NHS – IVF funding may be refused if your Husband is Overweight

While on a cost-cutting spree, the UK NHS has made many changes to the criteria for IVF funding over the last few years. The latest cutback means that NHS IVF funding may be refused if your husband is overweight.

Does the weight of the male partner significantly affect chances of IVF success and is this exclusion criterion fair?


Local CCG’s cut NHS IVF funding

The Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) make NHS funding decisions at a local level. Given that their budgets are constantly shrinking, CCGs are cutting their services to account for this.

The axe has largely fallen on fertility treatments in the last few years, with some CCGs cutting down the number of cycles that they fund and others stopping IVF funding entirely.

They have reasoned that as fertility treatment is a non-urgent service, it is a viable area to save money. However, this decision gives little thought to the emotional and mental well-being of couples that are denied this potentially life changing treatment.

Some women have actually resorted to relocating from their home in order to qualify for IVF funding. Given the high costs of IVF treatment, this decision may be an easy one.

Local CCGs have introduced several criteria for couples to qualify for IVF funding, including:

  • Being in a particular age range
  • Being a non-smoker
  • The woman being a healthy weight
  • Neither partner having children from this, or a previous relationship


Effect of BMI on sperm quality

More recently, some CCGs are insisting that the male partner should be within a healthy weight range.

The Bath and North East Somerset CCG are one of the first to introduce this controversial new criterion. They have stated that males whose BMI falls over 30 will be refused treatment. Around one-fifth of the British male population would fall into this category.

The CCGs of West Cheshire and Devon have also introduced similar criteria based on the male’s BMI.

Access to IVF funding is already restricted based on the woman being within a healthy weight range. However, research shows that being overweight can significantly affect a woman’s chance of conceiving.

Besides affecting your chances of conceiving, obesity may also affect your response to fertility treatment. Weight loss in obese women has proven to improve the outcome of both spontaneous pregnancy and fertility treatment.

The NICE guidelines do state: “males with a BMI of 30 or over should be informed that they are likely to have reduced fertility.”

However, there is no conclusive evidence that shows that a male’s weight will affect his sperm quantity and quality. In fact, research suggests that, while a high male BMI can negatively affect the reproductive hormone levels, only an extremely high level of obesity may significantly affect a male’s chances of conceiving.

The measurement of BMI itself is also suggested to be a flawed representation of whether or not a person is overweight. This is because it does not take into account the composition of the body, for example, if a person is particularly muscular they may have a high BMI whilst having little body fat.

Therefore, the decision to withdraw the option of NHS IVF funding entirely from couples who fall into this category is a controversial one, which does not appear to be supported by any hard evidence.


NHS IVF postcode lottery

What is very difficult to understand is just how much the criteria for NHS IVF funding can vary depending on your location within the UK.

As mentioned before, Bath and North East Somerset, West Cheshire and Devon CCGs have all stated that NHS IVF funding will be refused for males with a BMI over 30. However, the East of England CCG only refuses funding for males with a BMI over 35.

In other areas of the UK, for example Bristol, overweight males are not refused treatment, but instead referred to weight loss groups prior to commencing their treatment.

This seems like a viable option to help overweight males become healthier, whilst still receiving the treatment they require. However, the issue with this is the extra cost to the NHS, when funds are dwindling.

Obviously shrinking funds mean that services need to be restricted within some areas of the NHS. However, the inconsistent funding of IVF between different areas of the UK provides an unfair system, which has been aptly dubbed the ‘IVF postcode lottery’.

Because of this, many couples seeking IVF treatment opt to travel to Asia, to undergo IVF in India, Malaysia and Thailand.


What do you think about the refusal of NHS funding if your husband is overweight? Please share in the comments below.

Celine Dion’s Infertility Struggle & 7 IVF cycles

Celine Dion’s infertility struggle and her long journey of IVF treatments is certainly an inspiring story to read. The ‘Titanic’ singer had much passion and determination to start and expand her family, but she had to undergo numerous failed attempts at IVF until she finally succeeded.

