What are your IVF NHS treatment options when you are facing your 40th birthday, or even over 40? This short post explains your options and the potential impact of this cut-off point.

The NHS offers women under 40 up to 3 cycles of IVF for free, under certain conditions. However, the age of 40 is a sharp cut-off point for the automatic entitlement to treatment. If you turn 40 while you are undergoing an IVF cycle, the cycle will be completed. However, you won’t be offered further cycles.

Why do some people think this unfair?

It can feel unfair and arbitrary that the option of free IVF treatment is suddenly withdrawn past the age of 40. Some people feel that it is a blunt way to enforce a cut-off point, as fertility and the ability to carry a pregnancy relies on many factors. The general explanation is that fertility in women declines substantially in the late ’30s, and 40 is a reasonable cut-off point that can apply to all women equally.

Many women are capable of sustaining a pregnancy into their early 40’s, and a few years ago the guidelines were changed in order to include women slightly over the age of 40. Under certain circumstances, the NHS will offer one cycle of IVF to women aged between 40 and 42, if the following criteria are met:

  • This would be the first time they have undergone IVF.
  • They have not been able to get pregnant following 2 years of unprotected intercourse, or have undergone 12 cycles of artificial insemination and failed to become pregnant.
  • There is no evidence of low ovarian reserve (a low number of eggs or low-quality eggs)
  • They understand the additional risks and implications of IVF treatment over the age of 40

If you are considering IVF in your late 30’s or beyond, time is of the essence. While some fertility factors are beyond your control, you can take steps such as getting a referral from your GP sooner rather than later and ensuring that you are informed about the implications of IVF over 40. While you may still be hopeful of becoming pregnant without the need for IVF, it makes sense to plan ahead, in order to maximise the window of time available to you after you turn 40. This will ensure that you do not run out of time for your free IVF cycle, and if you do become pregnant by other means, you can always cancel your cycle.

The fertility journey can be very stressful, and the looming deadline of a 40th birthday can really add to that stress. While there is no magic wand to make things easier, it can be very helpful to focus on the things that are under your control. Factors such as your diet, stress levels and mental health are always an important part of your fertility journey, and particularly so as you reach the milestone of your 40th birthday.

Do you have further questions about IVF, getting pregnant or fertility? Explore our site for more fresh fertility content, or ask our expert Agony Aunty Jo Sinclair a question!