More than a million IVF cycles and 260,000 donor insemination cycles have been performed in the UK since 1991 – but the picture of who is having this treatment has changed massively in the past three decades.
That’s according to a new report from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which show 390,000 babies have been born from fertility treatment in that time – and more of them to single women, lesbian couples and women over 40 than ever.
The report also shows the meaningful medical advances in fertility treatment over the past 30 years, while highlighting the difficulties faced by individuals and couples accessing treatment across the country – echoing recent HuffPost UK investigations into the IVF postcode lottery.
5 Key Facts From The Report
1. More same-sex couples are having IVF
In 2019, 2,435 IVF cycles (4% of all cycles) involved a female partner – this is four times the 489 cycles in 2009.
2. More single women are having IVF
In 2019, 1,470 cycles (2%) involved no partner, compared to 565 in 2009 (1%).
3. More forty-somethings are having IVF
The proportion of IVF cycles undertaken by patients aged 40 and over has more than doubled from 10% (689 cycles) in 1991 to 21% (14,761 cycles) in 2019.
4. There really is an NHS postcode lottery
The level of NHS funding for fertility treatment varies across the UK, with 62% of cycles funded by the NHS in Scotland in 2019, falling to 20% in some parts of England.
5. But IVF has rising success rates
The report concludes that advances in technology and treatment over the past three decades have resulted in more successful outcomes, with birth rates for all patients under 43 improving year on year. In 1991 patients aged 35-37 had a live birth rate per embryo transferred of 6%, increasing to 25% in 2019.
Sarah Norcross, director of the fertility charity the Progress Educational Trust (PET), previously told HuffPost UK that it’s a positive move women have the choice to become mothers alone, but it’s a common misconception that women are delaying motherhood just to focus on careers.
“Research suggests it is the lack of a male partner prepared to commit to parenthood that is the key driver for women choosing to become single mothers,” she said.
“These are not women focused solely on their career and they are not necessarily women who have failed to find the man they want to have children with – it is the absence of a man ready to become a dad that has led to this reproductive choice.”
Commenting on the latest report, she added that the number of same-sex female couples wishing to access fertility treatment shows how “the routes to family formation are changing,” – and adds that the NICE guidelines on same-sex fertility treatment should be updated to reflect this.
“The current situation, where same sex couples have to pay for six attempts at a pregnancy before they can access treatment, is unfair and needs to change,” she said.
“The HFEA’s 2019 report also highlights the harsh reality of more than half a decade of cuts to NHS-funded fertility services in England, with potentially more to come later this year in the north London area. It is shocking that the East of England is now the worst place to live in the UK, with just 20% of treatment funded, when nearly a decade ago it was the best place to live.”