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Fertility
Assessment and treatment for people with
fertility problems
Issued: February 2013
NICE clinical guideline 156
guidance.nice.org.uk/cg156
NICE has accredited the process used by the Centre for Clinical Practice at NICE to produce
guidelines. Accreditation is valid for 5 years from September 2009 and applies to guidelines produced
since April 2007 using the processes described in NICE's 'The guidelines manual' (2007, updated
2009). More information on accreditation can be viewed at www.nice.org.uk/accreditation
© NICE 2013

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Fertility
NICE clinical guideline 156
Contents
Introduction .................................................................................................................................. 5
Patient-centred care ..................................................................................................................... 7
Terms used in this guideline ......................................................................................................... 8
Key priorities for implementation .................................................................................................. 9
Defining infertility ..................................................................................................................................... 9
Unexplained infertility .............................................................................................................................. 9
Intrauterine insemination ......................................................................................................................... 9
Criteria for referral for IVF ....................................................................................................................... 10
Embryo transfer strategies in IVF............................................................................................................ 10
1 Recommendations .................................................................................................................... 12
1.1 Principles of care .............................................................................................................................. 12
1.2 Initial advice to people concerned about delays in conception ......................................................... 13
1.3 Investigation of fertility problems and management strategies ......................................................... 18
1.4 Medical and surgical management of male factor fertility problems ................................................. 24
1.5 Ovulation disorders ........................................................................................................................... 25
Classification of ovulatory disorders........................................................................................................ 25
1.6 Tubal and uterine surgery ................................................................................................................. 28
1.7 Medical and surgical management of endometriosis ........................................................................ 29
1.8 Unexplained infertility ........................................................................................................................ 30
1.9 Intrauterine insemination ................................................................................................................... 30
1.10 Prediction of IVF success................................................................................................................ 31
1.11 Access criteria for IVF ..................................................................................................................... 32
1.12 Procedures used during IVF treatment ........................................................................................... 33
1.13 Intracytoplasmic sperm injection ..................................................................................................... 38
1.14 Donor insemination ......................................................................................................................... 39
1.15 Oocyte donation .............................................................................................................................. 41
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Fertility
NICE clinical guideline 156
1.16 People with cancer who wish to preserve fertility............................................................................ 42
1.17 Long-term safety of assisted reproductive technologies for women with infertility and their
children.................................................................................................................................................... 44

2 Research recommendations ..................................................................................................... 47
2.1 Expectant management before IVF .................................................................................................. 47
2.2 Embryo selection for single embryo transfer ..................................................................................... 47
2.3 Adjuvant luteal phase support treatments in IVF .............................................................................. 48
2.4 Long-term safety of ovarian stimulation and ovulation induction for women..................................... 48
2.5 Long-term effects of IVF with or without intracytoplasmic sperm injection in children ...................... 49
3 Other information....................................................................................................................... 50
3.1 Scope and how this guideline was developed .................................................................................. 50
3.2 Related NICE guidance..................................................................................................................... 50
4 The Guideline Development Group, National Collaborating Centre and NICE project team .... 52
4.1 Guideline Development Group .......................................................................................................... 52
External advisers..................................................................................................................................... 53
4.2 National Collaborating Centre for Women's and Children's Health................................................... 53
4.3 NICE project team ............................................................................................................................. 54
Figures and tables to support chances of conception and embryo quality recommendations ..... 56
Table 1 Cumulative probability of conceiving a clinical pregnancy by the number of menstrual cycles . 56
Table 2 Cumulative probability of conceiving a clinical pregnancy by the number of cycles of
insemination ........................................................................................................................................... 56

Figure 1 The effect of maternal age on the average rate of pregnancy .................................................. 57
Figure 2 IVF success in terms of live births per 100 embryo transfers .................................................. 58
Figure 3 UK NEQAS embryo morphology scheme ................................................................................. 59
About this guideline ...................................................................................................................... 60
Update information .................................................................................................................................. 60
Strength of recommendations ................................................................................................................. 61
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Fertility
NICE clinical guideline 156
Other versions of this guideline ............................................................................................................... 62
Implementation........................................................................................................................................ 62
Your responsibility ................................................................................................................................... 62
Copyright ................................................................................................................................................. 63
Contact NICE .......................................................................................................................................... 63
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Fertility
NICE clinical guideline 156
Introduction
This guideline updates and replaces 'Fertility' (NICE clinical guideline 11). The
recommendations are labelled according to when they were originally published (see About
this guideline 
for details).
This guideline offers best practice advice on assisting people of reproductive age who have
problems conceiving.
It is estimated that infertility affects 1 in 7 heterosexual couples in the UK. Since the original
NICE guideline on fertility published in 2004 there has been a small increase in the prevalence of
fertility problems, and a greater proportion of people now seeking help for such problems.
The main causes of infertility in the UK are (percent figures indicate approximate prevalence):
unexplained infertility (no identified male or female cause) (25%)
ovulatory disorders (25%)
tubal damage (20%)
factors in the male causing infertility (30%)
uterine or peritoneal disorders (10%).
In about 40% of cases disorders are found in both the man and the woman. Uterine or
endometrial factors, gamete or embryo defects, and pelvic conditions such as endometriosis may
also play a role.
Given the range of causes of fertility problems, the provision of appropriate investigations is
critical. These investigations include semen analysis; assessment of ovulation, tubal damage
and uterine abnormalities; and screening for infections such as Chlamydia trachomatis and
susceptibility to rubella.
Once a diagnosis has been established, treatment falls into 3 main types:
medical treatment to restore fertility (for example, the use of drugs for ovulation induction)
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Fertility
NICE clinical guideline 156
surgical treatment to restore fertility (for example, laparoscopy for ablation of endometriosis)
assisted reproduction techniques (ART) – any treatment that deals with means of conception
other than vaginal intercourse. It frequently involves the handling of gametes or embryos.
The guideline will assume that prescribers will use a drug's summary of product characteristics to
inform decisions made with individual patients.
This guideline recommends some drugs for indications for which they do not have a UK
marketing authorisation at the date of publication, if there is good evidence to support that use.
The prescriber should follow relevant professional guidance, taking full responsibility for the
decision. The patient should provide informed consent, which should be documented. See the
General Medical Council's Good practice in prescribing medicines – guidance for doctors for
further information. Where recommendations have been made for the use of drugs outside their
licensed indications ('off-label use'), these drugs are marked with a footnote in the
recommendations.
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Fertility
NICE clinical guideline 156
Patient-centred care
This guideline offers best practice advice on the care of people with fertility problems.
Patients and healthcare professionals have rights and responsibilities as set out in the NHS
Constitution for England 
– all NICE guidance is written to reflect these. Treatment and care
should take into account individual needs and preferences. Patients should have the opportunity
to make informed decisions about their care and treatment, in partnership with their healthcare
professionals. If someone does not have the capacity to make decisions, healthcare
professionals should follow the Department of Health's advice on consent and the code of
practice that accompanies the Mental Capacity Act
. In Wales, healthcare professionals should
follow advice on consent from the Welsh Government.
NICE has produced guidance on the components of good patient experience in adult NHS
services. All healthcare professionals should follow the recommendations in Patient experience
in adult NHS services.

