From baffling acronyms (ICSI? FET? PGT-A?!) to confusing stats surrounding success rates, the world of IVF treatment can appear bewildering to the uninitiated. But when it comes to private IVF, nothing is more likely to cause confusion than the financial side of the process.
IVF can come with a hefty price tag attached, with the costs often running into many thousands of pounds – all for a treatment where the results are far from guaranteed.
With NHS funding proven to be a real postcode lottery, many patients are forced to fork out for their own treatment. But how much should you expect to pay for a private cycle of IVF in the UK?
Here we will break down private IVF costs to help give you, and your bank balance, an idea of what to expect.
How much does IVF cost in the UK?
The IVF cost in the UK ranges from £4,000 and £6,000 per cycle with own eggs without medications, including all necessary basic IVF techniques, visits and scans. Egg donation costs are higher ranging from £6,000 to £12,000.
Please note the egg donation cost in the UK is a different cost range and we’re discussing that in-depth in another article.
Is IVF treatment in the UK expensive?
Just in case you haven’t realised already, IVF is an expensive business.
While many fertility clinics offer fixed-price IVF packages, which include most of what you need for one cycle of treatment, the final cost is often much higher. Many of these packages don’t include the cost of essential medication, which could potentially add hundreds, or even thousands, of pounds to the bill. Clinics may also offer optional ‘add-ons’ which can push the price up even further, depending on which ones you opt for. So bear in mind that a clinic’s IVF package does not always reflect the final price you will pay.
IVF is a great treatment that offers a lifeline to couples who are struggling to conceive, as well as providing same-sex couples and single women with the chance to start a family. But unfortunately, IVF comes with no guarantee of success and patients often need more than one cycle of treatment to fall pregnant. This is something that IVF patients aren’t always aware of at the start of their treatment journey and can lead to false hope and heartbreak when the first cycle doesn’t deliver the expected results.
According to the latest figures from UK fertility regulator the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), in 2019, just 32 percent of IVF treatments resulted in a live birth for women aged under 35. This means it takes on average three cycles of IVF to achieve success. This percentage decreases with age, standing at 25% for women aged 35 to 37; 19% for women aged 38 to 39; 11% for women aged 40 to 42; 5% for women aged 43 to 44; and 4% for women aged over 44.
Therefore it is highly likely that you will need more than one cycle of IVF, so you should factor this in before you start treatment.
You may be interested in reading: IVF on NHS in the UK – Who is eligible?
Breaking down IVF cost in the UK
IVF treatment is tightly regulated, with laws on practice standards, consent and licensing followed by all the 103 fertility clinics currently operating in the UK. But there is one area of IVF which is not subject to the same stringent controls – pricing. Clinics are free to set their own prices for IVF treatment. This means the cost can vary hugely from clinic to clinic and region to region.
The HFEA says:
“Fertility clinics in the UK are free to set their own costs, just like any other private healthcare provider. This means that the same treatment could be two or even three times more expensive depending on which clinic you choose. We strongly recommend you shop around before committing to a clinic and consider a wide range of factors when making your final decision.”Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA)
Here we will look at the steps involved in IVF treatment and what you can expect at each stage of the process.
IVF preparation cost
All IVF treatment starts in the same way – with an initial consultation with a doctor which can set you back anywhere upwards of £200. The clinic may want to carry out further investigations, such as an ultrasound scan or semen analysis, which will add a potential £150 – £400-plus each on to this stage of the process. Even a simple diagnostic blood test can cost £100 upwards. Any follow-up consultations, in person, over the phone or over Zoom/Skype, can cost a further £100-£150 a go. You may also be offered a counselling session for a similar price, although some clinics offer a free session to patients.
Ovarian stimulation costs
Once you have been through the initial consultation process, you will need medication to suppress your natural menstrual cycle before starting on a follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) to increase the number of eggs your ovaries produce.
The cost of these drugs can run into hundreds or even thousands of pounds and this is not usually included in a standard IVF package. You’ll be monitored closely through this stage of the process, with vaginal ultrasound scans, and sometimes you may need blood tests too. This advanced monitoring can cost £300 or more.
