Is IVF right for you?

Considering IVF? Find out if IVF gives you the best chance of getting pregnant, and how to get IVF on the NHS

In vitro fertilisation (IVF) is one of several techniques available to help couples with fertility problems to have a baby.

During IVF, an egg is surgically removed from the woman's ovaries and fertilised with sperm in a laboratory. The fertilised egg, now called an embryo, is then returned to the woman's womb to grow and develop.

Read more information about how IVF is performed.

IVF doesn't always result in pregnancy and it can be both physically and emotionally demanding. If you're going through IVF, you should be offered counselling to help you through the process.

Read more about support available during IVF.

Who can have IVF?

In 2013, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published new guidelines about who should have access to IVF treatment on the NHS in England and Wales.

Women under 40

According to the guidelines, women aged under 40 should be offered three cycles of IVF treatment on the NHS if:

  • you have been trying to get pregnant through regular unprotected intercourse for two years, or
  • you have not been able to get pregnant after 12 cycles of artificial insemination

However, if tests show IVF is the only treatment likely to help you get pregnant, you should be referred for IVF straight away.

If you turn 40 during treatment, the current cycle will be completed, but further cycles should not be offered.

Women aged 40 to 42

The guidelines also say women aged between 40 and 42 should be offered one cycle of IVF on the NHS if all of the following four criteria are met:

  • you have been trying to get pregnant through regular unprotected intercourse for two years, or you have not been able to get pregnant after 12 cycles of artificial insemination
  • you have never had IVF treatment before
  • you show no evidence of low ovarian reserve (this is when eggs in the ovary are low in number or low in quality)
  • you have been informed of the additional implications of IVF and pregnancy at this age

Again, if tests show IVF is the only treatment likely to help you get pregnant, you should be referred for IVF straight away.

Read information about getting started with IVF.

Success rate

The success rate of IVF depends on the age of the woman undergoing treatment as well as the cause of the infertility (if it's known). Younger women are more likely to have healthier eggs, which increases the chances of success.

IVF isn't usually recommended for women above the age of 42 because the chances of a successful pregnancy are thought to be too low.

In 2010, the percentage of IVF treatments that resulted in a live birth (the success rate) was:

  • 32.2% for women under 35  
  • 27.7% for women aged 35-37  
  • 20.8% for women aged 38-39   
  • 13.6% for women aged 40-42   
  • 5% for women aged 43-44 
  • 1.9% for women aged over 44

Read more information about the risks of IVF.

Funding and payment

NHS trusts across England and Wales are working to provide the same levels of service.

However, the provision of IVF treatment varies across the country and often depends on local CCG policies. Priority is often given to couples who don't already have children.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority regulates and licenses fertility clinics. You can find a fertility clinic using their search function.

If you're not eligible for NHS funding or you decide to pay for IVF, you can approach a private fertility clinic directly. Some clinics ask for a referral by your GP. On average, one cycle of IVF costs about £5000. However, this varies from clinic to clinic and there may be additional costs for medicines, consultations and tests.

Some clinics may offer a ‘package’ of treatment. During your discussions with the clinic, make sure you find out exactly what's included in the price. You may also be able to reduce the cost of IVF by donating some of your eggs or male partner's sperm for others to use.

Read information about private fertility treatment on the HFEA website.

If you're thinking about having IVF abroad, there are a number of issues you need to consider, including your safety and the standards of care you'll receive. The HFEA licenses and regulates clinics in the UK only. Clinics in other countries may or may not be regulated to local standards and regulations.

Read information about the issues and risks associated with fertility treatment abroad on the HFEA website.

Page last reviewed: 01/08/2013

Next review due: 01/08/2015


How helpful is this page?

