Is IVF right for you?

NHS
In vitro fertilisation (IVF) is the best-known treatment for fertility problems, but it isn’t always the solution. Your GP or fertility clinic can help you decide if it's right for you.

In many cases of infertility, medicines or surgery can give you a better chance of getting pregnant.

If IVF is the best treatment for you, you’ll have to decide whether you want to go ahead with it. Before you do, try to find out as much as you can about the treatment, the risks associated with it and the chance of success.

IVF is both physically and emotionally demanding. It can present psychological challenges, including the risk of disappointment if IVF is not successful.

Your fertility clinic can help you learn more about IVF and come to the decision that's right for you.

Who is IVF for?

IVF is the best treatment to deal with a range of fertility problems. These include:

Blocked or damaged fallopian tubes

Problems with the fallopian tubes can prevent eggs released by the ovaries from reaching the uterus. In IVF, eggs are taken from the ovary, fertilised and implanted straight into the uterus (womb).

Low sperm count or poor sperm movement

Problems with sperm quality or sperm count can prevent sperm reaching the egg or fertilising the egg in the fallopian tube. In IVF, a sperm sample is provided by the male partner and, in a laboratory, mixed with eggs taken from the female partner.

Unexplained infertility

No cause can be found for about one in five cases of infertility. Couples or women with unexplained infertility who haven't had success with other fertility treatments may have success with IVF.

For more information, see the Health A-Z topic on IVF.

Can I have IVF?

Access to IVF on the NHS varies throughout England.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends that suitable couples receive up to three cycles of IVF on the NHS if the woman is between 23 and 39 and the couple have had a problem with fertility for three years.

The rate at which primary care trusts (PCTs) across England are implementing the NICE guidance varies. The number of IVF cycles funded by different PCTs still varies, as does the waiting time for treatment. If you have a child or children from your current relationship or a previous relationship, some PCTs will not fund NHS IVF treatment.

Your GP can tell you more about the IVF options open to you. Some women or couples opt for private IVF treatment. You can learn more about access to IVF in the section called Do I have to pay for IVF?

How does IVF feel?

IVF will make big demands on your time, body and emotions.

Clare Brown, chief executive of Infertility Network UK, which helps people living with fertility problems, says: “IVF is such a long treatment, and it's often stressful. One cycle can go on for seven weeks, and you’ll be in and out of the fertility clinic.

“People having IVF can become depressed or anxious. Fertility problems can come to dominate your life with your partner, so it may be hard to switch off from the stress.”

But help is out there, says Brown. “All fertility clinics are obliged to offer counselling for people having IVF." 

Additionally, Infertility Network UK and other organisations can provide valuable support during IVF, including the chance to contact other people who are experiencing the same thing.

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