Before your eggs are collected, you’ll have an injection of a hormone called human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) that helps the eggs to mature ahead of the next stage – egg collection.
And just a word of advice about medication costs. As there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ when it comes to IVF, the costs of medication can vary wildly from patient to patient. Some clinics don’t include these prices on their website, or instead, just vaguely refer to the costs as ‘variable’. Some clinics provide the full range. For example, at King’s Fertility in London, the cost of medication for one cycle of IVF, at the time of writing, ranges from £500 up to £1,700. At Manchester Fertility, this cost range is £900 to £2,300. Medication costs are not always included in an IVF cycle, so you should bear this in mind before starting treatment.
Egg retrieval costs
At this stage of the procedure, a needle is passed through the vagina and into the ovaries to collect the eggs ready for treatment. This is carried out with the help of ultrasound guidance. Egg collection is usually included in the price of a basic IVF package. This invasive procedure is (thankfully!) carried out under sedation. This alone can cost upwards of £250.
Fertilisation and IVF laboratory costs
Once collected, the eggs are mixed with your partner’s, or donor’s, sperm, and nature takes its course. Except sometimes nature needs a helping hand, so the consultant may decide that a process called intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) may be called for. Rather than letting the sperm find their own way to the egg, ICSI involves one single sperm being injected directly into the centre of the egg. This technique is usually employed when male infertility is a factor, for example, in the case of a low sperm count or poor sperm motility. Some clinics offer ICSI IVF packages, but other clinics list ICSI as another add-on, costing anywhere between £800 – £1,250 a time.
The fertilised eggs grow in the laboratory for up to six days. Some IVF packages include advanced embryology, such as time-lapse embryo monitoring, EmbryoGlue or blastocyst culture. Other clinics sell these as add-ons, costing anywhere between £100 and £900 (see our table below).
In the meantime, hormone medicines, such as a gel or pessary, are administered to prepare the womb lining for the incoming embryo – another expense that is not always included in treatment packages.
Embryo transfer costs
After weeks of drugs, scans and tests, transfer day has finally arrived, when the embryo is carefully placed in the womb using a catheter. After the transfer, you may be left with extra embryos which you will likely want to save for any future fertility treatment. It costs in the region of £600-£800 to freeze your embryos, including one year’s storage. Each subsequent year of storage can cost £300-£400-plus for up to ten years, which is the legal limit for storing frozen embryos in the UK. These stored embryos can be used in a Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) at a later date. This is cheaper than IVF using ‘fresh’ eggs, with a FET costing anywhere between £1,100 and £3,000, depending on the clinic and what they include in their treatment package.
On average, you should expect to pay somewhere between £4,000 and £6,000 (excluding medications) for one fresh cycle of IVF. However, some IVF packages can cost as much as £10,000 or more. Different packages contain different elements and treatment add-ons, for example, some may include embryo freezing and one year’s storage, while other clinics will expect you to pay for this separately. So make sure you ask the clinic for a breakdown of costs so you know exactly what you are getting.
One popular add-on treatment is PGT-A, previously known as preimplantation genetic screening or PGS. This involves checking embryos for abnormalities in the number of chromosomes to discover which embryos have less chance of developing into a baby or may result in a baby being born with a genetic condition. This is done by removing a cell or cells from the embryo before freezing them and, if suitable, they can be used for a FET at a later date. A cycle with PGT-A included will be more expensive than your average IVF treatment package as this may also involve embryo freezing and a FET top pay on top for PGT-A costs.
In terms of other costs and treatment add-ons, we’ve carried out a comprehensive search of UK clinics and have included what you can expect to pay in our handy table below.
|IVF costs UK - costs and add-ons breakdown|
|Medical consultation with a doctor||£200-£400|
|Medications (per cycle)||£500 - £2,300|
|Sperm freezing before IVF with one year’s storage||£300 - £700|
|Donor sperm||£500 - £1,000|
|ICSI||£800 - £1,250|
|IMSI||£250 - £600|
|Blastocyst culture||£400 - £800|
|Embryo monitoring (eg time-lapse, Embryoscope)||£300 - £850|
|AH (Assisted Hatching)||£200 - £550|
|EmbryoGlue||£100 - £380|
|PGT-A / PGS genetic embryo testing|
(per set of 4 embryos)
|£1,600 - £3,000|
|Embryo freezing and one year’s storage||£600 - £800|
|Frozen embryo transfer (FET)||£1,100 - £3,000|
IVF cost and add-ons in the UK
Now to tackle a contentious question – do IVF patients need all the clinic’s recommended optional extras?