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NICE clinical guideline 156
Terms used in this guideline
Expectant management A formal approach that encourages conception through unprotected
vaginal intercourse. It involves supportively offering an individual or couple information and
advice about the regularity and timing of intercourse and any lifestyle changes which might
improve their chances of conceiving. It does not involve active clinical or therapeutic
interventions.
Full cycle This term is used to define a full IVF treatment, which should include 1 episode of
ovarian stimulation and the transfer of any resultant fresh and frozen embryo(s).
Mild male factor infertility This term is used extensively in practice and in the literature.
However, no formally recognised definition is currently available. For the purpose of this
guideline it is defined as when 2 or more semen analyses have 1 or more variables below the 5th
centile (as defined by the WHO, 2010). The effect on the chance of pregnancy occurring
naturally through vaginal intercourse within 2 years would then be similar to people with
unexplained infertility or mild endometriosis.
Natural cycle IVF An IVF procedure in which 1 or more oocytes are collected from the ovaries
during a spontaneous menstrual cycle without the use of drugs.
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NICE clinical guideline 156
Key priorities for implementation
The following recommendations have been identified as priorities for implementation.
Defining infertility
A woman of reproductive age who has not conceived after 1 year of unprotected vaginal
sexual intercourse, in the absence of any known cause of infertility, should be offered further
clinical assessment and investigation along with her partner. [new 2013]
Offer an earlier referral for specialist consultation to discuss the options for attempting
conception, further assessment and appropriate treatment where:
the woman is aged 36 years or over
there is a known clinical cause of infertility or a history of predisposing factors for
infertility. [new 2013]
Unexplained infertility
Do not offer oral ovarian stimulation agents (such as clomifene citrate, anastrozole or
letrozole) to women with unexplained infertility. [new 2013]
Offer IVF treatment (see recommendations 1.11.1.3–4) to women with unexplained infertility
who have not conceived after 2 years (this can include up to 1 year before their fertility
investigations) of regular unprotected sexual intercourse. [new 2013]
Intrauterine insemination
For people with unexplained infertility, mild endometriosis or 'mild male factor infertility', who
are having regular unprotected sexual intercourse:
do not routinely offer intrauterine insemination, either with or without ovarian
stimulation (exceptional circumstances include, for example, when people have
social, cultural or religious objections to IVF)
advise them to try to conceive for a total of 2 years (this can include up to 1 year
before their fertility investigations) before IVF will be considered. [new 2013]
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Criteria for referral for IVF
Inform people that normally a full cycle of IVF treatment, with or without intracytoplasmic
sperm injection (ICSI), should comprise 1 episode of ovarian stimulation and the transfer of
any resultant fresh and frozen embryo(s). [new 2013]
In women aged under 40 years who have not conceived after 2 years of regular unprotected
intercourse or 12 cycles of artificial insemination (where 6 or more are by intrauterine
insemination), offer 3 full cycles of IVF, with or without ICSI. If the woman reaches the age of
40 during treatment, complete the current full cycle but do not offer further full cycles. [new
2013]

