Nice: Offer IVF on NHS to over 40s
Women aged 40-42 who are having fertility problems should be offered IVF on the NHS, according to guidelines published by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice).
Previously, Nice did not recommend IVF for women older than 39.
The guidelines also recommend IVF treatment for eligible women who have been unable to conceive after two years of regular intercourse - one year earlier than previously recommended.
They also cover women who have been having artificial insemination, which can include same-sex couples. This is the first time these have been officially included in the guidelines, which were originally drawn up in 2004.
The guidelines say women aged 40-42 who have not conceived after two years of regular unprotected intercourse or 12 cycles of artificial insemination should be offered one full cycle of IVF, if they have never previously had IVF treatment.
Where women are under 40, and have not conceived after two years of regular intercourse or 12 cycles of artificial insemination, three cycles of IVF should be offered.
Nice chief executive Sir Andrew Dillon said: "Infertility affects more people than you might think; around one in seven heterosexual couples in the UK.
"We know fertility problems can have a potentially devastating effect on people's lives, causing significant distress, depression and possibly leading to the breakdown of relationships.
"The good news is that, thanks to a number of medical advances over the years, many fertility problems can be treated effectively. It is because of these new advances that that we have been able to update our guideline on fertility, ensuring that the right support, care and treatment is available to those who will benefit the most."
Tim Child, consultant gynaecologist and director of the Oxford Fertility Unit, who helped develop the guideline, said: "Many women do conceive naturally in the 40-42 year age group, but for those who can't, and who have been diagnosed with the medical condition of infertility, then improvement in IVF success rates over the last decade mean that we are now able to offer cost effective treatment with a single IVF cycle. This decision was taken after considerable discussion and close analysis of the available evidence."