If you’re thinking of IVF so you can have a baby, how much does IVF cost? Can you get IVF for free on the NHS and how can you pay for IVF if you need to go private?
Getting IVF for free on the NHS
You may be able to get IVF for free on the NHS, but it will depend on your age and other factors. In 2013, NICE (the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) introduced new recommendations about who should be able to get free IVF on the NHS. The guidelines apply to England and Wales.
SAVVY TIP: Even though the IVF itself is free, you’ll still have to pay the prescription cost for your fertility drugs, unless you don’t normally pay for your prescription. This can be between £800 and £1,500.
According to the NICE guidelines, you should be able to get three cycles of IVF on the NHS if you live in England or Wales and:
- You’re aged under 40, and either
- You’ve been trying to get pregnant with regular, unprotected sex for two years or more, or
- You’ve not been able to get pregnant after 12 cycles of artificial insemination.
SAVVY TIP: According to the NHS Choices website, if you reach 40 during your IVF treatment, you’ll be able to complete that cycle but you won’t be offered any more IVF.
Since the 2013 guidelines were introduced, if you’re aged 40 to 42 you should be offered one cycle of IVF on the NHS, but only if all of the following apply:
- You’ve been trying to get pregnant with regular, unprotected sex for two years or more or you’ve not been able to get pregnant after 12 cycles of artificial insemination.
- You’ve never had IVF before
- There’s no evidence that you have a low number of ovaries or ovaries that are low in quality (the medical term is ‘low ovarian reserve’).
- You’ve been told about the additional implications of IVF and pregnancy if you’re over 40. For example, your fertility rate will be much lower. The NHS Choices website says that the live birth rate for women under 35 having IVF is 31%, it’s less than 14% for women aged 40 – 42.
In Scotland, couples who are eligible for IVF can currently have two cycles. From April 2017, that is likely to change to three cycles. Since September 2016, couples in Scotland have been able to qualify for IVF where there is a child from a previous relationship (but one partner is not the biological parent). To qualify you must be under 40 when treatment starts.
SAVVY TIP: You may be able to get NHS-funded IVF if you’ve had private IVF in the past, if your situation means the IVF can be justified.
Couples in Northern Ireland may be able to get one cycle of IVF paid for by the NHS.
Will IVF work?
There’s no guarantee that IVF will work, but there is an IVF calculator on the University of Aberdeen website which is designed to give you an idea of your chances of becoming pregnant after IVF.
Why you might not get free IVF on the NHS
I’ve described the guidelines for getting IVF on the NHS, but there are other criteria you may have to meet relating to your lifestyle (smoking and drinking etc). And, in England and Wales, it’s the local clinical commissioning group (CCG) that has the final say. In some areas, such as Essex, Croydon and South Norfolk, a number of CCGs have stopped funding IVF on the NHS.
SAVVY TIP: Depending on your circumstances, it may be worth considering moving to an area that offers IVF on the NHS or more cycles of IVF than where you currently live.
If you can’t get IVF for free, your only other option is to go private. Private fertility clinics have to be licensed by the HFEA (the Human Fertilsation and Embryology Authority). It has a search tool on its website where you can search for private clinics, NHS clinics or both.
How much does IVF cost?
One cycle of IVF can cost up to £5,000 for one cycle – or more in some cases. However, you can get IVF for less. I found one clinic advertising three cycles of mild stimulation IVF for less than £8,000. However, that doesn’t include the cost of initial consultations and there may be additional charges as well.
SAVVY TIP: If you have healthy eggs some clinics offer free standard IVF if you donate your unused eggs to someone else. It’s called egg sharing. You’ll still have to pay some of the costs but it means that the IVF will be a fraction of the price it would otherwise be.
If you can’t donate unused eggs and you’ll have to pay the full cost, it’s worth knowing that what’s included in an IVF package can vary widely from clinic to clinic, so always ask when you’re doing your research. Get information in writing, or check what you’re told verbally with the information that’s on the clinic’s website.
SAVVY TIP: The IVF clinic should give you a personalised, costed treatment plan. This will tell you how much your IVF will cost. You normally have to pay some of the costs upfront. Find out how much you’re committed to spending and what costs are refunded if you cancel your IVF treatment before it’s complete.
How can you pay for IVF?
Ideally, you’d have money in savings to pay for IVF, but I know that it’s not realistic for all couples. If you don’t have the money already, you’ll have to borrow it. There are several different options, such as:
1. Using a 0% credit card. You can get credit cards that charge 0% interest on purchases for a limited time. You can also get balance transfer cards that will charge 0% interest for up to 42 months (as I write this, but these offers change all the time). The advantage is that you can borrow the money interest free, but you may not be able to to borrow as much as you need to pay for your IVF. Also, your credit limit isn’t guaranteed forever so your credit card company could reduce it.
SAVVY TIP: You’ll only get the best deal and the biggest credit limit if you have a good credit score. It sounds obvious but make sure you can afford to repay what you’ve borrowed before the 0% deal runs out.
2. Taking out a loan. A loan is a better option in the sense that you borrow a fixed amount for a fixed period and you pay a set amount every month. The repayment is structured so, as long as you keep up the repayments, you will be able to clear the loan in full by the end of the term. You can also make overpayments (up to £8,000 in 12 months) and you’d only have to pay a low overpayment charge. The disadvantage of taking out a loan is that the interest rate is tiered, which means you normally pay a higher interest rate if you take out a smaller loan.
SAVVY TIP: As with credit card companies, some loan providers base their interest rates on your credit rating. It means that you may end up being offered a loan at a much higher interest rate than you expect.
3. Taking out a bigger mortgage, or a second mortgage on your property has the advantage of giving you longer to pay it off. But it’s a serious step and one you shouldn’t take without thinking through the worst case scenario. You will be adding to the debt that’s attached to your home.
Depending on how much equity you have in your property (namely, what the property is worth minus what you owe on your mortgage), you could make it harder to remortgage in the future if property prices fall. Assuming you do get pregnant through the IVF, will you be able to afford the new, bigger mortgage if one of you takes some time out from your job?
SAVVY TIP: If you’re thinking of remortgaging, talk to an independent mortgage broker. You will generally have to pay for their services (although London and Country takes commission from the lender and charges no fee). However, a good mortgage broker should be worth the cost.
4. Taking out an IVF payment plan. Some clinics offer payment plans so you can pay for your IVF monthly. Find out what the interest rate is, how much you’ll repay versus how much you’re borrowing and whether or not you can make overpayments.
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