Fertility Treatment - FAQs

How is infertility defined?

Infertility is a failure to conceive a child following regular unprotected sexual intercourse for one to two years.  NICE Guidelines (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) recommend that a woman of reproductive age who has been unsuccessful in conceiving after one year of unprotected sexual intercourse should be offered further medical assessment and tests together with her partner (this assumes no known infertility cause).

A woman can be offered a referral to a medical specialist sooner than one year if she is:

  • aged 36 years or over
  • has a known (medical) cause of infertility
  • A previous history of factors which could cause infertility

How common is infertility?

Infertility affects one in seven heterosexual couples in the UK.  The majority of couples (84 in every 100) will conceive a pregnancy after one year of regularly trying for a baby (being sexual intercourse every two to three days).  The number of couples successfully conceiving a baby after two years of regularly trying for a baby increases to 92 out of 100 couples (HFEA statistics 2013).

What is meant by fertility treatment?

Fertility treatment means medical technology which helps women to conceive a child.  There are various types of medical techniques, which include:

In vitro fertilisation (IVF)

A woman's eggs and a man's sperm are put together to fertilize in a laboratory outside the woman's body

Intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI)

A single sperm is medically injected into a woman's egg in a laboratory outside the woman's body

Intrauterine insemination (IUI)

This separates fast moving sperm from slow or non-moving sperm. The fast moving sperm are then medically placed in the woman's womb at the time of ovulation.

Donor insemination (DI)

The use of donor sperm which is medically placed inside a woman's body (vagina or uterus) to achieve a pregnancy.

How many annual UK fertility treatment cycles are there?

There are approximately 60,000 fertility treatment cycles undertaken in the UK each year.

In 2013 approximately 49,600 women underwent 64,600 cycles of fertility treatment.  This is an increase of 3.9% on 2012 (HFEA figures 2013).

Are there any trends in UK fertility treatment cycles?

The number of women undergoing fertility treatment in the UK is increasing.

The number of fertility treatment cycles using donor eggs has significantly increased in the last few years.  Over half of women aged 45 or over are undergoing IVF use donor eggs.

A quarter of fertility treatment cycles using a woman's own eggs (fresh transfer) result in a live birth.  This number increases to one third for women aged under 35.

How many fertility clinics are there and where are they located in the UK?

83 fertility clinics performed fertility treatment in 2013.  One third of fertility clinics were based in London or the South East of England (HFEA 2013 figures).

How old are women undergoing fertility treatment in the UK?

Approximately two thirds of women undergoing IVF fertility treatment in 2013 were aged 37 or under.  The average age of women undergoing IVF in 2013 was 35.

The ages of women undergoing IVF in the UK during 2013 expressed as a percentage was (HFEA figures 2013)

18 – 34 years - 43.7%

35- 37 years - 21.6 %

38-39 years - 15%

40-42 years - 13.7%

43-44 years - 3.8%

45+ years- 2.2%

How is fertility treatment funded in the UK?

The majority of fertility treatment in the UK is privately funded (58.7% HFEA figures 2013). The NHS funded 41.3% of fertility treatment cycles (HFEA figures 2013).

How many babies have been born in the UK as a result of IVF?

221,555 babies have been born in the UK between 1991 and 2012 as a result of IVF.

For more information please contact Louisa Ghevaert, Partner and leading expert in surrogacy, fertility and parenting law matters on louisa.ghevaert@michelmores.com or +44 (0)207 7886382