understanding IVF
and how much it can cost

In vitro ('in glass') fertilisation is a technique that helps couples who have struggled to conceive naturally. An embryo is created in a laboratory and then transplanted into the womb.

how IVF works

The simple answer is that the process of fertilisation is the same, it just happens outside the woman’s body. Eggs are collected and mixed with a sperm sample. When a sperm makes it into the egg, you get an embryo. This is then surgically implanted back into the woman’s womb.

the stages of IVF

Before eggs are removed, a lot of effort is put in to help the woman produce a healthy supply. This includes suppressing the usual menstrual cycle and using medication to give the process a boost. The eggs are checked with an ultrasound and they're closely watched. When they're ready to collect, a needle is inserted to the ovaries, via the vagina. Fertilisation, with either the partner's or a donor’s sperm, then takes a few days. Finally, one or two embryos are placed in the womb. After a fortnight, it's time for a pregnancy test.

the different costs involved

It's possible to get IVF treatment on the NHS[1], but because of the wait and rigorous selection criteria, many go private. How much is IVF in a private clinic? Costs vary but one round of treatment is usually about £5,000. When thinking about how much IVF costs, it's a good idea to also consider the emotional and physical effects. Bear in mind that just 20-25% of treatment cycles result in a birth. The younger you are, the more chance you have of getting pregnant this way. The drugs used to stimulate the ovaries can sometimes lead to OHSS.

twins, triplets (and maybe more!)

IVF often ends up with multiple births, because more than one embryo is implanted in the womb. A single embryo can also split to create identical twins. In fact, one in six IVF pregnancies are multiples, compared to one in 80 from natural conceptions. The fertility drugs used to increase the chance of getting pregnant also add to the chance of a multiple birth. As there are some extra risks associated with having twins or triplets, certain clinics now recommend freezing additional viable embryos.

the future for IVF treatments

The first 'test tube' baby, Louise Brown, was born in England in 1978. The first born from IVF with a frozen embryo was in Australia in 1984. Babies born from frozen embryos have higher birth weights, and another advantage of freezing is that it cuts down the need for artificial hormones. A new process of fast freezing, vitrification, is another advance. Some reckon that in future, all embryos might be frozen and transplanted at the right point in the natural cycle.


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[1]. IVF, NHS, June 2018