Lulu and James Martin talk about their decision to choose IVF treatment, after years of trying for a baby, and the physical and emotional challenges they faced.

Content supplied by NHS Choices


In vitro fertilisation (IVF) is just one of several techniques available to help couples with fertility problems to have a baby.

It involves surgically removing an egg from the woman’s ovaries and fertilising it with sperm in a laboratory. The fertilised egg, or embryo, is then placed back into the woman’s womb to grow and develop.

Who can have IVF?

According to guidelines, couples may be eligible for IVF treatment on the NHS if:

  • The woman is between 23 and 39 years of age at the time of treatment.
  • A cause for their fertility problems has been identified or they have had infertility problems for at least three years.

However, the decision on eligibility is made locally by primary care trusts, and priority is given to couples who do not already have children.

IVF is not usually recommended for women who are over the age of 42, because the chances of a successful conception are thought to be too low to justify the treatment (see below).

Success rate

The success rate of IVF is determined to a large degree by the age of the woman undergoing the treatment. Younger women tend to have healthier eggs, which increases the chances of success.

In 2006, the percentage of IVF cycles started that resulted in a live birth were:

  • 29% for women aged under 35
  • 26% for women aged 35-37
  • 17% for women aged 38-39
  • 11% for women aged 40-42
  • 5% for women aged 43-44
  • less than 1% for women aged over 44

Availability on the NHS

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) published guidelines in 2004 recommending that suitable couples receive up to three cycles of IVF treatment on the NHS.

The provision of IVF treatment varies across the country, but NHS trusts across England and Wales are working to provide the same levels of service.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority regulates and licenses fertility clinics.


NHS Choices

Published Date 2010-12-15
Last Review Date2009-08-25

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