In women aged 40–42 years who have not conceived after 2 years of regular unprotected
intercourse or 12 cycles of artificial insemination (where 6 or more are by intrauterine
insemination), offer 1 full cycle of IVF, with or without ICSI, provided the following 3 criteria
are fulfilled:
they have never previously had IVF treatment
there is no evidence of low ovarian reserve (see recommendation 1.3.3.2)
there has been a discussion of the additional implications of IVF and pregnancy at this
age. [new 2013]
Embryo transfer strategies in IVF
When considering the number of fresh or frozen embryos to transfer in IVF treatment:
For women aged under 37 years:
In the first full IVF cycle use single embryo transfer.
In the second full IVF cycle use single embryo transfer if 1 or more top-quality
embryos are available. Consider using 2 embryos if no top-quality embryos are
available.
In the third full IVF cycle transfer no more than 2 embryos.
For women aged 37–39 years:
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In the first and second full IVF cycles use single embryo transfer if there are 1
or more top-quality embryos. Consider double embryo transfer if there are no
top-quality embryos.
In the third full IVF cycle transfer no more than 2 embryos.
For women aged 40–42 years consider double embryo transfer. [new 2013]
Where a top-quality blastocyst is available, use single embryo transfer. [new 2013]
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NICE clinical guideline 156
1 Recommendations
The following guidance is based on the best available evidence. The full guideline gives details
of the methods and the evidence used to develop the guidance.
1.1 Principles of care
1.1.1 Providing information
1.1.1.1 Couples who experience problems in conceiving should be seen together
because both partners are affected by decisions surrounding investigation and
treatment. [2004]
1.1.1.2 People should have the opportunity to make informed decisions regarding their
care and treatment via access to evidence-based information. These choices
should be recognised as an integral part of the decision-making process.
Verbal information should be supplemented with written information or audio-
visual media. [2004]
1.1.1.3 Information regarding care and treatment options should be provided in a form
that is accessible to people who have additional needs, such as people with
physical, cognitive or sensory disabilities, and people who do not speak or
read English. [2004]
1.1.2 Psychological effects of fertility problems
1.1.2.1 When couples have fertility problems, both partners should be informed that
stress in the male and/or female partner can affect the couple's relationship
and is likely to reduce libido and frequency of intercourse which can contribute
to the fertility problems. [2004, amended 2013]
1.1.2.2 People who experience fertility problems should be informed that they may find
it helpful to contact a fertility support group. [2004]
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1.1.2.3 People who experience fertility problems should be offered counselling
because fertility problems themselves, and the investigation and treatment of
fertility problems, can cause psychological stress. [2004]
1.1.2.4 Counselling should be offered before, during and after investigation and
treatment, irrespective of the outcome of these procedures. [2004]
1.1.2.5 Counselling should be provided by someone who is not directly involved in the
management of the individual's and/or couple's fertility problems. [2004,
amended 2013]

1.1.3 Generalist and specialist care
1.1.3.1 People who experience fertility problems should be treated by a specialist
team because this is likely to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of
treatment and is known to improve people's satisfaction with treatment. [2004,
amended 2013]

