I spent last weekend working at The Fertility Show held at Olympia, and over Saturday and Sunday over 4,500 people came through the doors looking for help and advice on IVF treatment. I have attended this show for the last five years and year on year the event is growing and not because more couples are struggling to conceive - the figure of one is six couples worldwide remains - but because UK couples are now realising that help is unlikely to come from the NHS.
Couples can wait up to two years if they qualify for a free round of IVF with their local NHS Trust, but the qualifying criteria varies, and usually excludes couples if one of the partners has a child already, can be age dependent for the female and is basically down to funding, which can run out at anytime regardless of where you are on the waiting list.
Fertility is dependent on the female age, and ovulation can halve once a woman reaches 35. The definition of infertility is when a couple have tried with no success for 12 months, at this stage medical intervention is required. The longer a couple wait the less chance they have of success even with IVF, the UK national average success rate is just 22% on women under 38.
Women over 40 have a much better chance of success using donor eggs, however these eggs are no longer anonymous in the UK and waiting lists can be as long as three years, so it is no wonder these women look to go overseas for quicker and anonymous treatment.
I was on the Barbados Fertility Centre (BFC) stand, and in previous years the majority of UK patients would consider BFC because they run their own in house donor recruitment programme for Afro Caribbean donors, again another area where the UK really struggles to meet the demand. This year however, there was a real change in attitude from UK couples who were looking for general IVF with and without donor eggs and couples from all ethnicities.
These couples have realised that there best chance of success is not to wait on their local NHS trust but bite the bullet and accept that their treatment will be self funded, this in turn has made them shop around for a clinic that offers affordable treatment with the best success rates. Some of the other UK clinics exhibiting were quoting figures as high as £45,000, which is even higher than clinics in New York who are now charging IVF patients in the region of $40,000. A full IVF cycle at BFC is around £3600, so even adding flights and accommodation a UK couple can still get change from £5,000!
This trend is also happening on the other side of the Atlantic as one couple have recently testified in their blog. It's a harrowing read as they describe a six-year ordeal of infertility treatment, which finally reached its conclusion last weekend when they welcomed their baby girl to the world.
Costs were prohibitive for this US couple so they had to look outside of the US for treatment and they document the highs and lows of failed cycles, the many different medication protocols, the difficult decision to use donor eggs and the use of alternative therapies such as acupuncture. It is written from both the male and female perspective to encourage the male partners to read the blog as well. This couple hope the fact that they eventually found success will give hope to the many thousands of other couples who are living through infertility.
For anybody going through IVF treatment and struggling with infertility this blog is a MUST read, the site also provides the facility to ask this couple questions about their treatment.
For more information about the work of Barbados Fertility Centre click here.