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Fertility clinics under pressure to pause price rises, as cost of living crisis forces patients into debt

More than 90 per cent of fertility patients in the UK have experienced financial worries in relation to treatment



UK fertility clinics have come under pressure to pause price rises, as growing numbers of patients are getting into debt to pay for treatment.

Dr Catherine Hill, Fertility Network UK’s head of policy and public affairs, spoke of a “toxic combination” of the cost of living price hikes and the lack of access to NHS-funded fertility treatment, which could leave patients priced out of the market, with potentially serious repercussions for their mental health.

She said couples are facing “mountains of debt” and some are being pressured into making unwelcome treatment choices.

“Patients should not be facing the decision to discard much wanted embryos because they can’t afford the costs of transferring them or storing them. Patients should not be swayed into donating their eggs or having a double embryo transfer rather than the recommended single transfer in order to afford necessary medical healthcare. And patients should not be having to forego monitoring scans or genetic testing to avoid inherited conditions in order to be able to continue with treatment,” Hill explained.

“With half of UK fertility patients unable to afford to move forward with fertility treatment and others considering potentially risky options to be able to access care, this is a crisis point for fertility patients and the sector.

“It is a scandal for the country that pioneered IVF over 45 years ago and it is rooted in the lack of equitable access to NHS-funded fertility care and the continuing steep cost of private treatment.”

The charity is calling for fertility clinics to expand the financial support for patients struggling to afford treatment, urging private providers to be clear on treatment costs.

“We urge clinics to consider halting price hikes or providing payment pauses for patients facing their stored embryos being destroyed and, for those who don’t already, to offer payment plan packages.”

Clare Ettinghausen, director of strategy and corporate affairs at Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), said the regulator is concerned that patients are limited in their treatment choices by the cost of storage or transfer of embryos.

“Most fertility patients pay for their own treatment and this can be very expensive, as well as emotionally difficult,” she said.

“Clinics should be giving clear information about the costs of treatment, including any future costs such as storage or embryo transfer to patients before they start treatment.”

A survey by Fertility Network UK of almost 200 patients found that 95 per cent had experienced financial worries in relation to fertility treatment, with 92 per cent saying these problems had been exacerbated by the cost of living crisis.

Half of respondents said a combination of the cost of living crisis, the lack of NHS-funded help and the high cost of private care meant they were unable to move forward with fertility treatment.

One patient, who asked to remain anonymous, told the charity: “We have one frozen embryo left that we spent two years saving for. We can’t afford to have that embryo transferred. Next month the year’s freezing expires so we will have to try and find the money to pay for another year’s freezing or our embryo will be destroyed. Sadly, we can’t do anything more, we are broke.”

Prices for fertility treatments have risen in recent months, in line with inflation throughout the rest of the economy. Many IVF providers said they had no choice but to increase treatment costs to stay afloat.

Dr Suvir Venkataraman, director at Harley Street Fertility Clinic, said: “All clinics are being hit by inflation and as a result price increases are inevitable.

“Harley Street Fertility specialise in treating patients with a complex medical history who seek the optimum treatment for their condition and fertility challenges. Achieving leading success rates as a clinic often leads to higher initial treatment costs.

“Our sample storage fees had remained unchanged since we opened, 13 years ago. However, owing to cost increases in equipment and liquid nitrogen supplies, regrettably, we had to increase our fees for the first time this year.”

Venkataraman said Harley Street Fertility Clinic partnered with three finance companies to offer patients different support packages.

“We work with three partners currently to provide customers with choice and we are open to new financial products from our finance partners. However, as a boutique clinic we are limited in our options. We call on the government and finance industry to come up with improved support for patients.”

Victoria Sephton, chief medical director at Care Fertility, said: “We try and ensure that the costs and treatment pathways for patients are clear at the start of treatment by providing in depth information through our website, information events and social channels.

“We also offer comprehensive fertility assessments for both men and women for those at the start of their fertility journey. By offering patients a clear understanding of their path to parenthood from the start, we allow them to effectively manage the costs associated with their treatment plan.”

Fertility benefits providers, which have grown exponentially since 2019, are pressing employers to do more to support people looking to pursue fertility treatment.

Leila Thabet, VP of global growth at Maven Clinic, said: “Fertility benefits have already become a must-have among US employers, and we’ve started to see many multinational companies with employees in the UK embracing these benefits.

“Over 60 per cent of IVF treatment is privately funded in the UK and, certainly, during a cost of living crisis, employers who prioritise investment in this critically under-supported phase of life will be substantially easing the pressure on their employees, given the prohibitive cost of care for many families.

“Employers have historically focused on the financial aspect of fertility benefits, but there is a growing realisation that, although this is vital, it’s not the only role employers can play, as employees also lack critical, emotional and clinical support through the fertility journey.”

Jenny Saft, co-founder and CEO of the fertility benefits platform Apryl, added: “Fertility treatments can be financially demanding. In a situation where individuals are already grappling with increased living costs, the additional burden of fertility treatment expenses can be overwhelming.