1.2 Initial advice to people concerned about delays in
conception

1.2.1 Chance of conception
1.2.1.1 People who are concerned about their fertility should be informed that over
80% of couples in the general population will conceive within 1 year if:
the woman is aged under 40 years and
they do not use contraception and have regular sexual intercourse.
Of those who do not conceive in the first year, about half will do so in the second
year (cumulative pregnancy rate over 90%). [2004, amended 2013]
1.2.1.2 Inform people who are using artificial insemination to conceive and who are
concerned about their fertility that:
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NICE clinical guideline 156
over 50% of women aged under 40 years will conceive within 6 cycles of
intrauterine insemination (IUI)
of those who do not conceive within 6 cycles of intrauterine insemination, about half
will do so with a further 6 cycles (cumulative pregnancy rate over 75%). [new 2013]
1.2.1.3 Inform people who are using artificial insemination to conceive and who are
concerned about their fertility that using fresh sperm is associated with higher
conception rates than frozen–thawed sperm. However, intrauterine
insemination, even using frozen–thawed sperm, is associated with higher
conception rates than intracervical insemination. [new 2013]
1.2.1.4 Inform people who are concerned about their fertility that female fertility and (to
a lesser extent) male fertility decline with age. [new 2013]
1.2.1.5 Discuss chances of conception with people concerned about their fertility who
are:
having sexual intercourse (see table 1or
using artificial insemination (see table 2). [new 2013]
1.2.2 Frequency and timing of sexual intercourse or artificial insemination
1.2.2.1 People who are concerned about their fertility should be informed that vaginal
sexual intercourse every 2 to 3 days optimises the chance of pregnancy.
[2004, amended 2013]
1.2.2.2 People who are using artificial insemination to conceive should have their
insemination timed around ovulation. [new 2013]
1.2.3 Alcohol
1.2.3.1 Women who are trying to become pregnant should be informed that drinking
no more than 1 or 2 units of alcohol once or twice per week and avoiding
episodes of intoxication reduces the risk of harming a developing fetus. [2004]
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1.2.3.2 Men should be informed that alcohol consumption within the Department of
Health's recommendations of 3 to 4 units per day for men is unlikely to affect
their semen quality. [2004, amended 2013]
1.2.3.3 Men should be informed that excessive alcohol intake is detrimental to semen
quality. [2004]
1.2.4 Smoking
1.2.4.1 Women who smoke should be informed that this is likely to reduce their fertility.
[2004]
1.2.4.2 Women who smoke should be offered referral to a smoking cessation
programme to support their efforts in stopping smoking. [2004]
1.2.4.3 Women should be informed that passive smoking is likely to affect their chance
of conceiving. [2004]
1.2.4.4 Men who smoke should be informed that there is an association between
smoking and reduced semen quality (although the impact of this on male
fertility is uncertain), and that stopping smoking will improve their general
health. [2004]
1.2.5 Caffeinated beverages
1.2.5.1 People who are concerned about their fertility should be informed that there is
no consistent evidence of an association between consumption of caffeinated
beverages (tea, coffee and colas) and fertility problems[1]. [2004]
1.2.6 Obesity
1.2.6.1 Women who have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or over should be informed
that they are likely to take longer to conceive. [2004, amended 2013]
1.2.6.2 Women who have a BMI of 30 or over and who are not ovulating should be
informed that losing weight is likely to increase their chance of conception.
[2004, amended 2013]
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1.2.6.3 Women should be informed that participating in a group programme involving
exercise and dietary advice leads to more pregnancies than weight loss advice
alone. [2004]
1.2.6.4 Men who have a BMI of 30 or over should be informed that they are likely to
have reduced fertility. [2004, amended 2013]
1.2.7 Low body weight
1.2.7.1 Women who have a BMI of less than 19 and who have irregular menstruation
or are not menstruating should be advised that increasing body weight is likely
to improve their chance of conception. [2004]
1.2.8 Tight underwear
1.2.8.1 Men should be informed that there is an association between elevated scrotal
temperature and reduced semen quality, but that it is uncertain whether
wearing loose-fitting underwear improves fertility. [2004]
1.2.9 Occupation
1.2.9.1 Some occupations involve exposure to hazards that can reduce male or
female fertility and therefore a specific enquiry about occupation should be
made to people who are concerned about their fertility and appropriate advice
should be offered. [2004]
1.2.10 Prescribed, over-the-counter and recreational drug use
1.2.10.1 A number of prescription, over-the-counter and recreational drugs interfere
with male and female fertility, and therefore a specific enquiry about these
should be made to people who are concerned about their fertility and
appropriate advice should be offered. [2004]
1.2.11 Complementary therapy
1.2.11.1 People who are concerned about their fertility should be informed that the
effectiveness of complementary therapies for fertility problems has not been
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properly evaluated and that further research is needed before such
interventions can be recommended. [2004]
1.2.12 Folic acid supplementation
1.2.12.1 Women intending to become pregnant should be informed that dietary
supplementation with folic acid before conception and up to 12 weeks'
gestation reduces the risk of having a baby with neural tube defects. The
recommended dose is 0.4 mg per day. For women who have previously had an
infant with a neural tube defect or who are receiving anti-epileptic medication
or who have diabetes (see Diabetes in pregnancy, NICE clinical guideline 63),
a higher dose of 5 mg per day is recommended. [2004, amended 2013]
1.2.13 Defining infertility
1.2.13.1 People who are concerned about delays in conception should be offered an
initial assessment. A specific enquiry about lifestyle and sexual history should
be taken to identify people who are less likely to conceive. [2004]
1.2.13.2 Offer an initial consultation to discuss the options for attempting conception to
people who are unable to, or would find it very difficult to, have vaginal
intercourse. [new 2013]
1.2.13.3 The environment in which investigation of fertility problems takes place should
enable people to discuss sensitive issues such as sexual abuse. [2004]
1.2.13.4 Healthcare professionals should define infertility in practice as the period of
time people have been trying to conceive without success after which formal
investigation is justified and possible treatment implemented. [new 2013]
1.2.13.5 A woman of reproductive age who has not conceived after 1 year of
unprotected vaginal sexual intercourse, in the absence of any known cause of
infertility, should be offered further clinical assessment and investigation along
with her partner. [new 2013]
1.2.13.6 A woman of reproductive age who is using artificial insemination to conceive
(with either partner or donor sperm) should be offered further clinical
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assessment and investigation if she has not conceived after 6 cycles of
treatment, in the absence of any known cause of infertility. Where this is using
partner sperm, the referral for clinical assessment and investigation should
include her partner. [new 2013]
1.2.13.7 Offer an earlier referral for specialist consultation to discuss the options for
attempting conception, further assessment and appropriate treatment where:
the woman is aged 36 years or over
there is a known clinical cause of infertility or a history of predisposing factors for
infertility. [new 2013]
1.2.13.8 Where treatment is planned that may result in infertility (such as treatment for
cancer), early fertility specialist referral should be offered. [2004, amended
2013]

1.2.13.9 People who are concerned about their fertility and who are known to have
chronic viral infections such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C or HIV should be
referred to centres that have appropriate expertise and facilities to provide safe
risk-reduction investigation and treatment. [2004]
1.3 Investigation of fertility problems and management
strategies

1.3.1 Semen analysis
1.3.1.1 The results of semen analysis conducted as part of an initial assessment
should be compared with the following World Health Organization reference
values[2]:
semen volume: 1.5 ml or more
pH: 7.2 or more
sperm concentration: 15 million spermatozoa per ml or more
total sperm number: 39 million spermatozoa per ejaculate or more
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total motility (percentage of progressive motility and non-progressive motility): 40%
or more motile or 32% or more with progressive motility
vitality: 58% or more live spermatozoa
sperm morphology (percentage of normal forms): 4% or more. [2004, amended
2013]

