“The cost of living crisis is ruining my chances of having a child”

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Natasha Kendall has been trying for a baby for years. After two miscarriages of natural pregnancies, she received an IVF cycle on the NHS. In Exeter, where Ms Kendall lives, a cycle is all she is entitled to.

Ms Kendall, 33, who works for the NHS, and her partner Andy Whedon, 35, had no choice but to seek private fertility treatment, which she says costs more than £5,000 £ between consultations, medications and the cycle itself. It also ended in a miscarriage – and the couple are preparing for another attempt.

“We want to keep trying, but it’s about finding that money,” Ms Kendall said. “It will take a few months to raise the funds. Luckily we were able to freeze an embryo from the last cycle, but if that doesn’t work it will cost an additional £6,000.

Praful Nargund, of UKTN IVF Clinic, said the regional disparity was due to flaws in the current NHS funding model for IVF.

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“The current model means that each clinical commissioning group determines the level of support they provide to women and couples in need of fertility treatment,” he explained. “Some CCGs provide the recommended three cycles of treatment, while others provide only one cycle or none at all.”

The regional disparity forced patients like Ms Kendall to seek expensive private treatment, meaning families were “paid to become parents because of where they live”, Mr Nargund added.

Women seeking IVF have told the Telegraph that costs are usually as high as £10,000, with no guarantee of success. Some clinics operate a ‘recovery’ system where patients only pay if they are successful, but these can charge up to £20,000.

With inflation, fuel prices and energy bills soaring, those like Ms Kendall are finding the prospect of affording new cycles increasingly difficult. She added that she and her partner had already burned part of their inheritance to pay for treatment and were close to debt.

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Many are turning to loans and credit cards to fund treatment, in part because couples need quick cash to get treatment as soon as possible.

“With the cost of living rising, we’re struggling to figure out how we’re going to pay for our next cycle,” she said. “Rising gas prices have already put a strain on our finances. We will probably have to take out a loan for another cycle.

“We say no to a lot of life events. We haven’t been abroad since 2018 and we don’t do normal things like go out to dinner on weekends.

UKTN IVF has called on the government to impose a price cap on how much the NHS can be charged for providing IVF. Mr Nargrund said: “We believe that with the good will, three cycles of NHS-funded IVF could be offered across the country, without breaking current budgets.”

“Our savings are exhausted”

Lorna Watkins, 31, from South Wales, has already spent over £30,000 on IVF treatment, depleting her savings. She and her husband are now living “paycheck to paycheck,” she said.

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“If this cycle fails, we simply cannot afford another one,” Ms Watkins added. “The savings we’ve worked so hard for are gone and we’re no closer to having the family we so desperately want.”

IVF treatment is often an emotionally taxing process. Gwenda Burns, of the charity Fertility Network UK, said 90% of people undergoing fertility treatment are depressed, while 42% said they felt suicidal.

“Fertility treatments must be properly funded. It is a condition that deserves NHS help as much as any other clinical condition,” she said.

“If not, this lack of aid combined with the current cost of living crisis will mean that some people will be denied the opportunity to become parents. It is a sad legacy for the country that has been the pioneer of IVF.

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