Celine had always been eager to start a family of her own. As the youngest of fourteen siblings, she was always surrounded by family. Thanks to her determined fight, she is now the mother of three sons, all conceived through IVF treatment.

Celine’s sons René-Charles, 17, and twins Nelson and Eddy, 7, are her pride and joy. Notwithstanding her massive success in the music industry, Celine states that becoming a mother is the achievement that she is proudest of.

The starting of Celine Dion’s infertility battle

Celine and her husband, René Angélil, did not expect to have trouble conceiving when they first started trying for a family. Given that Celine was in her early 30’s at the time, the couple were surprised when they encountered problems. After trying for several years, they had still not become pregnant.

René was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1999 and at this point the couple decided to freeze some of his sperm. This was a precaution in case the chemotherapy and radiation that he desperately needed caused any damage to his sperm in the future.

Fertility tests carried out prior to the sperm freezing, showed that René already had a low sperm count and low motility. Thus, explaining their struggle in trying to conceive naturally. There can be many reasons for a low sperm count in men, and the exact reason hard to determine in many cases.

Based on these findings, fertility doctors recommended that in order for them to have a chance at conceiving, they would need help in the form of ICSI treatment.


Celine’s first born son, René-Charles

Due to the couple’s problems with infertility, Celine was checked into a New York fertility clinic in May 2000, where she given two small operations to boost her chances of conceiving.

This was believed to be in preparation for Celine starting IVF treatment. Dion, 31 at the time, went on a sabbatical for 2-3 years.

Celine and her husband underwent their first round of IVF treatment when she was just 33. This cycle was successful and on 25 January 2001, their first son René-Charles was born.

Celine’s obstetrician, Dr Ronald Ackerman, who helped to deliver René-Charles by Caesarean section, told People Magazine that “everybody was just crying tears of joy” at the birth.


Celine Dion IVF failure

Following the much anticipated birth of their first son, Celine and René were very keen to provide René-Charles with a brother or sister and to expand their growing family again.

They had in fact opted to freeze their remaining embryos from their first IVF cycle, for use in later treatments.

However, their attempts to conceive for a second time were much more traumatic and lasted a lot longer. In fact, Celine has revealed that she had to have six rounds of IVF before she had a second successful pregnancy.

She has also stated that she turned to acupuncture as a complementary measure to increase her likelihood of conceiving with IVF. Research suggests that acupuncture may indeed increase chances of a successful pregnancy.

Celine said in an interview:

“I thought as long as my health permitted me and unless my doctor thought physically I couldn’t do it, then I would go on with the IVF until someone told me to stop.”

She sadly suffered a miscarriage in 2009 during her many attempts at IVF. Even more heart-breaking, this embryo was the one that Celine had frozen after her first IVF cycle. Shortly after the miscarriage, Celine said, “It happens in life, in general, and people who are not on the TV or in the newspapers, they go through this all the time.”

Below is a Mother’s Day Message from Celine’s sons:


A post shared by Céline Dion (@celinedion) on

Still grateful

The miscarriage was hard but Celine kept it to herself for a while, saying: “They said that I was pregnant, and a couple of days after, we were not pregnant again.

“We didn’t want to feel like we were playing yo-yo—I’m pregnant. I’m not pregnant. I’m pregnant. I’m not pregnant—so we didn’t want to do this thing. But we did have a miscarriage.”

She remained grateful however. “I will be the happiest one to tell you when I’m pregnant. And if not, I’m the luckiest artist, especially wife and mother of a wonderful son. So I’m glad.”


Successful twin pregnancy

Celine and René’s sixth IVF cycle proved to be successful for them. In 2010, at the age of 42, Celine announced that she was pregnant with fraternal twins.

She also revealed that she had originally been carrying triplets, however she sadly lost one of the babies early on in the pregnancy.

