I was desperate for a baby but couldn't afford IVF so I had one on finance – I'll be paying for my child in instalments | The Sun

WHEN covid forced Britain into lockdown in March 2020, for Emily Shinn and her partner Benjamin it presented them with a golden opportunity.

The newlyweds, who said their vows in September 2019, had been lucky enough to squeeze in a honeymoon to Malaysia in February and having got their big plans out of the way, were ready to settle down.

“Lockdown was far from ideal but it gave us the prime opportunity to start a family,” Emily, 36, tells Fabulous.

“We were going to be locked away together for months so what better time to try, I was 35 and my husband was 40 so we were both eager to get off the mark.”

However, as weeks turned into months, one negative pregnancy test quickly became 12 and Emily and Benjamin, now 42, were no closer to becoming parents.

Emily, who lives in Rayleigh, Essex, says: “The NHS typically advises couples not to go for fertility tests until they have been trying for two years but as we were a little bit older I didn’t want to delay anything further.

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“Our tests showed that we would need assistance to conceive so we however, didn't qualify for IVF under the NHS.

“My husband had a son, 21, from a previous relationship and eligibility stipulates that you must have no previous children in order to qualify for funding.

“It felt so unfair.

“Yes my husband had a son, but it was two decades ago, and bodies change dramatically.

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“Equally, I had never had a baby so I truly felt the sting of injustice.

“It was a real blow to us both as a couple. I felt like I was being penalised.”

Corporate partnership manager Emily and self-employed construction worker Benjamin were then forced to look into private fertility treatments.

“It was an overwhelming experience,” Emily recalls.

“The cost was really frightening.

“You have no idea how many rounds of treatment you’ll require, not only that but the amount of medication you’ll require.

“I commute into London so the fact that we were in lockdown meant that I was able to save on my commute fair plus we weren’t going out anywhere

“This meant I was able to put a little bit more money into savings, but prior to this I had no savings whatsoever.

“My husband had some but not enough to afford the thousands that would be required.

“Our options were quite limited to a credit card, opting for ‘pay as you go’ fertility packages or even potentially asking my parents if we could borrow money.

“These were all undesirable choices.”

However, the couple found a light at the end of the bottomless money pit in the form of a new startup called Gaia. 

The company was founded by Nader AlSalim in 2015 when, after he and his wife spent £50,000 on IVF, he decided he wanted to make fertility affordable and accessible for all.

Because of the cost of IVF this is going to be our only baby we’re not going to be able to afford to do this again

Using a bespoke algorithm Gaia is able to predict just how many rounds of IVF treatment it will take for every couple to conceive and offer them an insurance plan tailor made to suit them.

Gaia will liaise directly with the clinic and pay for a couple’s treatment upfront, couples will only pay this back once they have a successful treatment – a success being the baby – and in monthly instalments.

A buy now pay later scheme for babies, something that was a perfect fit for Emily and Benjamin.

“In the same way that you insure your house or your car, it’s security in case you need it and if you don’t need it then it hasn’t cost you the earth,” she says.

“It instantly became affordable and meant we could just focus on the treatment and now the pregnancy rather than stressing about the money side of things.”

In March 2021 Gaia insured Emily under two rounds of IVF via frozen embryo transfer at one London’s largest fertility clinics CRGH where a single round of IVF costs £3,675 excluding medication but kept their treatment under wraps.

“We told my parents that we were going to go through IVF but we didn’t tell anybody else,” she says.

“On one occasion I went for dinner with my sister-in-law while I was still going through treatment.

“My alarm went off for my injections and I was in the toilet for 15 minutes, so long in fact that when I returned my sister-in-law had sent my food away as she assumed I’d had an upset tummy.

“I had to make up excuses because I didn’t feel up to going out because I had bruises everywhere, and I was tired and hormonal and emotional because it is such an ordeal.”

Emily continues “Our first round resulted with a negative test which is really difficult to take.

IVF takes over your whole life which is why my pregnancy still feels a bit surreal.

“The second time you’re almost expecting it not to work because it didn’t work the first time, so it was a real surprise when we had our positive test.

“Gaia funded two cycles for us, if this second cycle hadn't worked we would either have to not do a third round because we couldn’t afford it or we’d have to do pay as you go. 

“It costs crazy amounts of money so there was a lot of pressure on this cycle.”

Despite their joyful news, the couple were reluctant to tell people about their happy news.

“We didn’t actually tell anybody until I was at least 15 weeks,” she says.

“We didn’t buy anything for the baby until very recently because we didn’t want to jinx anything.

“It took a long time to come to terms with the fact that I’m pregnant and that it’s an exciting thing rather than a worry.” 

“IVF takes over your whole life which is why my pregnancy still feels a bit surreal.

Emily is now six months pregnant with the couple expecting to welcome their baby in October this year.

“Because of the cost of IVF this is going to be our only baby we’re not going to be able to afford to do this again,” Emily says.

“It was difficult to feel excited until very recently. I’ve got a proper bump now and we’re starting to look at prams, how to decorate the nursery and all of those kinds of things.

“A real turning point for us came when we went to see the Lion King on stage – we were so close to the orchestra that the baby loved it and we could really feel them kicking.

“That’s when the baby felt real.”

Since their IVF journey, new reforms on the NHS means that there is a brighter future for couples like Emily and Benjamin.

The Government's long-awaited Women's Health Strategy has promised to tackle certain injustices in fertility treatment.

As well as pledging to be more transparent, the Government promised to remove all 'non-clinical' criteria used to ration IVF.

This includes those who are in a couple and have a child from a previous relationship.

While the reforms came in too late for her own journey to becoming a parent Emily says she is thrilled to see that things are changing.

“IVF is such an incredibly stressful process as it is and the mounting costs only adds more worry to couples who have to go through that,” she says.

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“In no way will the new reforms make the process any easier but without the cost a huge stress will be removed.

“I am thrilled that the NHS is taking more steps towards fertility equality.”


The new strategy will “improve transparency” of the provision and availability of IVF.

As well as pledging to be more transparent, the Government promised to remove all 'non-clinical' criteria used to ration IVF.

This includes those who are in a couple and have a child from a previous relationship.

Meanwhile, same-sex couples will also no longer be required to pay for artificial insemination to prove their fertility status before receiving NHS funding. 

They will now be eligible for up to six free cycles of the treatment on the NHS, which is less invasive and cheaper than IVF. 

Meanwhile, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) is currently updating its guidance on fertility problems, assessment and treatment. 

The new guidelines will consider whether the current recommendations for access to NHS-funded treatment are still appropriate.

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