Is IVF right for you?

content supplied by NHS Choices

Although IVF is the best-known treatment for people with fertility problems, it isn’t always the solution. Your GP or fertility clinic can help you decide if it's right for you.

Watch a video in which a couple talk about their experiences of IVF

In many cases of infertility, other treatments, such as medicines or surgery, give a better chance of eventually achieving pregnancy.

If IVF is the best treatment for you, you’ll have to decide whether to have it. 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 should 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
These can prevent eggs released by the ovaries from reaching the uterus. In IVF, eggs are taken from the ovary and implanted straight into the uterus.

Low sperm count or poor sperm movement
This can prevent sperm 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.

If you have a child or children from your current relationship or a previous relationship, you are not eligible for NHS treatment.

The rate at which primary care trusts (PCTs) across England are implementing NICE's guideline varies. There continues to be wide variation in the number of IVF cycles funded and the waiting time for 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.

Find out more about emotional support for people with fertility problems.

You can also learn more about support for infertility problems on the Infertility Network UK website.

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