Celine spoke about her loss, saying, “He chose to let go to give space to his brothers to grow.”

Celine and René’s, twin sons, Nelson and Eddy were born healthy at 33 weeks by Caesarean section, after signs indicated that Celine was going into premature labour.

When questioned about being a mum to newborn twins, Celine said “It’s a great challenge and it’s all amazing. All day I’m in my pyjamas and it’s overwhelming but all good”.

Loss of her husband

Celine has mentioned in various interviews after the birth of her three sons, that she would love to try for more children, especially in the hopes of having a daughter to complete her family.

“It’s selfish to keep wanting more, although I would love a girl. Imagine all the shopping, the jewellery, the shoes, the dresses I could give to her” she says.

 Sadly, in 2016, Celine lost her husband René after his long battle with throat cancer.

Celine Dions’s infertility journey has clearly been difficult. Even though she had enough money for IVF treatments, the emotional and physical cost of infertility is something she had to bear like other women.

We admire the singer for being open and upfront about her battle with infertility over the years and hope other people do not give up hopes of having a family.

No matter how disheartened you feel, there must be an option out there for you. Affordable IVF in Thailand, India, Malaysia, or Spain; the use of donor eggs; surrogacy; embryo adoption; or at last, simply the adoption of your child—be open minded and see what choice works best for you to complete your family.

What do you think about Celine’s IVF journey? Share your comments below:

Annual fertility rate declines, lifetime fertility of women climbs

The annual fertility rate in the US is being widely reported as being at an all-time low. However, is this really the full story?

There is no denying that annual fertility rates have declined as the ratio of women in fertile ages to the number of babies being born annually is at an all time low, but lifetime fertility of individual woman has grown.

The lifetime fertility of a woman is her ability to have a baby in her lifetime, and that has increased as women aged between 40 and 44 are more likely to become mothers than they were a decade ago.

This could be because awareness regarding age and fertility is increasing; more women opt for egg freezing if they aren’t able to have babies in their fertile years and many seek IVF after the age of 40.

Besides, sophisticated technologies like PGS are helping improve IVF success rates in older women. All of this means that the possibility of having a baby now is more than ever or that the lifetime fertility of woman has improved.

The true picture of how fertility patterns are changing depends primarily upon how fertility rates are analysed. As reported by Market Watch, the Pew Research Centre has recently analysed trends in both annual and completed fertility rates.


Annual fertility rate at an all-time low

The annual fertility rate represents the number of births per 1000 women, aged 15-44 in a single year. This can often be misrepresentative as it only provides details of what is happening at a specific point in time.

Research has shown that the annual fertility rate is declining and is in fact at an all-time low. In 2016, there were just 62 births per 1000 women.

There are many reasons why this may be the case, including several cultural and social changes that have taken place over the years.


Women delaying motherhood

It may not surprise you to hear that the age at which women choose to have children is increasing.

This decision may be driven by factors such as:

  • the recession and its financial implications
  • women spending longer in education
  • an increased commitment to careers
  • delayed marriages

In 1994, the median age at which women became mothers was 23, however in 2014 it was 26.

Female education and fertility rates

Women are now dedicating longer periods of their life to their education. This means that they often become more invested in their careers and more likely to postpone having children. This may also result in them entering careers which are less compatible with childrearing.

This has caused on obvious shift in fertility patterns, as women are delaying having children until their career is well established.


Completed fertility rate is increasing

In contrast, the completed fertility rate has been shown to be on the rise. The completed fertility rate represents the total number of births to women between the age of 40 and 44.

This makes the assumption that women have finished childbearing by this age, so gives a picture of the total number of births per woman in her lifetime.

This suggests that more women are now choosing to become mothers and that they are having more babies than ever before.