“Fertility benefits play a vital role not just as a healthcare provision but as a crucial support system for couples and individuals embarking on their fertility journey. With the financial pressures that the cost of living crisis brings, these benefits become even more significant.”

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Sorina Mihaila is the editor of Femtech World. Sorina covers technology, research and innovation in women's health.


Maven Clinic launches programme for couples struggling to conceive

The programme aims to address the gap between trying to conceive and fertility treatment



The US virtual clinic Maven has launched a health coaching programme in an effort to expand family-building options for couples struggling to conceive.

With 86 per cent of women not receiving preconception care from their family physician or OB/GYN, Maven’s Trying-To-Conceive (TTC) health coaching programme aims to support people who may be struggling and want to get pregnant without IVF.

The programme includes one-to-one support, reproductive education, ovulation tracking kits, as well as referrals to resources for mental health and nutrition.

“Maven is making sure every family can access the shortest pathway to having a healthy baby,” said Kate Ryder, Maven Clinic founder and CEO.

“We have constructed a unique model that, for the first time, aligns incentives among the stakeholders in healthcare to support people who are trying to conceive.”

To address the gap between trying to conceive and fertility treatment, Maven’s TTC Coaching service brings the benefits of health coaching to fertility care, providing members with “personalised” support and reproductive education, Ryder said. 

Dr Neel Shah, Maven Clinic’s chief medical officer, added: “While most sex education is spent teaching people how to avoid pregnancy, very little time is invested in empowering them with the guidance needed to become pregnant when they’re ready.

“Our coaching program supports couples to understand why they are struggling to conceive and in many cases helps them get pregnant without needing IVF.”

Further product enhancements the Maven team has announced include the Maven Managed Benefit platform, as well as an expansion of the company’s reproductive urology provider network for male fertility support.

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Brazilian fertility network FertGroup partners with Future Fertility to launch innovative oocyte assessment software across all clinics

The collaboration marks a significant milestone in advancing fertility care in Brazil



FertGroup Medicina Reproductiva, a dynamic network of fertility clinics in Brazil, is proud to announce its partnership with Future Fertility to introduce cutting-edge oocyte assessment software, VIOLET™ and MAGENTA™, across its expanding network of clinics.

With nine clinics currently under FertGroup ownership, the network is poised for significant growth, aiming to surpass 15 clinics within the coming year.

This expansion is a response to the escalating demand for fertility services in Brazil, a market that has seen remarkable growth (17.6 per cent CAGR compared to the global average of ~10 per cent).

Factors driving this growth include an underserved market, rising medical tourism, and evolving population dynamics emphasising the need for advanced fertility solutions.

Led by private equity investors XP Private Equity fund, FertGroup is committed to revolutionising the fertility care landscape in Brazil and beyond.

Future Fertility is the first and only AI company to offer a comprehensive and easily integratable solution to oocyte assessment for clinics around the world.

With the world’s largest oocyte dataset, the use of this software (VIOLET™ and MAGENTA™) is at the forefront of this partnership, enabling clinicians, embryologists and patients to gain broad access to AI-driven insights about oocyte quality.

Nelson Guerreiro Pestana, CEO of FertGroup Medicina Reproductiva, highlighted the importance of integrating such innovative technologies: “At FertGroup, we are committed to bringing forward medical innovation that directly benefits the lives of Brazilians.

“Partnering with Future Fertility reinforces our market-leading position and reputation for excellence in fertility care.”

This technology optimises decisions regarding oocyte cryopreservation, ICSI IVF treatment approaches and oocyte donation. It also empowers patients by offering valuable insights into how their health status impacts expected fertility outcomes, helping clinics differentiate their service offering and provide a more patient-centric approach to fertility care.

Christy Prada, CEO of Future Fertility, expressed excitement about the expansion into the Brazilian market: “We are thrilled to partner with FertGroup Medicina Reproductiva in introducing Future Fertility’s innovative oocyte assessment software to Brazil.

“FertGroup is leading the market as the first network in Brazil to implement this technology, marking a significant step forward for fertility care in the region.”

Dr Edson Borges Jr, chief medical officer of FertGroup Medicina Reproductiva, emphasised the significance of oocyte quality in care delivery: “As a scientific leader in the field, we believe in bringing cutting edge technology to our patients, and supporting further research into new approaches to measuring and assessing progress in fertility treatment.

“Oocyte quality is a critical aspect of fertility care, and we believe that by integrating Future Fertility’s advanced tools into our care models we will advance the science in this space and demonstrate the value of leveraging oocyte quality in decision making.”

“Integrating the Future Fertility technology into our labs has been completely seamless” remarked Maria Cecilia Cardoso, group lab director.

“We already can see the value of the workflow integration, and this was a major decision factor for us. We are excited to see the benefits this will bring to decision making, providing an objective and personalised view of quality control into the process.”

This collaboration between FertGroup Medicina Reproductiva and Future Fertility marks a significant milestone in advancing fertility care in Brazil.

