How the cost-of-living crisis is pricing couples out of IVF and fertility treatment

Louise and her partner were not entitled to any funded IVF rounds as she has a child from a previous relationship.
Louise and her partner Andre estimate that they have spent around £11,000 on fertility treatment. Credit: Family Photo

Couples dreaming of becoming parents through IVF have told ITV News they are being forced to give up on starting families as the cost-of-living crisis deepens.

Prices for fertility treatments have risen in recent months, in line with inflation throughout the rest of the economy, meaning that couples hoping to conceive have had to shell out even more.

One charity has warned that people unable to get NHS-funded help "now simply cannot afford" to start treatment or pay for further IVF cycles.

Louise and Andre, aged 38 and 44, are one of the many couples now having to think twice Having tried to conceive since 2013, they have had to pay for private fertility treatment as Louise has a child from a previous relationship.

She said the rising costs had forced them into a difficult decision.

“It’s so much of a concern that we can’t afford to do it again," she said. “The price of food and everything is going up: mortgage rates, diesel rates, and now the IVF clinic has increased their prices as well.”

The couple, who live in Essex, chose a more affordable clinic that puts the money spent on IVF back into the NHS, but said the price of treatment had risen by more than £700, from £2,995 to £3,750 - a 23% rise.

Louise and her partner say they've taken out credit cards to afford the rising costs of IVF. Credit: Family photo

During the testing process, Andre was diagnosed with testicular cancer and discovered that he was infertile.

They also had the added expense of needing to use a sperm donor, at a cost of £1,000.

Louise added: "We’ve had to use credit cards, borrow money from people. We’ve got to find the money from somewhere if we want to do this.

“When you’ve got a mortgage, a car to run, it’s really, really worrying.”

Decisions about who can access NHS-funded IVF in England is made by local integrated care boards (ICBs). Credit: PA

They estimate that they have spent around £11,000 on fertility treatment.

“We’re still paying off our last treatment and we’ve had to add the next one to our credit card. We literally can’t afford another round," she told ITV News Anglia.

But Louise and Andre are not alone. 

New research by Fertility Network UK found that the average cost of investigations and treatment was £13,750.

Around 1 in 10 couples (12%) spent more than £30,000 and a few (0.5%) spent over £100,000. Two-thirds of couples had to pay for their own treatment.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that women under 40 should be offered three funded rounds of IVF if they have been trying to conceive unsuccessfully for two years.

However, the final decision about who can have NHS-funded IVF in England is made by local integrated care boards (ICBs), and their criteria may be stricter than those recommended by NICE, and be dependent on the local funding available.

Another couple from Bedfordshire told ITV News Anglia they were wondering if they would ever be able to save the money to have a family.

The pair, who asked not to be identified, said they had been entitled to one NHS-funded IVF cycle because of where they live, but it had proved unsuccessful. 

They estimated that had spent over £30,000 on IVF, but also laid out thousands more on the recommended medication per cycle.

“On top of everything costing so much at the moment anyway, with gas and electricity bills going up, we’re also thinking how are we ever going to save, to ever have a chance of having a child?”

Economic uncertainty, on top of the emotional turmoil of IVF had made the cost of living crisis even harder, they said.

“The financial pressure keeps us awake at night and it doesn’t even guarantee success," they said.

“If it doesn’t work, we’ve got ourselves into debt for no reason.

"And if it does work, how are we going to afford being on a maternity wage, and buying all the things a child would cost?

"It seems so unfair that the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidance recommends three rounds of IVF, yet so few integrated care boards offer this.”

Charities said that couples hoping to conceive were facing an "appalling decision" over whether to abandon their chances of starting a family.

Gwenda Burns, chief executive of Fertility Network UK, said: “We are aware that the sky-high cost of IVF coupled with the current cost-of-living crisis means more and more couples unable to access NHS-funded help now simply cannot afford to pay to start fertility treatment or to have another IVF cycle.

“As most couples in the UK struggling with infertility do have to pay for their own medical help, for these couples the appalling decision of what to cut back on is increasingly including the chance of having a family."

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