The English National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence has published new guidelines this week that will lead to wider access to National Health Service support for more women trying to have children. Previously, the NHS offered one round of IVF to women up to the age of 39. This will now be available to women 42 years or younger.
The NHS support for IVF will make the expensive procedure more accessible and reflects an important recognition of the rising average age of mothers. According to England's Office of National Statistics, 19.6% of the 723,165 live births in 2010 were by women over 35. There were almost 26,000 births to mothers aged 40 to 44.
The guidelines also recommend that couples struggling to conceive should begin treatment after two years, rather than the previously recommended three. Infertility issues can vary considerably, so policies for supporting people with fertility issues are rarely one-size-fits-all. Both of these general recommendations are part of a series of guidelines to ensure people are informed of the need to tailor careful treatments accordingly.
In Australia, many fertility treatment costs are covered by Medicare rebates under the Medical Benefits Scheme. The process is still expensive, and people receiving assisted reproductive technology treatments are entitled to a capped rebate under the Extended Medicare Safety Net (EMSN). The caps vary depending on which treatment is being received, and can be seen here in the Assisted Reproductive Technology table.