The National Institute of Clinical Guidance, the governing body who publish all guidelines from which all individual trusts in the UK write their guidelines for clinical practice, originally published guidelines for Fertility; assessment and treatment, in 2004.
Embedded within this were the suggestions that lesbian couples with KNOWN and PROVEN fertility issues that prevented them from concieving from artificial insemination alone may be eligible to apply for funding for IVF on the NHS. They also had to be in a legal partnership to be eligible.
Therefore, a couple who had formed a civil partnership, and had tried home insemination / unmedicated insemination in a clinic for at least 6 consecutive months, had then been referred for fertility testing and it had been found that she had polycystic ovaries or endometriosis, for example, would be eligible to apply for funding. However, many PCTs (Primary Care Trusts) also put on the added block of writing in to their guidelines that any couple who required donor gametes, e.g. donor sperm, were automatically excluded from funding. Lesbian couples were therefore in a no-win situation, and although there has been a few cases of lesbian couples taking their PCTs to court to fight for funding in this instance, the vast majority of couples have deemed this fight to lengthy and financially draining, choosing instead to put their money towards private treatment.
As someone who takes a keen interest in the area of fertility, and the childbirth continuum as a whole, the mis-representation in the UK press, yet again, of NICE guidance frutrates me no end. It gives false hope to couples who will read headlines and make appointments at fertility clinics only to be told "sorry, no", and adds more fuel to an already temperemental fire surrounding the issues of same-sex marriage and families. Those who were busying themselves strongly opposing equal marriage a few weeks back are now jumping back on their soapboaxes in response to the headlines.
|Just a few of the headlines yesterday.|
Yes, heterosexual couples recieve limited amounts of free IVF treatment, but only when they have a fertility problem, the same as lesbian couples. But that's an argument for another day! In the meantime we are looking to the future and preparing our bodies for the treatments they will soon undergo - cutting down on caffeine, ensuring my BMI is in the normal range, cutting out alcohol (not hard, we rarely drink anyway!) and ensuring our lives are as stress-free as possible. Funnily enough all of these points are made in the NICE guidance as assessment criteria before treatment will be considered, but you don't see headlines of "overweight / those who smoke / those who drink too much coffee will not be offerred IVF treatment" do you?!
In short, as present, unless you have a medical fertility issue, you can pretty much bank on not recieving funding: which is fine in our eyes - surely dreams are worth saving up for?
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