How to afford private IVF in the UK: 8 tips & suggestions

Sperm with pound signs

WHEN YOU'RE DEALING WITH INFERTILITY, IT'S AMAZING HOW MANY UNHELPFUL, USELESS OR DOWNRIGHT SNARKY COMMENTS YOU'LL HEAR FROM OTHERS. A contender for the absolute worst, though, is: “You say you’re not sure how you’ll cope with private IVF costs, but children are expensive, you know. If you can't afford private IVF, how are you going to cope once the baby arrives?”

Well, you moron (I'm talking to them, not you, obvs), no one pays for every single offspring-related expense in one lump sum at the start, do they? It's not like we're all shelling out on school uniforms and clarinet lessons when they're still a foetus, are we?

But with private fertility treatment, you often have to pay a huge lump sum in a very short space of time. Just two IVF cycles can set you back £14,000 over the course of a few months, and plenty of women work their way through many more cycles than that.

So there you go: that’s one of the many blindingly obvious differences between affording IVF and affording a child.

So what do you do if you’re not eligible for IVF treatment on the NHS but you don’t know how to afford going privately? In this article I’ll present you with some options you might not be aware of – options that allow you to save money, spread money, or both when paying for treatment.

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Tip 1: shop around for medication

You don’t have to get your medication from the clinic that prescribed it – which means you can shop around for the best deal. One place to add to your price comparison list is Asda Pharmacy, which has an ongoing commitment to providing IVF drugs at cost price: Asda maintains commitment to ‘not for profit’ IVF treatment nationwide. Bear in mind that Asda's “cost price” might be much higher than the “cost price plus markup” of your clinic or local pharmacy, so be sure to do your research.

Tip 2: get a loan (but, well, don’t)

The only reason I’m mentioning loans is that people will get in touch and complain if I don’t. I don’t advocate going into debt for IVF treatment, but it’s your decision, of course. You can get a regular bank loan, but there are also specialist IVF loans available now (which you can usually access via your fertility clinic). The IVF loans tend to be slightly more expensive, but the benefit is that the loan company will usually coordinate everything with your fertility clinic – so you don’t have to deal with much admin.

Tip 3: do research on “baby or your money back” schemes

These schemes are offered by various clinics, and they’ve been getting more and more generous over the years. Be sure to read the fine print, and also remember that these schemes are most generous when they’re unsuccessful: if you get pregnant first time, you may well have paid double the going rate. The “risk” of getting pregnant first time may well be worth it to you, but it’s something to consider.

Tip 4: look into egg sharing

Egg sharing is the opportunity to donate some of your eggs to the private clinic where your’e having IVF, in return for some free or discounted treatment. Each clinic will have a number of criteria, but the upshot is that it can save you a lot of money. This option needs some deep consideration before saying “yes”, but if it’s something that interests you, be sure to ask your shortlisted clinics if they offer it – and what their criteria are.

Tip 5: shop around for a clinic

As I mention in the article on the cost of fertility treatment, fertility clinics are free to set their own prices, which means the same treatment could be markedly more expensive in one place compared to another down the street. (In percentage terms it probably isn't much, but in “pounds and pence” terms, it works out to be quite a lot.)

Be aware, though, that different clinics have different ways of presenting the cost of treatment to you, and you need to make sure you're doing an accurate comparison. For example, it might look like one clinic is much more expensive than another, but the first clinic may include items such as consultations and medication in the price, whereas the other one doesn’t. My article on the cost of fertility treatment explains how to compare costs across clinics. It's also important to know that some clinics are cheaper because they'll only take on “easier” patients who have a higher likelihood of success – such as those who are under a certain age and weight.

I’ve looked into whether clinics with higher prices have better success rates, but it’s a tricky topic to research: as mentioned above (and in more detail in this article on success rates), different clinics have different entry criteria, which impacts success rates. And, of course, there's not much of a significant difference between most clinics' success rates anyway.

What I can say with confidence is that there seems to be no correlation between higher prices and higher client satisfaction. There also seems to be no correlation between higher prices and location: city centre clinics (especially in London) are often more reasonably priced than remote/northern locations. There’s a bunch of potential reasons for this counterintuitive location/price issue, but I don’t want to distract from the main takeaways: 1) different clinics in the same region can have markedly different prices; 2) you don’t need to become a client of the most expensive clinic to have the best chance of pregnancy success or the best experience.

Questions to ask your doctor at every stage of IVF treatment: free downloadable guide

IVF isn’t just overwhelming; it can also be a mind-boggling and sometimes terrifying experience because there’s so much to learn and so many rules to follow.

Problem is, doctors are busy – and they often don’t have the time to anticipate your concerns and provide all the information you might need.

This downloadable guide contains questions that will help you understand the process better, get the answers you deserve, and feel more in control of the situation (and your rights as a patient).

Enter your email address to receive it right away.

I won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.

Tip 6: consider going abroad

Going abroad for treatment can be vastly cheaper – even for just one round, and even after factoring in flights and accommodation. I haven't written an article about foreign fertility clinics yet, but it's on the to-do list!

Tip 7: don’t assume all add-ons and supplements are worth it

CoQ10, DHEA, embryo glue, assisted hatching… sound familiar? If you can recite a bunch of add-ons and supplements off the top of your head, it’s possible you’re spending too much time on IVF message boards.

Supplements may be beneficial to certain women some of the time. When used incorrectly or on the wrong patients, they can actually worsen your chances of getting pregnant – but not before making you go “Yeeeesh” at the price. Read this for more about these supplements and whether they're worth it.

Meanwhile, add-on treatments offered by clinics (such as but not limited to embryo glue and assisted hatching) are controversial and – for the most part – unproven. This article contains specific information about some of them (and I'm adding more to the list as quickly as I can).

Tip 8: double and triple check you’re definitely not eligible for IVF treatment

If you’re over a certain age or you (or your partner) already have a child, it’s unlikely you’ll find a way to get treated on the NHS. But there are plenty of eligibility requirements that are more “grey area” or easily misunderstood.

For example, one lady wrote to me saying she’d used up her one free cycle of NHS treatment after her (arguably substandard) treatment resulted in zero eggs in her follicles after they were retrieved. After being handed a sheet of paper that said “0 eggs collected” and big pencilled strikethroughs across the paragraphs about next stages (rather insensitive!), she was informed she’d have to go private next time.

But, uhhh, no. That’s not right. According to NICE, a full cycle involves transferring one or two embryos into the uterus – but this lady never reached that stage, so her treatment doesn’t count as a full first cycle. Now… the NHS in England doesn’t have to follow NICE guidelines if it doesn’t want to, but I don’t believe the clinic was choosing not to follow NICE guidelines. Instead, I’m sure someone just made a rushed decision after looking at her notes.

She fought the decision with her CCG (clinical commissioning group: regional NHS organisations that deliver NHS services) with support from her GP and has just been given funding for more NHS treatment!

So if you think you’ve been wrongly denied IVF treatment on the NHS for whatever reason, go fight your corner and see what happens.

Extra: which private IVF clinic is best?

I’ve written an article with advice on how to choose a private IVF clinic. 

And here's a list of the best fertility clinics in the UK.

Questions to ask your doctor at every stage of IVF treatment: free downloadable guide

IVF isn’t just overwhelming; it can also be a mind-boggling and sometimes terrifying experience because there’s so much to learn and so many rules to follow.

Problem is, doctors are busy – and they often don’t have the time to anticipate your concerns and provide all the information you might need.

This downloadable guide contains questions that will help you understand the process better, get the answers you deserve, and feel more in control of the situation (and your rights as a patient).

Enter your email address to receive it right away.

I won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.