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IVF more popular, successful and safer than ever but reasons for treatment are changing

Latest trends and figures in fertility treatment released.

More people in the UK are undergoing IVF, with the procedure becoming safer and more successful than ever, but the reasons for treatment are gradually changing as more same-sex couples, single women and surrogates are making use of fertility treatment, our new Fertility treatment 2017: trends and figures report has revealed.

Figures in the report show that, in 2017, more than 54,000 patients underwent around 75,000 fertility treatments, with IVF treatment cycles increasing by 2.5% since 2016 and resulting in over 20,500 babies being born. 

Success rates continue to improve, with the average birth rate for women of all ages using their own eggs reaching 22%, while women under 35 using their own eggs have the highest birth rates with 30% for a fresh embryo cycle and 27% for a frozen embryo cycle.

The report also indicates that IVF is becoming safer as fewer patients are having twins. The figures show that multiple births, the single biggest health risk from IVF, has reached an all-time low of 10%, a sharp decline from 24% in 2008.

Our Chair, Sally Cheshire CBE, said: “Fertility treatment has come a long way over more than 40 years and is now safer whilst helping more people to create their much longed for families. 

“We know that multiple births carry higher risks to mothers and babies and cost more to the NHS. That’s why, it is a great achievement that all our hard work with fertility clinics has paid off as we have now achieved the lowest ever multiple birth rate while continuing to see success rates rise.

“However, good treatment is more than just providing successful outcomes. That’s why we are continuing to work with clinics to ensure they address the emotional aspects of fertility treatment by providing excellent patient support, alongside high-quality care.”


We have now achieved the lowest ever multiple birth rate while continuing to see success rates rise.


While patients in heterosexual relationships still account for more than 91% of all fertility treatments, this only saw a 2% increase between 2016 and 2017. This is in stark contrast to the increases in treatments for patients in female same-sex relationships which rose by 12% to 4,463 cycles, single women by 4% to 2,279 cycles and treatments for surrogates by 22% to 302 cycles between 2016 and 2017.

Sally continues: “We are seeing a gradual change in the reasons why people use fertility treatments, which were originally developed to help heterosexual couples with infertility problems.

“While the increases in same-sex couples, single women and surrogates having fertility treatment are small, this reflects society’s changing attitudes towards family creation, lifestyles and relationships and highlights the need for the sector to continue to evolve and adapt.”

Our Fertility Treatment 2017: trends and figures report also revealed that the use of frozen embryos has gone up by 11% since 2016, which indicates an increased uptake in freeze cycles. Frozen cycles success rates at 23% have overtaken fresh embryo cycles success rates (22%) for the first time since records began, meaning that patients can be reassured that freezing embryos can give them as much chance of success as fresh cycles.

Other key trends from the report are:
• 62% of treatment cycles are NHS-funded in Scotland, 50% in Northern Ireland, while only 39% and 35% are NHS-funded in Wales and England.
• Average patient age has increased for both IVF and DI treatments from 33.5 and 32 in 1991 to 35.5 and 34.5 in 2017, respectively.
• Patients aged under 37 make up 65% of people having IVF treatment cycles and 73% of those undergoing DI treatment cycles.
• Most treatment cycles (68,380; 90.7%) were undertaken by patients with male partners. The remaining patients were listed with a female partner (4,463; 5.9%), no partner (2,279; 3%) or as a surrogate (302; 0.4%).
• The fastest growing fertility treatment type is egg freezing, which has increased by 10% since 2016 to 1,463 cycles in 2017.

The full Fertility treatment 2017: trends and figures report, as well as the accompanying dataset is available on our research and data page.

Notes to editors

• We're the UK’s independent regulator of fertility treatment and research using human embryos.
• Set up in 1990 by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, we're responsible for licensing, monitoring and inspecting fertility clinics to ensure patients and everyone born through fertility treatment receives high quality care.
• We are an ‘arm’s length body’ of the Department of Health, working independently from Government providing free, clear and impartial information about fertility treatment, clinics and egg, sperm and embryo donation.
• We are funded by licence fees, IVF treatment fees and a grant from UK central government.


Review date: 20 May 2021