The IVF rollercoaster can be a physical, emotional and extremely stressful ride. And if you are paying for your treatment at every stage of the process, the financial cost can quickly add to the emotional strain.
There are still a number of ways to obtain free IVF treatment, but with the recent changes to provision by some regional Care Commissioning Groups (CCGs), the traditional route to free treatment may not be as available as it once was, which makes it more important now than ever before to choose the route to free IVF that is right for you.
NHS-funded free IVF
This is probably one of the most well-known routes to obtaining free IVF treatment in the UK. NHS applicants must first visit their GP for a referral, for which you will need to meet certain criteria. Guidelines on the criteria for the funding of free IVF are published by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) however, the provision varies across the country and can depend on your local CCG’s decision on how they locally fund IVF treatment. To find out whether you are able to access NHS funding, talk to your GP or contact your local CCG. If you are eligible for NHS funding, you will also have to wait for treatment and NHS waiting list times can vary considerably.
Egg sharing for free IVF
Egg sharing has fast become one of the most popular routes to obtaining free IVF. It gives one woman the opportunity to afford her treatment whilst wishing to help another who cannot produce any of her own eggs to start a family. At Herts & Essex, we run one of the most successful egg sharing programmes in the UK, whereby we reward an egg donor with free IVF treatment. Egg donors must be under 36 years of age and able to produce enough good quality eggs to give you and the anonymous recipient the best chance of conception. If you are considering becoming an egg share donor we initially ask that you complete a health questionnaire, which must be verified by your family doctor. Donors must undertake implications counselling with an independent counsellor, and also certain health checks and screening tests to confirm your suitability and to ensure that there is no risk of them passing inherited illnesses or diseases to recipients.
Sperm sharing for free IVF
Sperm sharing for free IVF treatment requires a little more time and dedication than a lot of donors initially realise. All men between the ages of 18 and 41 with normal sperm parameters are eligible, and most donors will make around 6-8 visits to donate over the course of eight weeks. Initial consultations require a health questionnaire and a semen sample (taken on the day), and if donors decide to proceed they will then be required to give urine and blood samples.
Sperm samples have to be quarantined for a minimum of 6 months, and after this period is complete, donors return to the clinic for rescreening to ensure that their samples are safe for recipients. A sperm sharers’ free IVF treatment* for a partner can begin once they have passed the 6-month rescreening.
At Herts & Essex Fertility Centre we offer an independent counselling service to help you decide whether sperm or egg sharing is the best route to free IVF for you. The counselling is particularly important because of the HFEA’s ruling since 2005 that all sperm or egg share donors be identifiable and contactable by any children born as a result of their donation, if they so wish, once they have turned 18.
As you can see, there isn’t an easy answer when it comes to free IVF. Ultimately, your decision will depend on your situation and your local CCG funding criteria. We know it can be a confusing and frustrating time, so we are here to help. To arrange a consultation, or to simply discuss your options with our team, call us today on 01992 78 50 60.
It is also worth visiting the Fertility Fairness website to find out the current provision of NHS-funded IVF in your area
*excluding HFEA fee and drugs