Good Morning Britain

by | 18 May 2014

It’s a good job I’m a morning person because on Thursday at 6.20am I was sitting on the sofa of ITV’s Good Morning Britain with Susanna Reid and Kate Garraway. They were looking radiant in blue (Susanna) and orange (Kate). Whereas I made the televisual mistake of wearing a black jumpsuit which looked a bit like a sack on screen. At least we didn’t clash.

I had been asked on the show to talk about the inequality of IVF on the NHS. This week The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) have launched a consultation around their recommendation that all women in the UK under the age of 40 should be entitled to three rounds of free IVF. Despite making the recommendation several years ago, health commissioners are still not following the guidance. What you get depends on where you live and, if you haven’t already, I urge you to sign up to the IVFyes campaign to end the postcode lottery.

After I agreed to go on the show, a producer at ITV rang me and asked whether I would mind ‘debating’ the issue (i.e. they were going to pit me against someone who didn’t believe that IVF should be available on the NHS at all). They told me my opponent was a woman called Caroline Farrow, a spokesperson for Catholic Voices. I googled and discovered she’d done this debate before. Her arguments included the fact that infertility is not life-threatening like cancer and it can result in the destruction of unwanted embryos. I have to admit I was nervous. I’m not good in an argument. I didn’t want to let my fellow infertiles down.

In the event the so-called debate only lasted a few minutes. There was hardly time to get started because they had to move onto One Direction hitting the Times Rich list for the first year. No sooner had they called cut and they were setting up One Direction musical toothbrushes on the table. Besides Caroline was actually rather nice even though I didn’t agree with her. When we were leaving the studio she said – almost as if in apology for her opinion – ‘I’m really sorry how hard things have been for you.’ I replied cheerily: ‘That’s alright. Life is hard for everyone. This is just my hard.’ Later she tweeted that she’d enjoyed meeting me and was going to read my book, and a few of her followers started following me!

The thing is Caroline is a mother. She’s got four beautiful children. There’s a picture of them on her twitter page. And although she openly admitted she’d had no problems conceiving, I don’t believe that anybody who has experienced the love of a mother could fail to be empathetic to the illness of infertility. Because it is an illness and therefore should be treated fairly on the NHS. And although I would never compare it to cancer, I do know that infertility feels like your heart is breaking and if that’s not life-threatening then I don’t know what is.

So for this week’s question – what treatments do you think should be available for infertility on the NHS?

And PS. If you want to watch the interview there are a few days left on catch up. Click here (and scroll to 19 minutes in).



  1. mumswrite

    Congrats on getting your message out! It’s a great question, and I couldn’t possibly answer it without seeing stats, outcome, etc — and really fine grained, e.g., if IVF success rates are startlingly higher for explained than for unexplained infertility, then you might want to even push the envelope of the age limit in cases where it’s more likely to be effective. I think infertility is deadly serious, and deserves priority funding. I also think, however, that this needs to be done in parallel with clear public education to young women, about the statistical implications of delaying until their late 30s to start trying to conceive. And of course, if we’re telling women that biology is unfair, and they may have to juggle career and motherhood in their early 30s, when many are finally hitting their career stride, (or risk never having children), we also need to abandon our ageism, and make real career opportunities available to those same women in their 40s and 50s, when they may be best fit to contribute to the labour force, but often encounter prejudice and structural barriers. None of this is helped by the fact that for many men, 40 seems to be the new 20, so that on top of overcoming your own reluctance to giving up child freedom, you need to find a partner who feels the same. But needless to say, infertility is not the only problem that has deep seeded socio-economic determinants — and of course, not all infertlity is age related, and even women who have trouble trying to conceive later in life have no idea if they would have had better luck earlier on.

    • thepursuitofmotherhood

      Amazing, intelligent and thought-provoking response as always Joanna! Thank you. Jessica x

  2. kiftsgate

    Congrats on another success! I just tried to watch but it does not let me register from abroad 🙁
    I don’t know enough of the NHS to really say how many rounds should be covered. In general I think that at least 2 rounds should be covered and uniformly so in the UK (if I understand correctly the coverage is not the same everywhere and that’s unfair..).
    It’s a great debate!

  3. thepursuitofmotherhood

    Sorry you couldn’t see it. I agree it definitely is a good debate, although I also kind of wish it wasn’t even debatable ie. everyone involved in the NHS just acknowledged that such inequality is 100% definitely wrong!

  4. Ruth Ward

    Hi Jessica hope you are well and threatreland good! Have only just got around to watching you… You always come across well and good for you fighting this long ongoing saga!!
    I have always said if men had to suffer the horrors and affects infertility offers there would be a cure or at least ivf being accessible in a fair system, including cost and emotional support. Oh and painful, heavy periods would be banished too!!! 🙂
    Have a good week, and I am going to meet up with Lesley Pyne in a few weeks time. Xx

    • thepursuitofmotherhood

      Thanks Ruth! You’re probably very right! I’m delighted you’re meeting up with Lesley – she’s great – and will be a brilliant source of support and advice. Hope you’re having a lovely bank holiday weekend. Jessica x