Never-married women, aged 40-44, having more babies

Unmarried women, who are close to the end of their fertile years, are now more likely to become mothers:

  • Women aged 40-44 are more likely to have never been married (15% in 2014 vs. 9% in 1994)
  • Women aged 40-44 more likely to have at least one child, even though they have never been married (55% in 2014 vs. 31% in 1994)


Delaying motherhood is not affecting family size

As well as women being more likely than before to become mothers, they are also having an increased number of children:

  • In 2006, women were having on average 1.86 children in their lifetime
  • Whereas, in 2016, women were having on average 2.06 children in their lifetime

This data appears to show conflicting reports of how fertility patterns have changed recently. However, this is because the data trends are based on exactly how fertility is measured.

The analysis of completed, or lifetime fertility represents the total number of births per woman. However, because this is retrospective data, it does not allow us to see trends in fertility among younger people today.

In contrast, the annual fertility rate just shows us what is happening within a particular year. If the declining annual fertility rate does continue, however, we may well see a decrease in family size in the future.


Do you have any thoughts on annual and lifetime fertility rates? Share them below:

NHS IVF funding: Relocating for ‘IVF postcode lottery’

Cuts to the UK’s NHS fertility service have created a ‘postcode lottery’ for IVF treatment as patients in some areas are just offered funding for one IVF cycle or sometimes none at all.

The number of cycles that you may have funded by the NHS can vary considerably depending upon where you live. Many women are even resorting to moving house in order to qualify for more IVF funding.


NHS IVF funding

Given the high cost of IVF treatment and the fact that success is not guaranteed, funding of the procedure is of paramount importance to some patients.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) lays out clear guidelines of who they believe should be offered NHS IVF funding.

They suggest that:

  • Women under 40 years should qualify for three rounds of IVF if they have been trying for two or more years
  • 40-42 year olds should qualify for one round


Are NICE guidelines being ignored?

It would appear that in some areas the NICE guidelines are being completely ignored when it comes to deciding NHS funding benefits for IVF.

The issue is that IVF funding criteria is actually decided at a local level, by clinical commissioning groups (CCGs). The decision by CCGs is often much stricter than the NICE guidelines.

Local CCGs may include additional criteria to the NICE guidelines. These include:

  • Neither partner having other children, from this or previous relationships
  • Stricter age ranges
  • Healthy BMI
  • Non-smokers only

In fact, statistics show that only 12 percent of CCGs follow the guidance laid out by NICE, down from the 24 percent that did so in 2013.


NHS cutbacks

Drastic cutbacks have been made over recent years to NHS funding of infertility treatments. It is up to the CCGs to make decisions as to what treatments to prioritize funding to in their local authority.

IVF funding has been an area which has taken a considerable hit. CCGs have been defying the guidance laid out to them and cutting much needed treatment in a bid to save money.

To give a few examples:


Inconsistencies in treatment dependant on postcode

Dr Raj Mathur, who is a consultant gynecologist at St. Mary’s hospital, Manchester was recently told The Guardian that within his clinic, he accepts NHS patients from 23 different CCGs across north-west England.

He stated that “the geographical differences in funding were discriminatory.” He went on to say that in the course of his work, he may see women from Manchester qualify for just one cycle, while those from Rochdale, qualify for three.

In fact, some residential streets even span across two different CCG areas, therefore neighbors living over the road from each other may also qualify for different levels of funding.

Shockingly, in some areas of the UK, no funding for IVF is offered. Whereas, in other areas the recommended three cycles worth of funding are easily available.

These patients travel to countries like Spain and India for IVF, where the treatment is not only affordable, but also immediately available.

Patients willing to relocate for IVF benefits

Dr Mathur also told The Guardian, that “he constantly saw patients moving house in order to get more free IVF cycles.”

Given that IVF can cost patients in excess of £10,000, this is often the only way patients can afford to access fertility treatments.

Inconsistent funding of fertility treatment is definitely an issue that requires further attention. Fertility campaigners have been putting pressure on the government to review this and make a change to policies.

