Many TTC couples who are struggling to conceive and considering fertility treatments like in-vitro fertilization (IVF) often ask, “Is IVF free in the UK?”
The short answer is yes and no — it depends on where you live in the United Kingdom, especially in England.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is not intended as medical advice.
Expectations: How NHS Funding for Fertility Treatments Should Be Like
Let’s rewind to how NHS-funded fertility treatments are doled out in the U.K., specifically England.
Back in 2013, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) shared recommendations regarding the fertility clinic referral criteria for NHS. You must meet the following criteria to be eligible for 1-3 rounds of NHS-funded fertility treatments.
For folks below 40 years old, the fertility clinic referral criteria for 3 full rounds of NHS-funded IVF cycles is as follows:
- You have been actively trying to conceive for 24 months or more, or,
- You have undergone 12 cycles of artificial insemination procedures without getting pregnant.
For folks that are 40-42 years old, the fertility clinic referral criteria for 1 full round of NHS-funded IVF cycle is as follows:
- You have been actively trying to conceive for 24 months or more,
- You have undergone 12 cycles of artificial insemination procedures without getting pregnant, with at least 6 of these cycles being intrauterine insemination (IUI),
- You have never had IVF before, and
- You do not have a low ovarian reserve. (Read our post on “How To Improve Your Egg Quality”)
So, does that mean you’re guaranteed 1-3 rounds of NHS-funded IVF treatments if you’re trying to conceive at 42 years old and below?
Not necessarily, even if you’ve met the above criteria.
Reality: How NHS Funding for Fertility Treatments Are Really Like
In reality, NHS, and by extension, the local integrated care boards (ICBs) (previously known as clinical commissioning groups) are not obligated to follow the NICE recommendations.
Because the ICBs have the actual decision-making power, it led to variations in NHS-funded eligibility criteria across the UK. Depending on where you reside, you might get 1, 2, or 3 full or partial IVF treatment cycles on the NHS.
Leveraging the latest data published in August 2023, different ICBs also have additional exclusions (see below). So, it’s still possible that you won’t qualify for NHS-funded IVF if you’ve met all of NICE’s criteria.
Some standard additional criteria laid out by the ICBs include:
- You cannot be above a certain age (usually 40-42 years old, although Hampshire has set it as low as 35).
- You should not already have 1 or more kids from your current or previous relationship.
- If you’re a same-sex couple, you should have completed 6-12 cycles of self-funded artificial insemination (for same-sex couples).
- You have a healthy ovarian reserve.
- Your body mass index (BMI) should be within the optimal range for IVF treatments.
Related article: This Sperm Syringe Helped a Lady With High BMI Get Pregnant
The NHS IVF Postcode Lottery Phenomenon in England 🇬🇧
Differing ICBs’ criteria for government-funded IVF in England has led to what’s commonly referred to as the “NHS postcode lottery.”
Essentially, your place of residence will determine how many cycles of NHS-funded IVF treatments you will receive.
For example, someone living in Bath might be getting the short end of the stick because they are entitled to only 1 partial NHS-funded IVF cycle, even if they have met all of NICE requirements.
Meanwhile, another TTC individual in North East London could be considered coming out on top because they are eligible for 3 full rounds of NHS-funded IVF cycles.
For same-sex couples, the stakes are even higher. To illustrate, a lesbian couple residing in Cornwall must self-fund 12 cycles of artificial insemination before they can apply for NHS-funded treatments.
What To Do if You Don’t Qualify for NHS Fertility Treatments
Due to the current setup, many TTC folks in England are not privy to free IVF (and other fertility treatments) on the NHS.
We all know that fertility procedures cost a bomb that not everyone can afford — a single IVF cycle already costs between £3,500 and £7,000, and you generally need more than one cycle to see results.
So, does that mean you’ll have to give up on becoming a parent if you’re having trouble conceiving and don’t have free access to NHS fertility clinics?
Once again, the answer is not necessarily — to the relief of many TTC folks.
Thanks to medical technology advancements, TTC folks are no longer limited to procreative sex or expensive fertility treatments.
Instead, look toward at-home insemination kits like the twoplus Applicator Extra.
ICYDK, the Applicator Extra is a self-insemination sperm syringe that doesn’t require penetrative sex. All you need is to load it up with donated or ejaculated semen — the same way as a regular syringe — and inseminate into your vagina anytime, anywhere.
More TTC perks of the Applicator Extra:
- It’s thin (2 cm wide) and long enough (13.7 cm) to deposit semen deep in the vagina near the cervical entrance so that more sperm reach the egg! 🚀
- It comes with a unique Soft Tip accessory, which enhances comfort during vaginal insertion and reduces immediate leakage after insemination.
- It’s drug- and hormone-free.
- It’s ideal for single-use, which means you can self-inseminate without your partner’s help if needed.
- It doesn’t require a medical professional’s help.
