Infertility is currently known to affect 3.5 million people or one in every seven couples in the UK. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has now recognized that infertility is a disease. With the National Health Service (NHS) cutting the number of cycles it provides and ‘the postcode lottery’ being extremely frustrating, treatment is starting to become inaccessible for all who require its assistance.
You’ve been trying to conceive (TTC) for long enough. With consultations, tests, screenings, and you may have managed the one cycle of NHS IVF treatment available for your postcode. The UK Human Fertilisation and Embryo Authority (HFEA) suggests that about 33% of first IVF cycles work the first time. You’re now most likely considering fertility treatment from a private fertility clinic.
Now you are sat with your partner, both head in hands, wondering how you will afford the next round or perhaps more if needed. The amount of information available is a minefield, and I guess the overwhelm is settling in nicely.
I wish you had read my other blog, “how to make the best out of your one and only NHS-funded IVF,” but never mind, let’s talk about where you are now and how I can help you afford your subsequent cycles.
Getting into debt
While my partner and I were lucky that we both had good jobs in the Forces and managed to get 3 NHS-funded IVF cycles, we still have spent the best part of £30000+ on trying to have the family we want.
We got into debt because our emotions took over having a child of our own. This is why I want to help couples make unnecessary choices due to lack of knowledge and that pure wish to have a child.
How much does IVF cost?
In the UK, the average cost of fertility treatment can range depending on what treatment you are having. It can cost between £3000 – £4000 alone, without the cost of the medications and the add-ons if you choose to have them. By going on the Access fertility calculator, I racked up a bill for initial checks ups, consultations, and a cycle of ICSI, totalling nearly £5000, which isn’t including the medication or the add-ons.
Stress and support
The stress of financing further treatments, add-ons, and therapy can be highly overwhelming and contributes to additional stress that can clearly impact your fertility and relationship.
Here are some briefs points on how you can possibly pay for IVF:
- Ask your GP
Ask your GP or your local sexual health clinic if they can complete the mandatory pre-screening tests: HIV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and Chlamydia.
You may also be able to have some of the hormone blood tests completed by your GP. Clearly this will be at their discretion, you can only but ask.
- How can I pay for this?
IVF Multi-Cycle Programme or an IVF Refund Programme:
CARE Fertility is one of the IVF Clinics that offer both the IVF Multi-Cycle Programme and the IVF Refund Programme. Access Fertility is a third-party agency offering financial assistance and partners specific IVF clinics in the UK and Europe.
- Do I really need the add-ons?
More couples are being offered, and charged for, optional extras to their fertility treatment, claiming to have a better chance of a healthy baby. UK
HFEA has devised a traffic light system for fertility treatment ‘add-ons’ where you are offered an explanation of the treatment. The traffic light rates the efficacy of the treatment, as seen in the picture below.
Having an excellent all-around knowledge of the add-ons will allow you to make informed choices. Ensuring you aren’t being forced into treatment with no objective evidence of working. This will save you money in the long run.
Crowdfunding harnesses the power of social networks and the internet to give people the means to raise funds for individuals or communities. It bridges a gap between those in need and those that are available to help them. People turn to crowdfund when they can’t afford IVF treatment.
- Egg Sharing
Some clinics run successful Egg Share Schemes where a couple shares their eggs with another couple who cannot produce their own eggs.
Payment for the IVF treatment, screening, and medication is waived or discounted. There may be other fees that are included.
There are additional screening procedures and specific criteria for acceptance of the egg-sharing scheme. This information can be found on the HFEA website under egg sharing.
- Treatment Abroad
Many couples now seek destinations abroad for fertility treatment, especially when looking at egg donation, not just because of cost but also availability.
Popular places across Europe for fertility treatment are Spain, Greece, Cyprus, Bavaria, and the Czech Republic.
Spain has the most expensive treatment with an average cost of about £3700 per cycle of IVF. This figure includes medication, monitoring stimulation, egg retrieval, and general anaesthetic, monitoring embryo culture (usually to a 5-day blastocyst).
The same treatment packages are cheaper in the Czech Republic at approximately £2800, with Retrofit offering PGS with their treatment.
Controversial add-ons like embryo glue or embryonic time-lapse imaging are typically standard amongst most IVF clinics in Europe. The clinic’s success rates usually are higher, despite the research and evidence of these add-ons.