The introduction of VIOLET™ and MAGENTA™ software underscores FertGroup’s dedication to innovation and patient-centric care, solidifying its position as a pioneer in the Brazilian fertility market.

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Don’t politicise fertility, leaders warn after MP’s ‘patronising’ intervention

It is worrying to see a “deeply personal” women’s health issue being debated by politicians, fertility benefits providers told Femtech World



UK femtech leaders have warned of the dangers of playing politics with fertility services following what they call “unhelpful, patronising and disrespectful” comments from an MP. 

The Conservative MP Miriam Cates raised concerns this week that women are being exploited into freezing their eggs, claiming that “most hopeful mothers are sold a lie”.

She said she fears women are being given “false promises” by large corporations offering them money to freeze their eggs to put off having children to a later age.

However, reproductive benefits providers labelled the comments as “unhelpful, patronising and disrespectful”.

Eileen Burbidge MBE, executive director at reproductive health start-up Fertifa, said: “Policymakers should absolutely be giving more attention to protecting reproductive health access and treatment options for women, given how shamefully ignored women’s health has been for too long.

“However, characterising egg freezing in the way that Miriam Cates has recently done is unhelpful, patronising and disrespectful to women who rely upon the option to freeze their eggs whether for medical reasons, to donate to others who suffer from infertility or for their own future optionality to relieve patriarchal societal pressures of finding a life partner or starting a family.”

Far from being exploitative, employers who offer financial and wellbeing access to reproductive healthcare are responding to what their talent is asking for, Burbidge, who served on former British prime minister David Cameron’s Business Advisory Group, told Femtech World.

“Data has consistently shown that women do not choose to freeze their eggs in order to work longer or prioritise their careers, but rather because they’ve yet to find a life partner and wish to not succumb to patriarchal societal pressures to do so.

“The fact that companies are supporting this will hopefully mean more women recognise the fact that the likelihood of success increases the earlier they freeze their eggs.”

Leila Thabet, UK general manager at Maven Clinic, said it is concerning to see a highly emotionally charged women’s health issue being debated by politicians and commentators with their own agendas.

“It is correct that egg freezing will not work for all women, but rather than paint an entirely bleak picture of the practice, it is vital that we empower women with facts around the procedure so they do not fall prey to exploitative clinics and operators who may not have their best interests at heart,” she said.

“At a time when data shows that women’s health care needs are still largely being neglected, it is unhelpful to dismiss the provision of women’s and family health benefits in the workplace as exploitative. This is as unhelpful as it is untrue.”

Jenny Saft, co-founder and CEO of fertility benefits provider Apryl, said there is a misconception that fertility benefits platforms offer egg freezing to keep women in the workplace.

“This is not how these programmes are designed or implemented. From my experience, it’s rare to find a company that limits its fertility benefits to egg freezing alone,” she explained.

“Typically, employers provide a comprehensive suite of fertility and family-forming options, including but not limited to egg freezing, sperm freezing, IVF, adoption, and surrogacy.”

Egg freezing has seen a sharp rise in the UK. More women than ever before are undergoing procedures, with egg and embryo freezing now the fastest growing fertility treatments in the country.

According to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HEFA), egg freezing and storage saw a 64 per cent increase in 2021 compared to 2019.

The procedure, which is not available on the NHS, is largely carried out by private clinics at a price tag of £7,000 to £8,000. Fertility benefits platforms claim to provide financial and emotional support for egg freezing, giving women more freedom over when to start a family.

“When egg freezing is offered as an employee benefit it takes away the financial burden of egg freezing,” said Dr Catherine Hill, head of policy and public affairs at Fertility Network UK.

“However, it does not remove the health risks and side effects associated with the invasive medical process, or the emotionally demanding and often upsetting nature of freezing your eggs – all of which women need to consider before making any decision.

“Because this is such a big life choice, it is vital women do not feel under any obligation from their employer to take advantage of this employee benefit.”

Although the procedure enables some women to delay motherhood until the time that is right for them, egg freezing should never be seen as a fertility insurance policy, Hill said.

She added: “Making a decision on the right time to approach parenthood or to attempt to postpone it is a very individual commitment and must be made without pressure from anyone else, including employers. Egg freezing should be about widening women’s reproductive choices on when to have a baby, not enabling a scenario where women feel forced to delay motherhood.”

Becky Kearns, co-founder of Fertility Matters at Work, said it is crucial that companies educate employees and empower them to make informed choices.

“While egg freezing will be seen as a huge benefit and attraction for the next generation of workforce, it needs to be balanced with information and facts to allow people to make informed choices,” she told Femtech World.

“Organisations should be supporting fertility treatment as a whole where possible, not just for those early in their careers. If the focus is solely on egg freezing there’s the risk that this may be perceived as a means to encourage employees to delay having a family, to the short-term benefit of the employer.

“This benefit on its own, without balanced information and education about outcomes and overall fertility awareness, may result in people purposely delaying having children, thinking they have a guarantee for when the time is right, when in reality it gives them a chance.

Miriam Cates has been approached for comment.

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