If you’re wondering about the effectiveness of the twoplus Applicator Extra, perhaps these pregnancy success stories might help:
- Jess and Steve couldn’t get NHS-funded IVF because Jess has a high BMI, and Steve has 2 children from a previous relationship. After using the twoplus Applicator with donated sperm at home, the couple finally got pregnant after two long years of TTC. Read their full story here ❤️
- Just like many same-sex couples trying to get pregnant in the U.K., Beth and her wife did not have the budget to self-fund 6 rounds of IUI (intrauterine insemination) — it could cost up to a hefty sum of £20,000. As such, they were not eligible for NHS-funded fertility treatments. After TTC-ing for a year, they tried the Applicator Extra for 4 ovulation cycles, and Beth got pregnant twice. Read their full story here 💕
Home Conception Aids
Besides self-insemination kits, at-home conception aids can help you take charge of your fertility journey.
Enter the twoplus Sperm Guide, a must-have home conception kit for couples who prefer intimacy during babymaking.
This novel fertility solution is designed to:
- Reduce semen leakage post-sex — every drop counts!
- Protect semen from the lower vagina’s naturally acidic environment, so they have the best chance of survival
- Retain semen closer to the cervix so more sperm reach the egg
Made of 100% medical-grade silicone, the Sperm Guide is soft and flexible, rolling up into a U-shape for a comfortable fit in the lower vaginal region.
Need proof of its ability to help couples work toward pregnancy success? Check out these real-life testimonials:
- Valerie*, 36, and her husband, 42, struggled to conceive as they were above 35 years old and experienced a low sperm count. Yet, using the Sperm Guide 4 times in one ovulation cycle helped her achieve a positive pregnancy test result. Read more here 👩❤️👨
Sharifah*, 28, and her husband, 29, had been TTC for 3 years without success. Only when they used the twoplus Sperm Guide every time during her ovulation period did they finally manage to get pregnant. Read more here 💖
How To Access Fertility Services Through the NHS
If you’re one of the lucky few who qualify for free fertility treatments by the NHS in England, all you have to do is make an appointment with a general practitioner (GP) near your residence or contact your local ICB.
Either way, you’ll be able to learn more about the details of NHS-funded IVF treatments localized to your area.
How Long Is the IVF Waiting List for NHS Fertility Clinics?
Being eligible for IVF on the NHS isn’t the only challenge you would likely face on your conception journey. The other missing piece is the long waiting list.
For most NHS fertility clinics, expect a waiting duration of a few months to a few years. The exact period really depends on the number of diagnostics tests and the type of fertility treatments you’re going for.
Unfortunately, most TTC folks don’t have the luxury of time, especially those nearing the cut-off age limit for NHS-funded fertility treatments. In such cases, you might want to take charge of your conception journey with twoplus’ at-home fertility aids.
That’s exactly what these couples who were pressed for time did:
- London-based Kelly, 41, and her husband, 33, were no strangers to the limits placed by the ICBs. Even though they were told they were unlikely to get pregnant without IVF, they went ahead to try the twoplus Applicator near her ovulation day and eventually got pregnant. Read her story here ✨
- Rajesh*, 37, and his 35-year-old wife were also TTC under the time pressure of a ticking biological clock. Having tried and failed IVF and IUI not once but four times, they didn’t give up. They used the Applicator Extra and now have their rainbow baby. Read their miracle story here ❤️🔥
Are you short on time or want to do more while waiting for your first fertility appointment at the NHS?
What Happens at Your First Fertility Appointment With the NHS?
Got your first fertility appointment with the NHS in England? Here’s what you need to take note of:
- Both you and your partner must be present at your first appointment.
- Bring the data of your ovulation cycles in the past 6 months.
Related article: How To Track Your Ovulation and Boost Your Odds of Pregnancy
Your attending physician would also check your partner’s and your:
- Height and weight
- Lifestyle habits such as smoking, drinking, exercise, and diet
- General medical histories, like pre-existing health conditions
- Frequency of procreative sex
- History of pregnancies and/or existing children (if any)
For more information on the type of physical tests conducted during your first fertility appointment, check out our IG post 😉
There’s Light at the End of the TTC Tunnel 💫
More often than not, we get discouraged and frustrated when our conception efforts don’t bear fruit. Throw complex governmental policies into the mix, and it’s easy to see why there are so many TTC couples who struggle emotionally and financially.
Understanding the intricacies of NHS-funded IVF treatments can help shed some light on your conception timeline so you can shorten the process at key stages.
For starters, find out if you and your partner are eligible for free IVF on the NHS or not. If you’re one of the lucky few, jumpstart the application process as the waiting time for an appointment can be quite long.
Meanwhile, those who don’t have the budget for IVF at private clinics — nor the luxury of time — may want to check out twoplus’ home fertility aids. They let you take charge of your conception journey and work toward pregnancy success at your own pace with no medical help required!