In the meantime, patients continue to travel to Asia for IVF in Thailand, India, and Malaysia.


Please share your comments about disparities in NHS IVF funding in the space below.
To learn more about the best doctors for affordable IVF in Asia, get in touch.

Embryo frozen for 24 years is now somebody’s child

She was conceived in 1992, born in 2017. Emma Wren Gibson, born from an embryo frozen for 24 years, is a miracle to her mother. Tina and her husband, Benjamin Gibson, adopted Emma’s embryo at the National Embryo Donation Center (NEDC) in Knoxville, Tennessee, earlier this year.

The embryo had been donated by a couple on Oct. 14, 1992. Embryo donation is a simple procedure in which the couples, who have successfully conceived in an IVF cycle, choose to donate their healthy embryos to other potential parents.

The embryos are usually frozen and available for adoption to others. This is however the first case in which a baby has been born from an embryo that was cryopreserved so long ago.


Their embryo adoption story

When Benjamin Gibson got married to Tina around seven years ago, they knew that having children naturally might not be possible. Benjamin suffered from cystic fibrosis, a health condition in which men may be rendered infertile.

The couple had decided to adopt a child and they fostered several children in the meantime.

Just last year, Tina’s father talked to them about embryo adoption—something he’s heard on news. She immediately took to it and sent an application to be considered in August 2016.

Then earlier this year, as she was preparing for the transfer of embryos, she was told that her case could lead to a “world record.”

“Do you realize I’m only 25? This embryo and I could have been best friends,” Tina, now 26, told CNN. “I just wanted a baby. I don’t care if it’s a world record or not.”

According to the NEDC website, 75 percent of the donated embryos remain viable after the freezing and thawing process, and 49 percent of those transferred result in babies being born. 686 babies have been born from frozen embryos at NEDC.


Miracle to her parents

She might be a world record baby for scientists but to her parents, Emma is just delight.

“Emma is such a sweet miracle,” said her father, Benjamin Gibson. “I think she looks pretty perfect to have been frozen all those years ago.”

For mother Tina, she’s a gift.  “People say, ‘oh it’s science,’ but no I think it’s a gift from the Lord,” she said. “It’s a gift from the Lord, for sure.”

Tina and Benjamin said they only wanted to adopt an embryo, whose parent looked similar to them. Although Tina gave birth to her, neither of the parents is biologically related to Emma.


Is it really the oldest frozen embryo?

It is impossible to determine if this is actually the oldest embryo baby because records of fertility clinics are usually kept private. But most experts agree that if not the oldest, it is certainly one of the oldest as of now.

Sean Tipton, spokesman for the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, agreed that such claims cannot be verified easily.

“These are not the kind of claims that are generally made in peer-reviewed scientific publications. They are typically the kind of claims that are made by marketers,” he said.

However, all experts agree that the duration of cryopreservation is not very important as it has no impact of the life of the baby. Frozen embryos are known to do as well as the fresh ones.

The only risky stage is the thawing (de-freezing) part. The embryos that survive that can certainly make healthy babies.


Encouragement for embryo donation

Doctors at the faith-based NEDC that provided the frozen embryo encourage couples to donate the embryos they don’t need, so they can help other families. They are called “snow babies,” because of how they are kept, reports the BBC.

As multiple eggs are collected and fertilized, most IVF cycles result in surplus embryos. The couples can choose to do one of the following:

  • Freeze the embryos for later use
  • Destroy the embryos
  • Give them up for medical research
  • Sign them up for donation

Once the couple has conceived, it is likely that they will not need any more of their embryos. A positive conception is also an indication of good quality of the embryos, which could possibly be useful to another couple struggling with infertility.

NEDC, a not-for-profit organization, encourages donation of embryos.

“We say that our reason for existence is to protect the sanctity and dignity of the human embryo. We are big advocates of embryo donation and embryo adoption,” their marketing and development director Mark Mellinger told CNN.