Average rating

Based on 388 ratings

All ratings

Add your rating


The 7 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

T10G71 said on 30 October 2014

me and my partner have been trying for 2 years to conceive. In April i was diagnosed with an underactive thyoid, i then found out yesterday that I had Pelvic Inflammatroy disease in 1999 and an emergency operation resulted in losing my left fallopian tube and it possibly affects the right ovary. I was told that the way forward would be IVF, i discussed this with my GP was told that i will probably be rejected as i am 42 and my partner already has children from a previous relationship. Therefore the NHS would not fund it. Yet having just read this article there is nothing in the NICE Guildelines that say if my partner has already fathered children we will be rejected.
I think it's if highly unfair on us if this is what the descision is based on on, as until yesterday i was aware i had PID and feel very cheated. As the odds are stacked against me based on having Hypothyroidism and PID

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

JayeStar76 said on 25 July 2014

I was referred by my GP and a specialist for IVF. I am a healthy childless married 37 year old with premature ovarian failure. I have had blood tests, an HSG and my husband had sperm tests. The doctor my husband and I saw at Kingston Hospital started off by telling us that I did have eggs left and was not menopausal, the opposite to what we had been told by all the other doctors seen previously. He said that my husbands sperm count was excellent and we would not need egg donation as I am still having periods and have some eggs, not many but some. You would think when hearing this that we would have been put straight on to the IVF programme but, NO! apparently, and I repeat, although I am still having periods and have some eggs,not many but some, and my husbands sperm is great, we are not a good enough risk for the NHS to take on as our success rate is lower than they would wish for. In other words, it might not work so they wont bother! I can however find some eggs somewhere and they will do the IVF procedure...cheers NHS! If I was after a boob job or I smoked, they would obviously fork out the money for this....Very disappointed and their bedside manner was much to be desired...

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

RufusRefuse said on 22 July 2014

If I'm not married and Polish, can I get IVF for free on the National Health Service of Britain?

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

jw81 said on 18 April 2013

I'm always surprised by the negative reaction to offering IVF on the NHS.

When we look at the facts, there are very few couples who would need IVF, therefore the cost as compared to many other services is very low.

What's more, is that the current system is unfair. depending on where you live determines whether you are eligable for between 0 and 3 cycles (NICE recommends 3)

There are also ways to 'offset' the cost of IVF, for example in Canada it's been proven that by using single embryo transfer, and stopping the use of drugs which encourage multiple egg production in already ovulating women, the savings made in after care for premature births more than cover the cost of additional rounds of IVF.

The cost of treating depression in the infertile should also not be underestimated.

Many infertile couples are in this position through no fault of their own. It's a condition that is unbelievably distressing , and if there is a fix, it should be provided.

We cannot say that the cost should stand in the way. When we look at the bill the taxpayer picks up, we would have to consider all factors. For example, should a couple who contribute greatly to the system through high tax and NI payments be denied a service from a system they are funding? If this is true, should we deny anti natal, post natal and infant care for those who are or are the children of individuals who contribute less or nothing to the system?

If we step down this road, it will no time at all before we have higher tax payers demanding they be able to 'opt out' of the NHS in order that they don't have to pay more in contributions to it than they would pay into a private health care system. Then where would the NHS be?

There are many valid services offered by the NHS for non life threatening or self inflicted conditions such as cosmetic surgery for disfiguring injuries or birthmarks, addiction recovery and stop smoking services. Where should we draw the line?

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

rudders82 said on 20 February 2013

i`m a male me and my partner been trying for years to conceive but no luck when i was younger i had hypospadias repair and also had a strangled tesctical this has made my count lower and very hard so we seeked ivf treatment but were rejected on the NHS and have to go private which we just cant afford have the changes now made it so i can now try on NHS as i feel i should be entilted to NHS help cause of the problems i had

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

lotus1975 said on 12 January 2013

I am curious to know the answer to this question too. As of now, it is not in place and I was told it won't be for at least 5 yrs.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

michaelgrady said on 02 November 2012

NHS set to extend controversial upper age limit for IVF by three years to 42

when is this going to happen?

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Online clinic on fertility

Answers from specialist doctors to a range of questions on fertility and contraception

Support if you have fertility problems

Fertility problems can leave you emotionally drained. Find out how to get support

Fertility self assessment

Are you worried about fertility?

If you’re a woman trying for a child and are worried you might be having problems, take this test.