Proposed changes to NHS guidelines could see IVF treatment limited to those between the ages of 30 and 35.
The possibility has been discussed in areas including Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire – regions where couples currently receive one free fertility cycle on the NHS up to the age of 40 – with many calling the measures ‘devastating’ for couples outside this age range.
Here, mum-of-two Helen shares her story, and how, if she was trying to conceive under the new guidance, she would have been robbed of her chance to become a parent…
My heart breaks to think that NHS providers might restrict fertility treatment to women aged 30 to 35.
I was 36 when I received treatment at London’s St Bartholomew’s Hospital (a hospital I will love until my dying day). I remember the emotional turmoil of the waiting room. The sea of sad faces, all desperate to grow a baby and hold it in their arms.
I was one of the lucky ones. I was offered three rounds of IUI (Intra-Uterine Insemination) and, later, three rounds of IVF if that failed.
But it didn’t. On our second round of IUI, I became pregnant with twins and had them when I was 37. Just thinking about it brings tears to my eyes. I still can’t believe my luck.
Under these new measures, I would not have my daughters Frida and Rae, now five. That thought, well… reduces me to more tears.
Helen with her two young daughters as babies
Without NHS treatment, I would not be a mum. I would not have my beautiful girls. And that makes me want to scream. Anyone who has ever experienced fertility problems will feel the same.
My husband Paul and I did not have the money for private treatment. Our next step would have been adoption. I have always been a tough cookie, but the thought of not being able to grow a baby in my belly broke me.
I was not a hysterical bag of hormones wanting a child on a whim, friends would probably say I’m not even that motherly. But I wanted to be a mum more than anything on earth.
I had the darkest thoughts of my life facing a future without children. I honestly don’t know where I’d be now. I love my husband very much and we are happily married, but I desperately wanted children to make us a family.
I even joked I would become an alcoholic and smoke myself to an early grave if the fertility treatment didn’t work. I realise I sound a bit scary saying that, but that’s where I was. And it wasn’t all joking, I was afraid of a future without kids.
In reality, Paul and I had given up alcohol, cigarettes, caffeine… Anything to help the treatment along.
Helen with her girls now
Drawing a line at 35 is so frustrating. Conceiving is already a ticking timebomb. A desperate race against time. How could you look a woman in the eye and tell her she is one month too late to receive treatment?
Yes, women are generally leaving motherhood a little later, but should they be punished for it? Arguably, older mums are more prepared – they have no regrets, they’ve been travelling, achieved their career goals. I wouldn’t have been a good mum if I’d had children when I was younger.
I agree with fertility campaigners who have said the proposals are ‘arbitrary and unethical’. Again, women are being treated like pieces of meat to be bagged and tagged. This one is too old. Ouch, that really hurts!
I have friends both under 30 and over 35 who have received fertility treatment on the NHS. My children have friends who wouldn’t be here under the new proposals. Little ghost children. Lots of very sad not-mums.
This isn’t a world I would want to live in.