1.3.1.2 Screening for antisperm antibodies should not be offered because there is no
evidence of effective treatment to improve fertility. [2004]
1.3.1.3 If the result of the first semen analysis is abnormal, a repeat confirmatory test
should be offered. [2004]
1.3.1.4 Repeat confirmatory tests should ideally be undertaken 3 months after the
initial analysis to allow time for the cycle of spermatozoa formation to be
completed. However, if a gross spermatozoa deficiency (azoospermia or
severe oligozoospermia) has been detected the repeat test should be
undertaken as soon as possible. [2004]
1.3.2 Post-coital testing of cervical mucus
1.3.2.1 The routine use of post-coital testing of cervical mucus in the investigation of
fertility problems is not recommended because it has no predictive value on
pregnancy rate. [2004]
1.3.3 Ovarian reserve testing
1.3.3.1 Use a woman's age as an initial predictor of her overall chance of success
through natural conception (see figure 1) or with in vitro fertilisation (IVF) (see
figure 2). [new 2013]
1.3.3.2 Use one of the following measures to predict the likely ovarian response to
gonadotrophin stimulation in IVF:
total antral follicle count of less than or equal to 4 for a low response[3] and greater
than 16 for a high response[4]
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anti-Müllerian hormone of less than or equal to 5.4 pmol/l for a low response[5] and
greater than or equal to 25.0 pmol/l for a high response[6]
follicle-stimulating hormone greater than 8.9 IU/l for a low response and less than
4 IU/l for a high response[7][new 2013]
1.3.3.3 Do not use any of the following tests individually to predict any outcome of
fertility treatment:
ovarian volume
ovarian blood flow
inhibin B
oestradiol (E2). [new 2013]
1.3.4 Regularity of menstrual cycles
1.3.4.1 Women who are concerned about their fertility should be asked about the
frequency and regularity of their menstrual cycles. Women with regular monthly
menstrual cycles should be informed that they are likely to be ovulating. [2004]
1.3.4.2 Women who are undergoing investigations for infertility should be offered a
blood test to measure serum progesterone in the mid-luteal phase of their
cycle (day 21 of a 28-day cycle) to confirm ovulation even if they have regular
menstrual cycles. [2004, amended 2013]
1.3.4.3 Women with prolonged irregular menstrual cycles should be offered a blood
test to measure serum progesterone. Depending upon the timing of menstrual
periods, this test may need to be conducted later in the cycle (for example day
28 of a 35-day cycle) and repeated weekly thereafter until the next menstrual
cycle starts. [2004]
1.3.4.4 The use of basal body temperature charts to confirm ovulation does not
reliably predict ovulation and is not recommended. [2004]
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1.3.4.5 Women with irregular menstrual cycles should be offered a blood test to
measure serum gonadotrophins (follicle-stimulating hormone and luteinising
hormone). [2004]
1.3.5 Prolactin measurement
1.3.5.1 Women who are concerned about their fertility should not be offered a blood
test to measure prolactin. This test should only be offered to women who have
an ovulatory disorder, galactorrhoea or a pituitary tumour. [2004]
1.3.6 Thyroid function tests
1.3.6.1 Women with possible fertility problems are no more likely than the general
population to have thyroid disease and the routine measurement of thyroid
function should not be offered. Estimation of thyroid function should be
confined to women with symptoms of thyroid disease. [2004]
1.3.7 Endometrial biopsy
1.3.7.1 Women should not be offered an endometrial biopsy to evaluate the luteal
phase as part of the investigation of fertility problems because there is no
evidence that medical treatment of luteal phase defect improves pregnancy
rates. [2004]
1.3.8 Investigation of suspected tubal and uterine abnormalities
1.3.8.1 Women who are not known to have comorbidities (such as pelvic inflammatory
disease, previous ectopic pregnancy or endometriosis) should be offered
hysterosalpingography (HSG) to screen for tubal occlusion because this is a
reliable test for ruling out tubal occlusion, and it is less invasive and makes
more efficient use of resources than laparoscopy. [2004]
1.3.8.2 Where appropriate expertise is available, screening for tubal occlusion using
hysterosalpingo-contrast-ultrasonography should be considered because it is
an effective alternative to hysterosalpingography for women who are not
known to have comorbidities. [2004]
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1.3.8.3 Women who are thought to have comorbidities should be offered laparoscopy
and dye so that tubal and other pelvic pathology can be assessed at the same
time. [2004]
1.3.8.4 Women should not be offered hysteroscopy on its own as part of the initial
investigation unless clinically indicated because the effectiveness of surgical
treatment of uterine abnormalities on improving pregnancy rates has not been
established. [2004]
1.3.9 Testing for viral status
1.3.9.1 People undergoing IVF treatment should be offered testing for HIV, hepatitis B
and hepatitis C (for donor insemination see recommendation 1.14.3.1). [2004,
amended 2013]

1.3.9.2 People found to test positive for one or more of HIV, hepatitis B, or hepatitis C
should be offered specialist advice and counselling and appropriate clinical
management. [2004, amended 2013]
1.3.10 Viral transmission
1.3.10.1 For couples where the man is HIV positive, any decision about fertility
management should be the result of discussions between the couple, a fertility
specialist and an HIV specialist. [new 2013]
1.3.10.2 Advise couples where the man is HIV positive that the risk of HIV transmission
to the female partner is negligible through unprotected sexual intercourse
when all of the following criteria are met:
the man is compliant with highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART)
the man has had a plasma viral load of less than 50 copies/ml for more than
6 months
there are no other infections present
unprotected intercourse is limited to the time of ovulation. [new 2013]
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1.3.10.3 Advise couples that if all the criteria in recommendation 1.3.10.2 are met,
sperm washing may not further reduce the risk of infection and may reduce the
likelihood of pregnancy. [new 2013]
1.3.10.4 For couples where the man is HIV positive and either he is not compliant with
HAART or his plasma viral load is 50 copies/ml or greater, offer sperm
washing. [new 2013]
1.3.10.5 Inform couples that sperm washing reduces, but does not eliminate, the risk of
HIV transmission. [new 2013]
1.3.10.6 If couples who meet all the criteria in recommendation 1.3.10.2 still perceive an
unacceptable risk of HIV transmission after discussion with their HIV specialist,
consider sperm washing. [new 2013]
1.3.10.7 Inform couples that there is insufficient evidence to recommend that HIV
negative women use pre-exposure prophylaxis, when all the criteria in
recommendation 1.3.10.2 are met. [new 2013]
1.3.10.8 For partners of people with hepatitis B, offer vaccination before starting fertility
treatment. [new 2013]
1.3.10.9 Do not offer sperm washing as part of fertility treatment for men with
hepatitis B. [new 2013]
1.3.10.10For couples where the man has hepatitis C, any decision about fertility
management should be the result of discussions between the couple, a fertility
specialist and a hepatitis specialist. [new 2013]
1.3.10.11Advise couples who want to conceive and where the man has hepatitis C that
the risk of transmission through unprotected sexual intercourse is thought to be
low. [new 2013]
1.3.10.12Men with hepatitis C should discuss treatment options to eradicate the
hepatitis C with their appropriate specialist before conception is considered.
[new 2013]
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1.3.11 Susceptibility to rubella
1.3.11.1 Women who are concerned about their fertility should be offered testing for
their rubella status so that those who are susceptible to rubella can be offered
vaccination. Women who are susceptible to rubella should be offered
vaccination and advised not to become pregnant for at least 1 month following
vaccination. [2004, amended 2013]
1.3.12 Cervical cancer screening
1.3.12.1 To avoid delay in fertility treatment a specific enquiry about the timing and
result of the most recent cervical smear test should be made to women who
are concerned about their fertility. Cervical screening should be offered in
accordance with the national cervical screening programme guidance. [2004]
1.3.13 Screening for Chlamydia trachomatis
1.3.13.1 Before undergoing uterine instrumentation women should be offered screening
for Chlamydia trachomatis using an appropriately sensitive technique. [2004]
1.3.13.2 If the result of a test for Chlamydia trachomatis is positive, women and their
sexual partners should be referred for appropriate management with treatment
and contact tracing. [2004]
1.3.13.3 Prophylactic antibiotics should be considered before uterine instrumentation if
screening has not been carried out. [2004]
1.4 Medical and surgical management of male factor fertility
problems

