients across England have expressed frustration with their difficulties accessing NHS funding for their treatments. One expert calls this a “hugely disappointing” fall in NHS-funded cycles. Guidelines across the UK state that women under the age of 40 should receive three full IVF cycles, but in reality, this only happens in Scotland. In 2018, 60% of Scottish treatments were funded by the NHS, according to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA).

In England, fertility funding is decided by clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) that operate on a local level. Faced with funding cuts, many CCGs have cut the funding for fertility treatments. This has been most profoundly felt in the east of England as well as Yorkshire and the Humber.

Since 1998, IVF success rates have improved across all age groups, with younger women having higher birth rates. In 2018, women under 35 had an average birth rate of 35%, which women above 43 had a birth rate of less than 5%. This resulted in an average of 23% overall.

The regulators also found that frozen embryo transfers are more successful than fresh transfers

Frozen transfers have a success rate of 24.8%, while fresh transfers result in live births 22.7% of the time. This is likely because frozen embryo transfers give the woman’s body some time to recover after the stressful process of triggering and harvesting eggs.

BAME (Black and minority ethnic) women are more likely to choose IVF than the general public. 59% of the IVF cycles in the UK were undertaken by white people, even though they make up 86% of the UK population.

Prof Adam Balen, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists spokesperson on reproductive medicine, is pleased about increased birth rates but is frustrated that fertility treatments seem to be an ‘easy target’ for budget cuts

“What is hugely disappointing is the continued fall in NHS-funded cycles. In 2018 in Scotland, 60% of treatment was NHS-funded, compared to 45% in Northern Ireland, 41% in Wales and 35% in England.”

He continued “whilst the Nice [National Institute for Health and Care Excellence] guidance states that all eligible couples should be entitled to three full cycles (including the use of frozen embryos) and we know, using latest statistics, that this will give them an 80-85% chance of having a baby – and indeed many will not require the full three cycles, with on average 30% conceiving with one cycle (and in the best cases maybe 40-45%) – IVF is seen to be an easy target.

Prof Balen says “infertility is a serious medical condition, resulting in huge stress and distress and caused itself by a large number of different medical problems . . .”

“. . . Indeed, it is the second commonest reason for women of reproductive years to visit their GP. IVF is cost-effective and has shown to be an economic benefit to society.”

In recent years, multiple birth rates from IVF had declined down to 8%, from a high in 1991 when the chances of twins from IVF was 29.1%. This decrease is the result of studies that show that implanting multiple embryos has no significant impact on the occurence of a live birth. However, it does result in a 32% multiple birth rate for women younger than 35.

What do you think about these results? Are you in a CCG area that allows you to have your full 3 IVF cycles on the NHS, or are you suffering in an underfunded borough? Let us know your experiences and thoughts at mystory@ivfbabble.com or on social media @ivfbabble

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