How Has IVF Treatment Changed Over the Last 40 Years?

The first ever “test tube” baby, Louise Brown, reached the age of 40 this year. IVF treatment has brought more than 8 million babies into the world since she was born in 1978, but fertility treatment has changed a lot over the decades.

The Biggest Changes in IVF Treatment

Fertility treatment has changed in many ways since 1978. Many of the biggest changes are in the way that people think about fertility and IVF:

  • Attitudes to IVF treatment have changed a lot as it has become more common. Some people were very concerned about IVF when it was first introduced, on both ethical and medical grounds. Many healthy babies have now been born and many of us are willing to talk openly about our own experiences with infertility and IVF.
  • The emotional side of fertility treatment gets a lot more attention now and there is more support available for people who are undergoing IVF. We are more aware of the impact of stress on fertility and how important it is for patients to feel supported during their treatment.
  • We have a better understanding of fertility than we did 40 years ago, especially when it comes to male fertility problems. Knowing more about the causes of fertility problems can help us to provide the best care. It also enables individuals to take action to improve their own fertility, for example though lifestyle changes like losing weight or giving up smoking.

It isn’t just the way that we think about IVF that have changed over the last four decades. The techniques that we use during IVF treatment have also been improved over time:

  • Limits on the number of embryos transferred during IVF treatment were introduced early on to reduce the chances of multiple births. Since the 1980s it has also been possible to freeze the remaining embryos for use in future cycles of IVF.
  • The ICSI technique was developed in the late 1980s to inject individual sperm cells into each egg. This enabled IVF to be performed successfully even for men with very low sperm counts or other fertility issues.
  • Egg collection can now be performed using a needle that is guided by ultrasound. In the past, it required riskier and more invasive keyhole surgery.

All of these changes have had a big impact on the experiences of patients who are undergoing fertility treatment. The success rate of IVF has also increased, from around 10% to about 40% per cycle, on average.

The Future of Fertility Treatment

IVF treatment has come a long way since it was first used 40 years ago, but we still have a lot to learn about fertility and the techniques that we use now can be improved even more. Researchers are exploring many different aspects of fertility, from the impact of pollution and other environmental factors, to the way that the embryo interacts with the womb lining. As we learn more and continue to develop new fertility treatments, we will be able to help even more people to create and grow their families.

How Easy is it to Access IVF Treatment in the UK?

Many people in the UK have been able to conceive through IVF treatment, but it isn’t always easy to access this kind of care. Although fertility treatment is available for some couples through the NHS, there are limits on who can have this treatment and how many cycles will be covered.

Are You Eligible for IVF Treatment?

If you’re considering your options for IVF treatment in the UK, then you may be thinking about having it through the NHS. The national guidelines state that you should be eligible for the following treatments if tests show that IVF is the best option for you:

  • Up to 3 cycles of IVF if you are a woman under 40 who has been trying to get pregnant for at least two years
  • One cycle of IVF if you are a woman aged 40-42 who has been trying to get pregnant for at least 2 years and has a sufficient ovarian reserve (number of eggs in your ovaries)

However, there may be other requirements in your area as each NHS trust can have its own guidelines too. Additional criteria might include:

  • A lower age range for women or an age limit for men
  • Not having any children already (even from a previous relationship)
  • Being a healthy weight
  • Not smoking

The eligibility requirements in some areas have become very strict as many NHS trusts have been struggling to maintain their services due to issues with funding. In some areas, the age limit for women can be as low as 35. If you live in an area with stricter eligibility requirements or you’ve already completed the maximum number of IVF cycles available through the NHS, then you may need to consider other options for fertility treatment.

Private Fertility Treatment in the UK

One option if you aren’t able to access fertility treatment through the NHS is to visit a private IVF clinic instead. You can do this after having as many cycles as you can through the NHS or do it right away. Private clinics may set their own eligibility criteria for IVF treatment, but these won’t usually be as strict as the NHS requirements. For example, they may ask you to have some tests to check that IVF is the most suitable treatment, but they will usually provide care as long as you’re making a fully informed choice while understanding the chances of success.

Going Overseas for Fertility Treatment

Having private treatment in the UK isn’t always the right option for everyone, especially as it can be expensive. Travelling overseas for IVF treatment can be a better choice if you want to keep the costs down when you aren’t able to access the NHS services.

We have helped many people to access private care in the UK or overseas. Even if you aren’t able to meet the eligibility requirements for NHS fertility treatment in your area, you can still have IVF. Many people who weren’t able to have fertility treatment on the NHS have still been able to become parents after having private IVF in the UK or overseas.