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Secret stress & shame of IVF

Two thirds of Britons expect their employer to cover costs for IVF, according to new research.

  • 61% of respondents expect their employer to cover the cost of their treatment, either in full or partially, but only 17% of UK employers currently offer this health benefit
  • 82% would only consider working for an employer that offered fertility benefits if they were looking to do IVF again
  • One round of IVF is one sixth the average household income of respondents (£31,400)
  • 8 in 10 consider stopping, while 4 in 10 drop out mid-process (before they’ve completed the recommended 3 cycles)
  • More than 1 in 3 (38%) had to take time off for IVF under annual leave
  • Half (47%) didn’t tell friends/family about their IVF treatments, the biggest reason (52%) being shame and embarrassment
  • 50% said they found IVF just as, if not more, stressful than the bereavement of a close loved one, while 62% said it would be worse than losing their job

24 November, London, UK: A new study from UK virtual fertility clinic Apricity has found that Brits are struggling to cope with the costs and stress of IVF and expect their employers to support them. Apricity conducted a survey of 500 people in the UK who are either undergoing fertility treatment (40%) or preparing for fertility treatments (60%)*.

The need for financial support 

Fertility is a severely underfunded area of the NHS, which only pays for about 20% of treatments in some parts of the UK. The waiting time is between one and two years in England, and patients are selected via a postcode lottery system.

84% of the patients surveyed funded their treatment themselves. Cost of treatment puts huge financial strain on patients - in context, the average income of respondents was £31,400, while one cycle of IVF with medication costs upwards of £7,000 (often advertised at £5000 without medication), and at least three cycles are recommended for success. 57% of patients found they didn’t understand the true financial costs at stake before getting into treatment. 81% considered stopping while 39% only went through two of the three cycles needed for full treatment, with financial pressure being the top reason (32%).

Almost two thirds (61%) of respondents said they would expect their employer to cover these costs, either in full or part, and 82% said they would only consider working for an employer that offered fertility benefits if they were looking to do IVF again.

The need for paid employment leave 

Fertility treatment is a significant time commitment, which can take up months if not years of a patient’s life. It is also proven to be one of the most stressful milestones in a person’s life. While  84% of respondents had to take time off during treatment, more than a third (38%) took this time off under annual leave and a further 16% took no time off at all.

62% of UK responders found fertility treatment just as, if not more stressful than losing their job, half (50%) found fertility treatment just as if not more stressful than the bereavement of a close loved one and more than half (51%) of UK respondents found fertility treatment just as if not more stressful than divorce. 

Employer support for fertility treatment is an underrepresented issue, reflected in the parliamentary bill currently being discussed on time-off rights for fertility treatments. This bill will require employers to allow employees to take time off from work for appointments for fertility treatment; and for connected purposes.

Shame and stress caused by fertility treatment 

Even in 2022, there remains a lot of stigma and shame surrounding fertility treatment. Almost half (47%) of survey respondents didn’t tell their friends or family about their IVF treatment, the biggest reason being shame and embarrassment (52%). 

Fertility treatment can have negative consequences for both romantic and personal relationships and 81% of patients in the UK considered quitting mid-treatment (3 cycles of IVF is considered a full treatment), and 80% of couples said it caused friction in their relationship. 35% said they felt they had lost control of their lives.

There is also a lot of fear around infertility itself. Despite one in six couples in the UK experiencing infertility, half (46%) waited over 12 months before seeing a doctor, with patients over 35 waiting longer than those under 35 due to general apprehension and lack of knowledge.

Caroline Noublanche, Founder and CEO of Apricity commented:

“With the private sector taking up the vast majority of the UK fertility market and the NHS under massive strain, more people are looking to their employers to step up and support them on their fertility journey both financially and with flexible working. This is currently much more common in the US, where 81% of the best workplaces are providing reimbursement for fertility treatments compared to just 17% already in place in the UK.

At Apricity we’re working to make the fertility journey as smooth and stress-free as possible, and have already partnered with some of the largest UK employers, insurers and employee benefit platforms including Axa PPP, Reward Gateway and Mercer Marsh, and we expect more to join us offering fertility benefits. Uniquely, Apricity removes a lot of the disruption for patients and employers alike by significantly reducing the number of visits to the clinic. If more employers supported the process and more clinics used new technology solutions, we’d be able to collectively better manage the process and reduce the stigma.”

*Market survey conducted by Bilendi for Apricity with 500 users, September 2022.

About Apricity 

Apricity is the UK’s first virtual fertility clinic that has reimagined the fertility journey by combining technology and artificial intelligence with personalised care and medical expertise. Its digital solution is designed to improve the fertility experience and maximise chances of conception. It achieves this by providing access to world-class fertility advisors and a fully-customised treatment journey for patients, all easily navigated through a mobile app. Apricity’s mission is to help you create life - and live yours.

For more information, visit https://www.apricity.life/

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