1.4.1 Medical management (male factor infertility)
1.4.1.1 Men with hypogonadotrophic hypogonadism should be offered gonadotrophin
drugs because these are effective in improving fertility. [2004]
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1.4.1.2 Men with idiopathic semen abnormalities should not be offered anti-
oestrogens, gonadotrophins, androgens, bromocriptine or kinin-enhancing
drugs because they have not been shown to be effective. [2004]
1.4.1.3 Men should be informed that the significance of antisperm antibodies is
unclear and the effectiveness of systemic corticosteroids is uncertain. [2004]
1.4.1.4 Men with leucocytes in their semen should not be offered antibiotic treatment
unless there is an identified infection because there is no evidence that this
improves pregnancy rates. [2004]
1.4.2 Surgical management (male factor infertility)
1.4.2.1 Where appropriate expertise is available, men with obstructive azoospermia
should be offered surgical correction of epididymal blockage because it is likely
to restore patency of the duct and improve fertility. Surgical correction should
be considered as an alternative to surgical sperm recovery and IVF. [2004]
1.4.2.2 Men should not be offered surgery for varicoceles as a form of fertility
treatment because it does not improve pregnancy rates. [2004]
1.4.3 Management of ejaculatory failure
1.4.3.1 Treatment of ejaculatory failure can restore fertility without the need for
invasive methods of sperm retrieval or the use of assisted reproduction
procedures. However, further evaluation of different treatment options is
needed. [2004]
1.5 Ovulation disorders
Classification of ovulatory disorders
The World Health Organization classifies ovulation disorders into 3 groups.
Group I: hypothalamic pituitary failure (hypothalamic amenorrhoea or hypogonadotrophic
hypogonadism).
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Group II: hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian dysfunction (predominately polycystic ovary
syndrome).
Group III: ovarian failure.
1.5.1 WHO Group I ovulation disorders
1.5.1.1 Advise women with WHO Group I anovulatory infertility that they can improve
their chance of regular ovulation, conception and an uncomplicated pregnancy
by:
increasing their body weight if they have a BMI of less than 19 and/or
moderating their exercise levels if they undertake high levels of exercise. [new
2013]

1.5.1.2 Offer women with WHO Group I ovulation disorders pulsatile administration of
gonadotrophin-releasing hormone or gonadotrophins with luteinising hormone
activity to induce ovulation. [2013]
1.5.2 WHO Group II ovulation disorders
In women with WHO Group II ovulation disorders receiving first-line
treatment for ovarian stimulation:

1.5.2.1 Advise women with WHO Group II anovulatory infertility who have a BMI of 30
or over to lose weight (see recommendation 1.2.6.3). Inform them that this
alone may restore ovulation, improve their response to ovulation induction
agents, and have a positive impact on pregnancy outcomes. [new 2013]
1.5.2.2 Offer women with WHO Group II anovulatory infertility one of the following
treatments, taking into account potential adverse effects, ease and mode of
use, the woman's BMI, and monitoring needed:
clomifene citrate or
metformin[8]or
a combination of the above. [new 2013]
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1.5.2.3 For women who are taking clomifene citrate, offer ultrasound monitoring during
at least the first cycle of treatment to ensure that they are taking a dose that
minimises the risk of multiple pregnancy. [2013]
1.5.2.4 For women who are taking clomifene citrate, do not continue treatment for
longer than 6 months. [new 2013]
1.5.2.5 Women prescribed metformin[8] should be informed of the side effects
associated with its use (such as nausea, vomiting and other gastrointestinal
disturbances). [2004]
In women with WHO Group II ovulation disorders who are known to be
resistant to clomifene citrate:

