The most common types of fertility treatment
In the UK, several types of infertility treatment are available to help those struggling to conceive or who have received a diagnosis of infertility. Here's an overview of some of the most common fertility treatments and what each typically includes:
- Intrauterine Insemination (IUI): Specially prepared sperm is placed directly into the woman's uterus, increasing their chances of reaching the egg.
- In vitro fertilisation (IVF): IVF involves fertilising the egg with sperm in a laboratory dish. The resulting embryo is then transferred into the woman's uterus for implantation. IVF is recommended for a wide range of infertility issues, such as a low egg count or blocked fallopian tubes.
- Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI): A variation of IVF commonly used when there are male fertility issues, ICSI entails injecting a single sperm into the egg.
- Egg Donation: This involves using donor eggs from another woman, fertilising them with the partner's sperm (or donor sperm), and transferring the resulting embryo into the uterus.
- Sperm Donation: In cases where the male partner has fertility problems or there is no male partner - a same-sex couple or single parent, for example - donor sperm can be used for insemination or IVF.
- Surrogacy: Another woman carries and gives birth to a baby on behalf of the intended parents. This may be an option if the woman cannot carry a pregnancy herself.
- Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET): This technique involves freezing embryos from a previous IVF cycle for future use to avoid needing another retrieval.
- Gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT): Multiple eggs are collected from the ovaries and placed into a thin tube with the sperm. The gametes (both eggs and sperm) are then injected into the fallopian tubes using a surgical procedure called laparoscopy.
If you're starting fertility treatment yourself and looking more information on any of the above, we'd recommend booking a consultation with your GP, your Fertifa Patient Advisor or fertility specialist (reproductive endocrinologist), If you're a Fertifa patient, you can do this directly through the app 💜
The treatments currently available on the NHS
In the UK, the National Health Service (NHS) does provide fertility coverage for certain treatments, however, eligibility is dependent on age, sexual orientation and whereabouts you live. This is what's known as a 'postcode lottery' and access across the UK can vary dramatically from place to place.
Although the UK Government’s 2022 Women’s Health Strategy pledged to remove additional financial barriers to In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) for female same-sex couples in England, there are regional Integrated Care Boards (ICBs) in England that can have their own eligibility criteria. For example, some ICBs require up to 12 cycles of self-funded artificial insemination, before qualifying for NHS funded IVF.
This is far beyond what is recommended in guidelines provided by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). For information on what criteria are needed to qualify for NHS-funded fertility treatment in a specific region, please visit this NHS guidance page.
Here's an overview of what's available through the NHS:
All patients are entitled to free initial fertility tests and genetic testing through the NHS. The NHS has also promised to cover any further diagnostic testing should you be referred to a specialist fertility clinic by your GP.
Medications that promote ovulation such as Clomifene, Metformin and Gonadotrophin are usually available through the NHS. However, you will have to pay the £9.65 prescription charge (unless exempt).
Intrauterine insemination (IUI)
You may be eligible for IUI if:
- You cannot have vaginal intercourse
- It is not safe to have unprotected sex, for example, if you or your partner has a sexually transmitted infection (such as HIV)
In-vitro fertilisation (IVF)
Although IVF is available through NHS, patients do have to meet eligibility criteria specific to where in the UK they live. However, most regions use the following guidelines set by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) as a basis for their criteria:
- For women under 40, three cycles of IVF treatment are offered provided the patient has been trying to conceive naturally for at least two years, or they have failed to get pregnant after 12 cycles of artificial insemination.
- For women aged 40-42, one cycle of NHS-funded IVF if:
- They meet the same criteria required for under 40s.
- Have never had IVF treatment before.
- Show no evidence of low ovarian reserve.
- Understand any potential implications of IVF and pregnancy for over 40s.
What's available using Private Health insurance
If you are struggling to conceive naturally, you may be considering private health insurance coverage for fertility treatments like IVF.
Typically, private health insurance coverage providers in the UK do not cover fertility treatment, as they deem it a "lifestyle choice" alongside procedures such as cosmetic surgery or transgender operations. Having said that, different providers do offer varying degrees of coverage as part of their health care plans. Here's an overview of some of the most common current trends:
- Many insurers will claim to "cover" IVF, but in reality only pay for initial fertility investigative testing.
- Some PMI health plans offer partial coverage for IVF treatment provided you have been a policyholder for a particular period of time. Even then, they may be selective about what they will cover.
- Others may refuse to cover any fertility-related diagnostic investigations if you've previously undergone IVF.
Due to these ambiguities, it is important to know exactly what infertility coverage is included in an insurance plan before taking out cover.
Employer-funded fertility benefits
Employees at Meta, Natwest, Lululemon, Virgin, Monzo, Bain Capital (and the list goes on!) all benefit from access to the fertility support. These employees get 24/7 access to Fertifa's clinical team, who have over 45 years of combined experience working in the fertility world, from some of the UK's best fertility clinics and hospitals.
At Fertifa, we provide employees with awareness and prevention, infertility diagnosis and treatment, financing, educational content, reimbursement services and ongoing care throughout the fertility journey.