It’s a rich man’s game this IVF malarkey, you have to be fairly comfortable for the money side of things not to be a consideration as to whether you will have another go or whether it is time to throw in the towel.
I think it’s because here in the UK we have half hearted NHS funding and half hearted private healthcare cover.
The whole UK system is a mess, a postcode lottery that changes depending on the whims of bureaucrats. The plan in 2004 when the Nice Guidelines on Fertility were published was for every couple between the ages of 23 and 39 that needed to be treated to be offered appropriate treatment depending on the cause of their infertility. The fact that everyone picked up on was 3 cycles of IVF. It wasn’t quite as clear cut as that but what it offered was a package of fertility treatment such as clomid or IUI, if appropriate before moving to IVF, if you had other treatments you had less IVF but more of the cheaper treatments, it all seemed very sensible and very fair. However this provision has never been fully implemented and with the new cost cutting measures being introduced it was an easy target to cut last year.
I was told that given my high FSH reading and low AMH (a test which I paid for privately) I wasn’t eligible for funding as I was too infertile. Luckily the consultant at West Middlesex Hospital submitted us as a special case, plus our Doctors surgery is actually in a borough that we don’t live in, and we were granted funding as a special case for 1 round of IVF. I didn’t have the energy to fight when our 1 round of natural IVF didn’t work but because it was drug free it was a cheap option, and in some ways I feel we should have been given 2 rounds. Even on this NHS cycle my Clexane wasn’t covered so that prescription counted as a private presciption, nor were my daily travel costs to North London so the cycle probably cost us around 250 pounds may be a tad more, not a lot but I can imagine for some people this would be a struggle.
A friend from an Internet forum has this week received the devastating news that her shock natural pregnancy, 2 years in the making has ended at just 6 weeks, to make a bad situation worse her getting pregnant has mean they go back to the start of the wait and have to wait another 2 years before they can get IVF on the NHS. How is this fair? They don’t have the back up option which has always carried me through which is that we can afford to pay for our own IVF treatment. To not be able to do this must be horrendous. I am sure she will fight but why should a difficult time be made harder?
Now we’re not rich, but being in our late 30s, having good jobs we had some savings, my dad also gave us some money because he saw how upset I was about it all. In fact he’s actual expression was “just pay for it, so you know what’s happening”. We also both have private health cover but standard cover does not cover fertility treatment, it covers some of the investigations but none of the treatment. Which given that 1 in 10 of us will suffer from infertility is a bit of a cop out isn’t it? I suppose had I realised in my 20s that I might need fertility treatment I could have taken out some cover, but once I knew that I was infertile or a recurrent miscarriage sufferer I couldn’t have taken out private health cover to cover those costs, well I probably could have but it probably would have been more than paying for the treatment. It’s a mess isn’t it? I hear in Australia and the States where private health cover is required that the cost of an ivf cycle is really quite affordable, hence people have more and probably have it earlier when it has more chance of working.
So this week I juggled money from one account to another, I discussed why I was closing accounts with bank staff and now everything is ready for our next go. However it really has wiped out a lot of our savings so if this round doesn’t work the decision to go again won’t be quite so easy. We could but then I really won’t have any savings left. However being old, and having a reasonable job a loan for 10k isn’t too scary, we could pay it back easily if the treatment didn’t work and if it did work and our income dropped we could still afford it, we are not living from hand to mouth like a lot of the population.
I know we are lucky, for millions of couples there isn’t 5k lying around for treatment, a drugs bill of 2k on top of that is completely unaffordable. They can’t get a loan or if they could it would take them ages and be a struggle to pay it back. For these people my heart breaks, infertility hurts harder and there is no quick fix. For these people we need the NICE guidelines to be implemented, we need to know that 3 rounds of IVF (or equivalent) are in the offering so if the first round doesn’t work there is a back up plan. We need to know that wherever you live you will get the same level of treatment. I know that resources are scarce, I know we need to tighten our belts as a country but if you live with infertility you know how consuming it is, how debilitating it can be. You’ll understand how much you need to have explored every option, it’s horrible when your options are limited because of where you live or how much you earn, these are factors that shouldn’t be the reason why you haven’t had more fertility treatment. There are no easy answers I know that, and while I ponder what the answer may be some more I keep playing the lottery in the hope that money won’t be the reason why we don’t try again.