1.5.2.6 For women with WHO Group II ovulation disorders who are known to be
resistant to clomifene citrate, consider one of the following second-line
treatments, depending on clinical circumstances and the woman's preference:
laparoscopic ovarian drilling or
combined treatment with clomifene citrate and metformin[8] if not already offered as
first-line treatment or
gonadotrophins. [new 2013]
1.5.2.7 Women with polycystic ovary syndrome who are being treated with
gonadotrophins should not be offered treatment with gonadotrophin-releasing
hormone agonist concomitantly because it does not improve pregnancy rates,
and it is associated with an increased risk of ovarian hyperstimulation. [2004]
1.5.2.8 The use of adjuvant growth hormone treatment with gonadotrophin-releasing
hormone agonist and/or human menopausal gonadotrophin during ovulation
induction in women with polycystic ovary syndrome who do not respond to
clomifene citrate is not recommended because it does not improve pregnancy
rates. [2004]
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1.5.2.9 The effectiveness of pulsatile gonadotrophin-releasing hormone in women with
clomifene citrate-resistant polycystic ovary syndrome is uncertain and is
therefore not recommended outside a research context. [2004]
1.5.3 Hyperprolactinaemic amenorrhoea – dopamine agonists
1.5.3.1 Women with ovulatory disorders due to hyperprolactinaemia should be offered
treatment with dopamine agonists such as bromocriptine. Consideration should
be given to safety for use in pregnancy and minimising cost when prescribing.
[2004]
1.5.4 Monitoring ovulation induction during gonadotrophin therapy
1.5.4.1 Women who are offered ovulation induction with gonadotrophins should be
informed about the risk of multiple pregnancy and ovarian hyperstimulation
before starting treatment. [2004]
1.5.4.2 Ovarian ultrasound monitoring to measure follicular size and number should be
an integral part of gonadotrophin therapy to reduce the risk of multiple
pregnancy and ovarian hyperstimulation. [2004]
1.6 Tubal and uterine surgery
1.6.1 Tubal microsurgery and laparoscopic tubal surgery
1.6.1.1 For women with mild tubal disease, tubal surgery may be more effective than
no treatment. In centres where appropriate expertise is available it may be
considered as a treatment option. [2004]
1.6.2 Tubal catheterisation or cannulation
1.6.2.1 For women with proximal tubal obstruction, selective salpingography plus tubal
catheterisation, or hysteroscopic tubal cannulation, may be treatment options
because these treatments improve the chance of pregnancy. [2004]
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1.6.3 Surgery for hydrosalpinges before in vitro fertilisation treatment
1.6.3.1 Women with hydrosalpinges should be offered salpingectomy, preferably by
laparoscopy, before IVF treatment because this improves the chance of a live
birth. [2004]
1.6.4 Uterine surgery
1.6.4.1 Women with amenorrhoea who are found to have intrauterine adhesions
should be offered hysteroscopic adhesiolysis because this is likely to restore
menstruation and improve the chance of pregnancy. [2004]
1.7 Medical and surgical management of endometriosis
1.7.1 Medical management (ovarian suppression) of endometriosis
1.7.1.1 Medical treatment of minimal and mild endometriosis diagnosed as the cause
of infertility in women does not enhance fertility and should not be offered.
[2004, amended 2013]
1.7.2 Surgical ablation
1.7.2.1 Women with minimal or mild endometriosis who undergo laparoscopy should
be offered surgical ablation or resection of endometriosis plus laparoscopic
adhesiolysis because this improves the chance of pregnancy. [2004]
1.7.2.2 Women with ovarian endometriomas should be offered laparoscopic
cystectomy because this improves the chance of pregnancy. [2004]
1.7.2.3 Women with moderate or severe endometriosis should be offered surgical
treatment because it improves the chance of pregnancy. [2004]
1.7.2.4 Post-operative medical treatment does not improve pregnancy rates in women
with moderate to severe endometriosis and is not recommended. [2004]
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1.8 Unexplained infertility
1.8.1 Ovarian stimulation for unexplained infertility
1.8.1.1 Do not offer oral ovarian stimulation agents (such as clomifene citrate,
anastrozole or letrozole) to women with unexplained infertility. [new 2013]
1.8.1.2 Inform women with unexplained infertility that clomifene citrate as a stand-
alone treatment does not increase the chances of a pregnancy or a live birth.
[new 2013]
1.8.1.3 Advise women with unexplained infertility who are having regular unprotected
sexual intercourse to try to conceive for a total of 2 years (this can include up
to 1 year before their fertility investigations) before IVF will be considered.
[new 2013]
1.8.1.4 Offer IVF treatment (see recommendations 1.11.1.3–4) to women with
unexplained infertility who have not conceived after 2 years (this can include
up to 1 year before their fertility investigations) of regular unprotected sexual
intercourse. [new 2013]
1.9 Intrauterine insemination
1.9.1 Intrauterine insemination
1.9.1.1 Consider unstimulated intrauterine insemination as a treatment option in the
following groups as an alternative to vaginal sexual intercourse:
people who are unable to, or would find it very difficult to, have vaginal intercourse
because of a clinically diagnosed physical disability or psychosexual problem who
are using partner or donor sperm
people with conditions that require specific consideration in relation to methods of
conception (for example, after sperm washing where the man is HIV positive)
people in same-sex relationships. [new 2013]
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1.9.1.2 For people in recommendation 1.9.1.1 who have not conceived after 6 cycles
of donor or partner insemination, despite evidence of normal ovulation, tubal
patency and semenalysis, offer a further 6 cycles of unstimulated intrauterine
insemination before IVF is considered. [new 2013]
1.9.1.3 For people with unexplained infertility, mild endometriosis or 'mild male factor
infertility', who are having regular unprotected sexual intercourse:
do not routinely offer intrauterine insemination, either with or without ovarian
stimulation (exceptional circumstances include, for example, when people have
social, cultural or religious objections to IVF)
advise them to try to conceive for a total of 2 years (this can include up to 1 year
before their fertility investigations) before IVF will be considered. [new 2013]
1.10 Prediction of IVF success
1.10.1 Female age
1.10.1.1 Inform women that the chance of a live birth following IVF treatment falls with
rising female age (see figure 2). [2013]
1.10.2 Number of previous treatment cycles
1.10.2.1 Inform people that the overall chance of a live birth following IVF treatment falls
as the number of unsuccessful cycles increases. [new 2013]
1.10.3 Previous pregnancy history
1.10.3.1 People should be informed that IVF treatment is more effective in women who
have previously been pregnant and/or had a live birth. [2004, amended 2013]
1.10.4 Body mass index
1.10.4.1 Women should be informed that female BMI should ideally be in the range
19–30 before commencing assisted reproduction, and that a female BMI
outside this range is likely to reduce the success of assisted reproduction
procedures. [2004]
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1.10.5 Lifestyle factors
1.10.5.1 People should be informed that the consumption of more than 1 unit of alcohol
per day reduces the effectiveness of assisted reproduction procedures,
including IVF. [2004, amended 2013]
1.10.5.2 People should be informed that maternal and paternal smoking can adversely
affect the success rates of assisted reproduction procedures, including IVF
treatment. [2004, amended 2013]
1.10.5.3 People should be informed that maternal caffeine consumption has adverse
effects on the success rates of assisted reproduction procedures, including IVF
treatment. [2004, amended 2013]
1.11 Access criteria for IVF
1.11.1 Criteria for referral for IVF
1.11.1.1 When considering IVF as a treatment option for people with fertility problems,
discuss the risks and benefits of IVF in accordance with the current Human
Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) Code of Practice
[new 2013]
1.11.1.2 Inform people that normally a full cycle of IVF treatment, with or without
intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), should comprise 1 episode of ovarian
stimulation and the transfer of any resultant fresh and frozen embryo(s). [new
2013]

