Women struggling to conceive should be offered IVF treatment into their early 40s, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) has said.

In a new consultation document, Nice raises the age of women they believe should be entitled to the treatment and also says IVF should be offered to gay and lesbian couples as well as those carrying an infectious disease, such as Hepatitis B or HIV.

Nice, which looks at the cost effectiveness of treatments, believes women up to 42 should be entitled to the treatment.
The body's current guidance, drawn up in 2004, sets the limit at 39.

Dr Gill Leng, Nice's deputy chief executive, said: "Infertility is a medical condition that can cause significant distress for those trying to have a baby.

"This distress can have a real impact on people's lives, potentially leading to depression and the breakdown of relationships.

"However, in many cases infertility can be treated effectively - there are thousands of babies and happy parents thanks to NHS fertility treatment - which is why the NHS provides services and why Nice produces guidance on the topic.

"Since the original recommendations on fertility were published in 2004 there have been many advances in both treatments and in the understanding of different techniques.

"For this update we are using the latest statistical and clinical evidence to make sure that treatment for infertility is offered at a time and in a way which is most likely to result in pregnancy.

"These include new specific recommendations on the number of embryos to be implanted and a broadening of the criteria for the provision of in vitro fertilisation (IVF) to include some women aged 40 to 42.

"New groups of the population have also been included in this update.

"These groups include people who are preparing for cancer treatment who may wish to preserve their fertility, those who carry an infectious disease, such as Hepatitis B or HIV, same-sex couples and those who are unable to have intercourse, for example, if they have a physical disability.

"The aim of these new and updated recommendations is to ensure that everyone who has problems with fertility has access to the best levels of help.

"We are now consulting on this draft guideline and we welcome comments from interested parties."

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