If you’re not eligible for IVF treatment on the NHS – or if you’d simply rather go private – lots of private clinics around England and Wales will be happy to treat you.
Here's what you need to know…
How much does private IVF treatment cost in England?
Market research firm Opinium compiled data from 70 fertility clinics in March 2018 and found that the price for a single IVF cycle ranges from £2,650 to £4,195 (with the average being £3,348). Prices were often higher outside London – with clinics in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Southampton and Oxford being among the most expensive. That might seem surprising, but there's intense competition for your ovaries in the capital.
Those fees usually don't include registration/consultation fees or fertility drugs – the costs of which vary from clinic to clinic. All in all, you'll end up spending anywhere between £3,855 and £7,175 for a single cycle.
What is an IVF “cycle”? And how does the fee structure work per IVF cycle?
Private clinics have a different definition of “cycle” compared to NHS clinics (find out more about NHS cycles here). In private clinics, a “cycle” (often called a “standard IVF cycle” or “standard IVF package”) is treatment in which your ovaries are stimulated, eggs are extracted and fertilised, and one resulting embryo is transferred back into your uterus. Sometimes two embryos are transferred.
Any remaining embryos can be frozen for later use, which costs a separate yearly fee of a few hundred pounds.
If your cycle is unsuccessful and you have any remaining embryos on ice, you can use them for frozen embryo transfers. BUT even though those frozen embryos were created during the IVF cycle mentioned above, the frozen embryo transfers aren’t part of the cycle. A frozen embryo transfer, therefore, costs extra – about £1,500 per transfer.
If you want to freeze ALL embryos from the start and avoid a fresh embryo transfer completely, it’s called a “freeze-all cycle”. (Women who are at risk of OHSS are often advised to do a freeze-all cycle.) All your embryos will go straight in the freezer (which, again, costs a few hundred pounds a year), and then you'll do a frozen embryo transfer when you're ready – which is charged separately (again, about £1,500 per transfer).
Freeze-all cycles, then, don’t involve an embryo transfer – even though the price is often the same as a “standard” IVF cycle. And you’ll still have to pay for each frozen embryo transfer.
Here are some real-life prices from real-life clinics (prices correct as of March 2019), which should help you make sense of “IVF cycles” and the private fee structure a bit more:
|Name of clinic||IVF standard cycle / package||Embryo freezing and 1 year’s storage for “leftover embryos” (or ALL embryos in a freeze-all cycle)||Frozen embryo transfer|
|Nurture Fertility, Nottingham||£3,796 (doesn’t include pre-treatment screening tests, which cost about £250)||£750 (then £350 for each additional year of storage)||£2,450|
|Complete Fertility Centre, Southampton||£4,050 (includes pre-treatment screening tests)||£550 (then £290 for each additional year of storage)||£1,450 (discounted to £775 for those who did a freeze-all cycle)|
|Bath Fertility (clinics in Bath and Bristol)||£3,730 (includes pre-treatment screening tests)||£500 (mandatory for the first year, then £230 for each additional year of storage)||£1,605|
|CRGH, London||£3,400 (£3,600 for a freeze-all cycle) (doesn't include pre-treatment screening tests or any blood tests)||£725 (then £325 for each additional year of storage)||£2,150|
Prices don’t include:
- Drugs, which range from £150 to £1,500 depending on the type of cycle and your specific needs and hormone levels.
- Initial consultations, which range from £150 to £300 depending on the clinic.
- The fee charged by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which regulates fertility treatment in the UK. The fee is £80 for each treatment (so it’ll be £80 for the IVF cycle, then £80 each time for any frozen embryo transfers)
All clinics offer TONS of extras and other options, of course – like ICSI, “natural” cycles, egg donation and sperm donation. The point of this table is just to show the “main” types of treatment and how much you’re likely to pay for them.
The clinics mentioned above are all on my list of the best-rated clinics in the UK.
Keep reading… there's more below.
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Am I eligible for IVF treatment on the NHS?
Read this article on “Who’s eligible for NHS-funded IVF treatment?” to find out if you’re covered or not.
How on earth am I going to afford private IVF treatment?
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.
If you’re not eligible for IVF treatment on the NHS or you’ve already used up your free cycles, private treatment becomes your only option. But there are many ways to save money on the list price. Here are a few:
- 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. Their IVF drugs cost £1,374 per cycle. 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.
- The only reason I’m mentioning this next option here is that people will get in touch and complain if I don’t. That next option is a loan. I don’t advocate going into debt for IVF treatment, but it’s your decision, of course. You can get a regular bank loan, and 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 won’t have to deal with much admin.
- Look into “baby or your money back” schemes offered by various clinics – which have 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.
- Egg sharing is the opportunity to donate some of your eggs to the private clinic where you’re 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.
- Look into treatment abroad: it can be vastly cheaper, even after factoring in flights and accommodation.
Is it possible to have IVF on the NHS after trying private treatment (if I’m eligible for NHS treatment)?
Your local clinical commissioning group (CCG) makes the final decision about who’s eligible for NHS treatment, and you’ll need to speak to them about their specific rules. (Not sure which CCG you’re with? The simplest “CCG postcode lookup” tool I could find is this one from Stephen Keable.)
What are the differences between NHS treatment and private treatment (other than the cost)?
Success rates and procedures are no different. In fact, many NHS hospitals now have an arrangement with private clinics to help them provide services and treatments that the NHS can no longer afford to provide themselves – such as egg retrieval.
The differences are what you’d expect with anything medical:
- Waiting period to start the IVF process (months on the NHS; within the week for private)
- Eligibility criteria (usually much more relaxed when you go private)
- Appointments (likely to be longer and less rushed when you go private; also more likely to start on time)
- Waiting room (up-to-date magazines, biccies and hot drinks when you go private)
How do I choose a private IVF clinic?
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.