NHS guidelines suggest that if you are a woman under 35 and have been trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant for a year or more, then you should consult a doctor.

However, if you are over 35, you should see your doctor after 6 months of unsuccessfully trying. At this stage, there are still many things that can be done to increase your chances of conception and your doctor can advise you about your options. The doctor will discuss with you your medical history, your family medical history and can refer you for fertility tests, if appropriate. They can also refer you to a fertility specialist at an NHS hospital or fertility clinic, where they will do further tests and assessments and inform you about options open to you, based on your individual diagnosis.

How will I know if I qualify for NHS funding for IVF

In England and Wales, The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) are the body who make the recommendations as to who should have access to IVF treatment through NHS funding.

However, it’s not as straightforward as that, because each local area has their own ICB (integrated care board) and they are the ones that have the final decision. This means that it’s a bit like a postcode lottery, governed by your locality, which to many, feels very unfair.

It’s important to note that the NICE guidelines have changed recently and this may have had an impact on your local ICB too. So, it’s important to check, before paying for treatment, whether you would now qualify, even if you didn’t before. Your GP or ICB will be able to tell you.

What are the NICE guidelines regarding IVF?

According to NICE:

Women under 40 should be offered 3 cycles of NHS funded treatment, if they’ve not got pregnant after 2 years of regular, unprotected sex, or 12 cycles of artificial insemination, at least 6 of them through IUI.

Women aged 40-42 should be offered one cycle of NHS funded IVF, if, in addition to the criteria above, they’ve never had IVF treatment before, show no evidence of low ovarian reserve and have been informed of the risks of getting pregnant at their age.

How do local areas vary regarding NHS funding criteria?

Some ICBs have additional criteria, for example, you may be denied funding if you are overweight, over 35, a smoker, or you or your partner already have a child, even though you may easily have met all of the NICE criteria.

What happens next if I do qualify for NHS funded IVF?    

If you qualify, you will be referred to the assisted conception unit. You and your partner will have to undergo blood tests and any other screening or tests deemed necessary.

When your IVF treatment starts, this will involve suppressing your natural menstrual cycle, taking a fertility hormone to increase your egg production, having scans to monitor your ovaries, egg collection and fertilisation if possible and, if successful, embryo transfer.

Finally, there is the wait to find out if you are pregnant. 

IVF doesn’t work for everyone and counselling and support are available through the fertility clinic.

If you conceive through IVF and there are no concerns such as high maternal age or multiples (expecting twins or more) then your pregnancy will then be treated in the same way as any non-IVF pregnancy.

If you conceive through IVF on the NHS

What happens if I don’t qualify for IVF funding?

If you don’t qualify for NHS funded IVF, you will have to pay for it privately, if you want to go ahead. There are clinics in the UK and overseas who offer such treatment. It is wise to research your options and to make fair comparisons before entering into a contract.

Here, at the IVF Network, we understand the challenges faced by individuals and couples trying to conceive. We provide a wide range of information through our website, blog posts and dedicated channel of experts, to help make your journey easier.