Well…it’s not that straightforward. The HFEA believes there is simply not enough evidence to prove the effectiveness of certain treatment add-ons.
The HFEA says:
“It is important to keep in mind that for most patients, having routine cycles of proven fertility treatment are effective without using any treatment add-ons. If you are paying directly for your own treatment, you may want to think about whether it might be more effective and/or affordable to pay for multiple routine proven treatment cycles, rather than spending large sums of money on a single treatment cycle with treatment add-ons that haven’t been proven to be effective at increasing the likelihood of you having a baby.”
The regulator has devised its own traffic light system for IVF add-ons, to show which have proved their worth at high-quality randomised control trials (RCTs) and which others have yet to be proven.
A green rating shows that an add-on has demonstrated its effectiveness in more than one trial and is therefore routinely used in treatment, for example, ICSI when male infertility is a factor. An amber rating means that the HFEA feels there is conflicting or limited evidence and further research is needed before the add-on can be offered as a routine treatment. EmbryoGlue and endometrial scratching are among the add-ons which currently have an amber rating.
A red rating means there is currently no evidence from RCTs to show that the add-on is effective at improving the chances of having a baby for most fertility patients. Add-ons currently sitting on the HFEA’s red list include assisted hatching and intracytoplasmic morphologic sperm injection (IMSI), a sperm selection method used alongside ICSI.
However, it is important to remember that just because these add-ons are currently rated red or amber, it doesn’t mean that they won’t be moved to the green list in the future. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the treatment isn’t effective, just that not enough data has been collected yet to satisfy the HFEA.
As Leeds Fertility explains on its website: “The gold standard of scientific research is the randomised controlled trial (RCT) which produces the most reliable results. This is where a group of patients is randomised to either the new treatment under investigation or the standard treatment option”.
It can be very difficult for clinics to study new treatment options in such a controlled way while still treating patients fairly. Lots of the research done on add-ons is therefore from studies that may only have small numbers of participants or have other factors involved that make the results difficult to interpret. These studies are not considered by the HFEA to be high enough quality to recommend the treatments.
As mentioned above, just because a treatment isn’t on the HFEA’s green list, this doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work. Some people who have gone through years of gruelling fertility treatment may roll the dice and try an add-on as they want to feel that they have tried everything they can in their quest for a family. The important thing is that you do not feel pressured into having one of these amber or red-rated add-ons. Consult the HFEA website, speak to your clinic and do your own research before making a decision.
IVF costs in the UK – is it expensive?
In a word…yes. If you are not eligible for NHS funding, having IVF treatment in the UK can be expensive. These unregulated costs are one of the reasons why patients choose to have their IVF treatment abroad, as prices are often much cheaper. There are many IVF clinics abroad supporting international patients in Spain, Czech Republic, Greece and North Cyprus which are popular destinations for UK patients.
You may be interested in reading: IVF cost abroad – popular IVF destinations comparison
If you do decide to have your IVF treatment in the UK, we advise you to shop around. Check out the clinic’s website for an up-to-date price list, or request a list if one is not publicly available. If you are considering a treatment package, ask for a breakdown of the costs to find out exactly what you are paying for. Compare these prices with other clinics to make sure you are getting the very best deal.
Read the reviews that previous patients have left for a clinic and seek out former patients, for example on online forums, to find out more about others’ experiences of the clinic. It is also advisable to consult the HFEA’s website and the Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) handy guide to help you understand your consumer law rights when it comes to fertility treatment in the UK.
You may also be interested in reading: Why British go for IVF out of the country?
In short – do your research. Choosing to undergo IVF is a big decision, and it can come with a big price tag attached. It is important that you have confidence in your clinic and choosing a clinic that is open and upfront about its prices is a good place to start.