how not to be at mercy of ivf postcode lottery UK

How Not to Be at the Mercy of the IVF Postcode Lottery 🇬🇧

Let’s imagine that your chances of conception depended on a coin flip. That would definitely cause most people to panic.

Unfortunately, couples in England who are trying to get pregnant face a similar problem in the form of the IVF postcode lottery.

According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS), people who ovulate are eligible for three cycles of IVF treatment under the nation’s healthcare system if they meet certain criteria.

However, not every part of the country follows this guideline, hence the phenomenon “IVF postcode lottery.

That’s because each area in England has its own NHS integrated care board (ICB), which decides who can receive NHS-funded IVF treatment. This includes the number of treatment cycles and whether these cycles are full or partial.

Read on to learn more about the IVF postcode lottery situation in England, and more importantly, how you can take charge of your fertility journey to overcome it!

Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is not intended as medical advice.


Understanding the IVF Postcode Lottery 📖

The eligibility guidelines for NHS-funded IVF treatment in every U.K. constituent country are clear-cut and published on the NHS’ official website. Naturally, this includes England.

Previously, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) crafted the following recommendations:

People Under 40 Years Old

If you’re below 40 years old at the time of application, you should be offered three NHS-funded IVF treatment cycles if:

  • You have been trying to get pregnant for a minimum of two years via regular unprotected sex.


    • You have not conceived after 12 artificial insemination cycles, with at least half of them using intrauterine insemination (IUI).

      If you reach 40 years old while undergoing IVF, you can complete your current cycle. But do note that additional cycles will not be offered.

      People Who’re 40-42 Years Old

      You should be granted one NHS-funded IVF treatment cycle if you meet all four criteria below:

      1. You’ve tried to get pregnant through regular unprotected sex for two years, and you’ve not conceived after 12 artificial insemination cycles, with at least six of them using IUI.
      2. You’ve never undergone IVF treatment.
      3. Your ovarian reserve is not low.
      4. You’ve been clearly told the additional implications of IVF treatment and pregnancy at your age.

      Although these recommendations leave almost no room for interpretation, the fact that each area in England is governed by its own NHS ICB complicates matters greatly.


      A Bird’s Eye View of England’s IVF Postcode Lottery

      number of NHS funded IVF cycles in England Daily Mail


      If you were wondering “Is IVF free in the UK?”, you’d unfortunately get a much longer response than you might have expected. That’s how complicated the IVF postcode lottery is, especially for couples who have to move homes for professional or personal reasons.

      The British newspaper, Daily Mail, recently discovered that only three areas in the UK fully funded all IVF treatment cycles, with many local health authorities funding just one cycle.

      Being subject to differing levels of access to IVF treatment depending on where you live in the country is a hard-to-grasp concept for many TTC couples — but also an unfortunate truth for those living in England.

      Despite clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) closing down in 2022 to make way for integrated care systems (ICSs), the NHS postcode lottery problem still persists.

      On the other hand, IVF provision is standardized in neighboring Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.

      What’s more, the quality of care in these U.K. nations tends to be higher than in England. For example, Scotland has an official standard stating that “at least 90% of eligible patients will commence IVF treatment within 12 months.” In fact, within the first quarter of 2023, 97.5% of eligible patients in Scotland’s NHS IVF Centres were screened for IVF treatment in just 39 weeks.

      On the other hand, the wait is around 16 weeks just for the first hospital appointment in England, according to The Guardian. The newspaper also spoke to couples who paid for expedited tests via private healthcare, which then let them start NHS-funded IVF treatment earlier.

      If you’re living in England, you can prepare yourself by doing an IVF postcode check for 2024 on this official website.

      It contains a handy table highlighting the number of IVF treatment cycles the NHS covers in each area of England, along with other important details. Here’s an overview of the top areas in the country for NHS-funded IVF as of October 2023:

      No. of IVF Cycles Covered
      Eligible Ages
      Is Cryopreservation Covered?
      North East and North Cumbria
      3 (full treatment cycles)
      Up to 40 years old
      Yes; up to when the individual reaches the max. age for NHS-funded IVF
      North East London
      3 (full treatment cycles)
      Up to 40 years old
      Yes; up to two years
      3 (full treatment cycles)
      Up to 40 years old
      Yes; up to five years
      North Central London
      3 (NOT full treatment cycle)
      Up to 40 years old
      Yes; up to two years
      South Yorkshire
      2 (full treatment cycles)
      18-42 years old
      Yes; up to three years

      If you need a winning location for the IVF postcode lottery, the five showcased above would be your best bets for a temporary home.

      However, the ICB system implemented by the UK is so “geo-sensitive” that London alone has five of these Boards. Furthermore, each one within London follows a different set of policies. So, it’s in your best interest to read through them carefully.


      How Not to Be at the Mercy of the IVF Postcode Lottery in England 🇬🇧

      Although the NHS tries to make IVF free for couples who are struggling to conceive or subsidize it at the very least, the NHS postcode lottery can be viewed as extremely unfair.

