Woman who spent life savings on IVF slams 'backward' changes to NHS fertility rules

A woman who is undergoing what she describes as an "all-consuming" fertility journey after suffering three miscarriages has criticised plans to scale back NHS treatment in Wales.

Lucy Mills, who is a single woman, has spent the last 18 months trying to have a baby.

Although official guidelines by NICE recommend up to three cycles of IVF should be offered on the NHS, rules can vary across different health boards - and now it could scaled back even further in Wales.

IVF is only offered on the NHS if certain criteria are met which means some people end up spending thousands on private treatment with one cycle costing up to £5,000 or more.

Lucy spent £30,000 on several rounds of treatment and told ITV News she is in debt to try and finance it.

"I've just been on auto-pilot and always in the back of my mind is... when's my next round of treatment, when's my next appointment, when's my next injection, when's my next scan, if I get pregnant then am I going to have another miscarriage?'

During IVF an egg is removed from the woman's ovaries and fertilised with sperm in a lab

What is IVF?

During IVF, an egg is removed from the woman's ovaries and fertilised with sperm in a laboratory.

The fertilised egg, called an embryo, is then returned to the woman's womb to grow and develop.

It can be carried out using your eggs and your partner's sperm, or eggs an or sperm from donors.

(Source: NHS Wales)

Changes to criteria which include making it more difficult for single people and same-sex couples to qualify for IVF on the NHS have been described as "shocking".

Lucy described the process as "all-consuming"

Lucy said, "My initial reaction was shock to be honest. I just felt like it was such a backwards step. I always felt like Wales was quite progressive when it came to offering treatment to single women."

"To take a such a huge backwards step and essentially discriminate against people who are single was really shocking."

What do the proposed changes include?

  • Women under 40 will only be eligible for two partial IVF cycles rather than two full IVF cycles. A partial IVF cycle will include a fresh embryo transfer and a maximum of five frozen embryo transfers

  • Single women and men are not included in the proposed changes. Previously, they were eligible for NHS treatment after six IUI cycles - a fertility treatment that involves directly inserting sperm into a woman's womb

  • Women aged 40-42 will not be eligible for any NHS treatment

  • Women or men who choose to self-fund egg or sperm freezing will now not be able to access NHS-funded fertility treatment at a later date

  • The BMI range for women has been widened from 19-30 to 18-35

  • The age range for women in a relationship has been lowered to 20 from 18

Current guidelines suggest offering one cycle of treatment to women aged 40-42 if certain criteria are met.

Lucy is currently unsure if any of the changes will effect her as she is currently single and turns 40 this year.

Lucy has suffered three miscarriages following fertility treatment

"A lot of people are choosing to have children on their own now and a lot of women are choosing to pursue careers and have children later in life, as well as others preserving their fertility by freezing their eggs.

"And I understand again that if these changes come in that if you've frozen your eggs, that will completely exclude you from any NHS entitlement. Absolutely these policy changes don't reflect the way that society is made up these days."

  • How successful is IVF treatment?

Between 2014 and 2016 the percentage of IVF treatments that resulted in a live birth was:

  • 29% for women under 35

  • 23% for women aged 35 to 37

  • 15% for women aged 38 to 39

  • 9% for women aged 40 to 42

  • 3% for women aged 43 to 44

  • 2% for women aged over 44

Fertility Network also criticised the plans describing them as "dramatic cuts".

Lucy claimed the changes could have more serious consequences. "There could be a real black market, in terms of men offering to be sperm donors, because that's a free route where people can't afford to have fertility treatment. And that's really worrying in itself."

In response, the Welsh Government said recommendations are made on the basis of "clinical effectiveness".

"All clinicians should support families of any composition with fertility issues and may refer them into specialist services where appropriate.

"Welsh Health Specialist Services review clinical commissioning advice regularly, and advise on the basis of clinical effectiveness. We encourage the public to respond to the consultation."

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