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An upper age limit of 35 for women needing IVF is unacceptable

30 August 1999
By Clare Lewis-Jones MBE
Executive Director of CHILD & President of the National Infertility Awareness Campaign (NIAC)
Appeared in BioNews 23
Media speculation that the Department of Health proposes to recommend in forthcoming guidance to health authorities an upper age limit of 35 for women needing IVF through the National Health Service (NHS) is alarming to say the least. If this is true, it fails to understand what is happening in people's lives and in the health service. Not only are couples delaying starting families until later in their lives but the process of identifying the underlying causes of infertility is currently taking anything up to six years. Then, even if a couple is accepted for treatment and funding is provided, there are waiting lists of between two and seven years.

Over 30,000 children have now been born thanks to IVF. Many of them have been born to couples where the woman was over 35. Indeed the chairman of CHILD - the National Infertility Support Network, Phil Taylor, and his wife Kathy had successful IVF treatment at the age of 38. They now have twin daughters Alexandra and Elizabeth. The Taylors believe that undergoing IVF treatment faced with an age deadline would have caused unbearable stress. The stress of infertility is well-documented - additional pressure such as this is intolerable.

CHILD speaks to thousands of couples every year. Our fear is that many of them would be too old for IVF funding at the young age of 35 and may be sidelined from the very treatment which could help them achieve their dreams. Given that success rates do not decline significantly until between the ages of 38 and 40, CHILD believes that it would be entirely unfair to set the upper age limit so low. The Department of Health must base their decision on evidence-based medicine rather than cost.
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