There is legislation within the EU that sets standards for quality and safety. You must ensure you understand each country’s legal situation before having treatment, especially the clinic’s terms for multiple embryo transfer.
- Understand your costs and negotiate
Compare prices of IVF clinics; ensure you ask the clinics to clearly identify what is included in the cost. Perhaps they are doing great package deals that suit your needs. Remember the cost of traveling too, maybe a clinic may be cheaper, but it’s further away.
Although this process is quite emotional, you’ll also need your business and negotiating cap on. Suppose a clinic is offering you something cheaper, but you prefer another clinic. In that case, you have every right, and you should negotiate to see what you can get.
- Success Rates
This is another way to negotiate with a clinic, as understanding a clinic’s success rate. Which is directly reflected on the patient rather than the doctors. Some patients are refused treatment due to being overweight.
You could also suggest that you have a healthy lifestyle, having a healthy BMI. You are preparing yourself for the treatment ready for optimal fertility.
You would be a good statistic for their clinic.
- Do you really need to have fertility drugs?
You can save money on IVF medication by opting for a natural IVF cycle or fewer drugs called mild or minimum stimulation IVF. However, these have a lower success rate and are usually suitable for women with medical conditions such as those at risk of ovarian hyper-stimulation (OHSS). Some women take less medication for religious reasons too.
You have to ensure that this is discussed in length with your fertility clinic and find more information with the clinic on success rates.
- Setting budgets
Do you really need that coffee from Starbucks or that expensive lipstick from the Chanel? Are these the things that you should be spending your money on?
Make a list of your income and expenditure (be honest) and see where you can make changes and negotiate what you spend your money on. Work out what you can save and have a savings goal. Put the extra money into an ISA or a high-interest account that can make you extra money. It’s worth getting a free consultation with a financial advisor to understand your best options for saving money.
- Look after yourself
Suppose you are overweight or are highly stressed. In that case, the chances of successful treatment are lowered due to the extra burden you have placed on yourself. I am not suggesting that the treatment will not work because of these factors, but it does harm the chances of the treatment being successful.
Research suggests that excess weight could negatively impact egg quality and bring on another infertility diagnosis like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Both these affect the chances of IVF success.
While psychological stress has not been proven to negatively affect IVF outcomes, I firmly believe that it does impact the person’s state of mind. You know that good old saying, “when my friend stopped stressing, she got pregnant” well, it is accurate, and it is real; we all know someone that this has happened to.
My mindset was not at its best when I was trying to conceive; once I had worked on my mindset and stress levels, I felt more whole as a person, and it definitely helped me conceive.
- Prepare to fail, fail to prepare
Navigating an IVF journey is an expensive and emotionally loaded process. There are no guarantees with pregnancy at the end of it. However, procreation is a basic human need. Some couples will keep going until they have success, regardless of financial impact.
I went through 4 failed cycles of IVF treatment until I realized that preparation of your mind and body is vital towards a successful outcome. You wouldn’t go into a race not fully prepared and expect to do well; I have the same policy for IVF.
If you prepare to the best of your ability, you can begin the treatment knowing that you have done everything you could to help the process. I went into my 5th IVF cycle fully prepared, and it gave me the confidence to know that my baby was on his way.
I now look back and wish I had looked for help sooner instead of trying to do it all myself. Investing in myself earlier would have saved money, time, and emotional turmoil. I guess I had to go through the journey so I could help others.
Take more time to really understand how IVF works and the add-ons you can do to help the process. Have a treatment plan that includes a budget and a savings plan; this starts well in advance of your treatment (depending on how much you need to save). Invest in yourself by including a fertility coach or therapist into your costing plan. It can save you money and lessen the emotional costs.
Look at your income and expenditure to see what you can forfeit. A financial advisor could help you make better choices on how you could potentially pay for the treatment if this is what road you are venturing down.
Seek advice from your own GP as to what tests they can provide for you. Learn the art of negotiation with fertility clinics, remember to have a logical business head on your shoulders, and use your heart and your gut to make decisions.
Invest in yourself and look after yourself as best as possible by eating the right foods, lightly exercising when you can, and meditate for stress relief.