      Here’s how you can take matters into your own hands and give yourself a leg up, no matter if you’ve just started or tried to conceive for a while now.

      Go for Private IVF Clinics…if You Have the Budget

      private IVF clinics UK

      Opting to receive treatment at a private IVF clinic allows you to bypass the IVF postcode lottery entirely.

      There’s no need to worry about whether you’re eligible for NHS-funded IVF treatments in your area, along with waiting lists of any kind. As long as the clinic’s doctor deems it safe for you to undergo IVF, you can proceed with the treatment.

      The quality of care you receive at a private IVF clinic is also generally much higher than at a public hospital. If you undergo NHS-funded IVF treatment at a public hospital, it’s possible that different doctors and nurses will attend to you throughout your time there. Additionally, a portion of your treatment cycle might be outsourced to another unit elsewhere.

      With that being said, expect to fork out more for all the speed, convenience, and care you would typically receive at a private clinic.

      Each treatment cycle at a private IVF clinic will set you back approximately £5,000 and up. The costs can really add up because it takes six cycles to achieve a live birth rate of around 65%. This means a whopping £30,000 is spent just for you to get pregnant.

      For many couples in the UK trying to conceive, this can be costly and not something they would want to use their family planning budget for.

      Even with IVF, there’s still a chance you might not conceive. For instance, a study showed that out of 88,929 IVF cycles, there were 16,310 live births. This translates to a pregnancy success rate of approximately 18.3%.

      Explore Home Fertility Aids — They Are Gentler on Your Wallet 

      Thanks to medical technological advancements, home fertility aids like twoplus Fertility’s at-home insemination kits are generally the first choice for couples who are struggling to conceive.

      They are a lot more affordable than an IVF, IVI, IUI, or ICI procedure at the hospital. Also, they are easily accessible and can be used in the comfort of your home without a medical audience.

      Not only are home fertility aids quick and convenient, but they also greatly empower couples struggling with the NHS postcode lottery.

      people usually get pregnant after TTC for 1 year

      In other words, there’s no need for you to be at the mercy of your local health authority. You can take matters into your own hands without paying through the nose for costly treatments. The less you leave up to chance, the better, especially for those who are on a tight timeline to get pregnant.

      Check out our Applicator Extra and Sperm Guide which might be able to help you skip the whole IVF postcode lotteryour customers typically get pregnant within 6-8 months of consistent usage.

      The twoplus Applicator Extra

      The Applicator Extra is the original sperm applicator designed for at-home intracervical insemination (ICI).

      It comes with a unique Soft Tip accessory that minimizes immediate semen leakage out of the vagina. All you have to do is fill it up with donated or ejaculated semen, self-inseminate, then leave the Soft Tip inside your vagina for 1 hour. Feel free to move about with no fuss or muss after insemination is done.

      twoplus Applicator Extra intravaginal insemination at home

      To fit all body sizes comfortably, the Applicator Extra is only 2 cm wide and 13.7 cm long to deposit semen deep in your vagina near your cervical entrance. It also allows semen to bypass the naturally acidic environment of the lower vaginal tract, so that more sperm can survive and reach the egg.

      Applicator Extra sperm syringe vs normal syringe

      Its rounded barrel design also ensures more than 90% of semen flows from the syringe to the vagina, minimizing semen leakage that you would otherwise experience with a normal syringe.

      Shop the twoplus Applicator Extra

      The twoplus Sperm Guide

      twoplus Sperm Guide at home conception kit

      The Sperm Guide is our do-it-all conception kit, perfect for reducing semen leakage while maintaining intimacy with your partner during babymaking sex.

      This soft and smooth home fertility aid is 100% made of medical-grade silicone. It’s designed to retain sperm closer to the cervix post-ejaculation. All you need to do is insert it into the vagina before having sex.

      While you and your partner are doing the deed, simply ensure the penis slides over the Sperm Guide’s flap. Post-sex, keep the Sperm Guide in you for 1 hour — feel free to go about your day while waiting for the hour to be up!

      comparison of twoplus Sperm Guide at home conception kit with menstrual cup

      Because of how flexible and smooth the Sperm Guide is, you can just pinch it and insert it into the vagina quickly before intercourse begins. The tail of the Sperm Guide also allows for easy removal afterward.

      Check Out the Sperm Guide


      Take Full Control of Your Fertility Journey 💪

      work toward pregnancy success with twoplus Fertility

      The IVF postcode lottery is clearly disadvantageous to many couples living in England who are trying to conceive. It’s not an understatement to say some folks may need to move residences just to access government-funded IVF treatments.

      On the bright side, couples living in other U.K. constituent countries do enjoy standardized NHS-funded IVF treatments. What’s more, there are charities in England pushing for the uniform application of NICE’s guidelines. It also helps that media outlets in the country have been regularly raising awareness regarding this long-running issue.

      While waiting for these changes to happen, why not take charge of your fertility journey with a home fertility aid and leave less up to chance? The Applicator Extra and Sperm Guide are affordable and easy to use.

      And the best part is that you can use both of them right in the comfort of your own home. No medical help needed!