Are IVF and other fertility methods free for same-sex couples and women without a partner?
Same-sex couples and single women who want children don’t have the same options available to them as a heterosexual couple that have been trying to have a child.
While some treatments for overcoming infertility for straight couples are paid for by the NHS (depending on several factors), those from LQBTQ backgrounds might have a tougher road ahead.
There are some options like IVF that hopeful parents can do but are only offered for free on the NHS if you tick certain boxes.
Donor insemination can be used for single women and lesbian couples. It involves taking sperm from an anonymous donor by going to a licensed fertility clinic (the safer option) or getting someone you know to offer theirs.
For single women that means finding the right sperm, which can cost around £800 if you do it privately.
The next step would be to get the woman pregnant via a process called artificial insemination, or intrauterine insemination (IUI) which involves directly inserting sperm into a woman’s womb . Donor sperm can be used for IUIs or for IVF treatments. If you’re hoping to have fertility treatment on the NHS, you need a referral from your GP. To get a referral, you need to meet certain criteria – these differ depending on where you live, so ask your GP for more information about the criteria.
IVF is an option for couples that are unable to conceive naturally who may use this procedure where the egg cell is fertilised with the sperm outside of the body.
The process is long and expensive, but free for certain (straight) couples if they meet the criteria. For example, if you are a woman under 40, you can get three free cycles of IVF if you’ve been trying to get pregnant for at least two years or if you’ve had 12 failed artificial insemination attempts. That’s all according to The National Institute of Care and Excellence (NICE) which establishes guidelines in these areas.
Some single women freeze their eggs to be used for IVF in later life. Certain NHS postcodes offer egg-freezing services to single women, those paying privately may pay up to £5,000 for it.
The NICE guidance expects female same-sex couples to have tried to conceive six times using artificial insemination (funded themselves, not by the NHS) before they can be considered for NHS-funded fertility treatment.
The guidance doesn’t specify whether couples need to try to conceive using a fertility clinic, or whether attempts to conceive at home with donor sperm makes you eligible for NHS treatment.
In any case, using a clinic is advised as they can test the sperm for infections and diseases. Whether you qualify or not is up to your local NHS trust.
If you aren’t able to get it funded, one cycle of IVF including fertility drugs could cost you between £3,000 and £5,000, plus further costs for appointments and storing embryos.
A spokesperson for NICE told Metro.co.uk their guidelines on fertility problems. While they have recommendations for women in same-sex relationships, their guidelines do not cover single women or gay men.
NICE suggests lesbian couples can use intrauterine insemination which has been available for same-sex couples since 2013.
You may be offered IUI if you’re in a same-sex relationship and haven’t got pregnant after up to six cycles of IUI using donor sperm from a licensed fertility clinic.
Bear in mind that the waiting list for IUI treatment can be very long in some areas.
The criteria you have to meet to be eligible for IUI can also vary. Check with your GP or local CCG to find out what the rules are where you live.
IUIs are less evasive than IVF and cheaper, the treatment is also less successful than an IVF. The average cost of one full cycle of IUI treatment is between £350 to £1,000.