In Vitro Fertilisation, or IVF, is a common fertility treatment used to help couples have babies who are unable to do so on their own. The process involves removing an egg from the ovaries and fertilising it with a sperm in a test tube.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that a woman living in England or Wales who is under 40 should be offered three cycles of IVF. This should happen when their attempts to get pregnant through regular unprotected sex have been unsuccessful for at least two years, or if they’ve had twelve cycles of unsuccessful artificial insemination.
However, in England, these rules are rarely abided by. The current online ‘Fight for IVF’ is demanding change, and that is what I wanted to talk about today through this article. The current petition has 8,575 supporters (as of writing), and if you wish to join the fight the link to sign will be at the end.
As I have already said, the NICE guidelines recommend that women under 40 should be offered three cycles of IVF if they are struggling to get pregnant. NICE Guidelines are created using research and facts. They have found that 1 in 4 implanted embryos resulted in a live birth in 2018. Evidently, most women need more than one round of IVF to have a successful pregnancy. On average, most women need three, hence the guideline.
However, less than 20% of clinical commissioning groups (these are groups of general practices (GPs) which come together in each area to commission the best services for their patients and population) adhere to this guidance.
CCG’s are choosing how many NHS funded cycles to offer, meaning that a woman’s access to IVF is purely defined by her postcode. Why should the option of having a child be defined by where you live?
This is why the Fight for IVF was started: to gain country-wide equality for women wanting access to IVF treatments. This is to ensure that every woman has the same fair access to IVF, and to call for the 80% of CCGs who ignore this guideline to offer every woman who needs it three rounds of IVF.
Three CGG’s offer no access to NHS-funded IVF treatments at all. These are Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Mid Essex and Basildon, and Brentford. Women in these areas are not entitled to NHS funded IVF. For example, take Mid Essex. If you live in Mid Essex, you are not allowed to receive IVF treatment, but you would be if you lived anywhere else in Essex. Why? Why does the CCG try to deny women the chance to start a family because of their postcode? This has to change.
Infertility is one of the hardest things a woman can go through, and often it is difficult to find out the cause. Mentally, many women feel their body has failed them, they have failed their partners, and that having a biological child will never happen for them. The constant stress of taking pregnancy tests is exacerbated by every negative result, and the heartache when they realise this is their reality. On top of this, the NHS then tells them they can’t have IVF unless they can pay for it. The average cycle of IVF is £3,348 (according to theduff.co.uk). The vast majority of women need more than one cycle. If they can’t afford it, the game is up – they will not be able to have a child. Why should something as fickle as a postcode have such a big impact on women’s lives? Are these women different? Less worthy? No. And this is why the postcode lottery needs to come to an end.
So, how can you get involved? Sign the petition! Here is the link – https://www.thepetitionsite.com/en-gb/259/042/845/demand-an-end-to-the-ivf-postcode-lottery/. Once you have signed, share it with friends and family! The more signatures we get, the better chance we have of eradicating the postcode lottery.
You can also shout about the cause! When posting on social media, use the #FightForIVF hashtag and follow @fightforIVF on social media. Like and comment, share and save – all of these things can ensure the posts will be recommended to others, and this will raise awareness and encourage others to sign the petition.
Thank you for reading, educating yourself, and hopefully helping us fight to give every woman the right to IVF!