1.11.1.3 In women aged under 40 years who have not conceived after 2 years of
regular unprotected intercourse or 12 cycles of artificial insemination (where 6
or more are by intrauterine insemination), offer 3 full cycles of IVF, with or
without ICSI. If the woman reaches the age of 40 during treatment, complete
the current full cycle but do not offer further full cycles. [new 2013]
1.11.1.4 In women aged 40–42 years who have not conceived after 2 years of regular
unprotected intercourse or 12 cycles of artificial insemination (where 6 or more
are by intrauterine insemination), offer 1 full cycle of IVF, with or without ICSI,
provided the following 3 criteria are fulfilled:
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they have never previously had IVF treatment
there is no evidence of low ovarian reserve (see recommendation 1.3.3.2)
there has been a discussion of the additional implications of IVF and pregnancy at
this age. [new 2013]
1.11.1.5 Where investigations show there is no chance of pregnancy with expectant
management and where IVF is the only effective treatment, refer the woman
directly to a specialist team for IVF treatment. [new 2013]
1.11.1.6 In women aged under 40 years any previous full IVF cycle, whether self- or
NHS-funded, should count towards the total of 3 full cycles that should be
offered by the NHS. [new 2013]
1.11.1.7 Take into account the outcome of previous IVF treatment when assessing the
likely effectiveness and safety of any further IVF treatment. [new 2013]
1.11.1.8 Healthcare providers should define a cancelled IVF cycle as one where an egg
collection procedure is not undertaken. However, cancelled cycles due to low
ovarian reserve should be taken into account when considering suitability for
further IVF treatment. [new 2013]
1.12 Procedures used during IVF treatment
1.12.1 Pre-treatment in IVF
1.12.1.1 Advise women that using pre-treatment (with either the oral contraceptive pill
or a progestogen) as part of IVF does not affect the chances of having a live
birth. [new 2013]
1.12.1.2 Consider pre-treatment in order to schedule IVF treatment for women who are
not undergoing long down-regulation protocols. [new 2013]
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1.12.2 Down regulation and other regimens to avoid premature luteinising
hormone surges in IVF

1.12.2.1 Use regimens to avoid premature luteinising hormone surges in
gonadotrophin-stimulated IVF treatment cycles. [new 2013]
1.12.2.2 Use either gonadotrophin-releasing hormone agonist down-regulation or
gonadotrophin-releasing hormone antagonists as part of gonadotrophin-
stimulated IVF treatment cycles. [new 2013]
1.12.2.3 Only offer gonadotrophin-releasing hormone agonists to women who have a
low risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. [new 2013]
1.12.2.4 When using gonadotrophin-releasing hormone agonists as part of IVF
treatment, use a long down-regulation protocol. [new 2013]
1.12.3 Controlled ovarian stimulation in IVF
1.12.3.1 Use ovarian stimulation as part of IVF treatment. [new 2013]
1.12.3.2 Use either urinary or recombinant gonadotrophins for ovarian stimulation as
part of IVF treatment. [new 2013]
1.12.3.3 When using gonadotrophins for ovarian stimulation in IVF treatment:
use an individualised starting dose of follicle-stimulating hormone, based on factors
that predict success, such as:
age
BMI
presence of polycystic ovaries
ovarian reserve
do not use a dosage of follicle-stimulating hormone of more than 450 IU/day. [new
2013]

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1.12.3.4 Offer women ultrasound monitoring (with or without oestradiol levels) for
efficacy and safety throughout ovarian stimulation. [new 2013]
1.12.3.5 Inform women that clomifene citrate-stimulated and gonadotrophin-stimulated
IVF cycles have higher pregnancy rates per cycle than 'natural cycle' IVF.
[2013]
1.12.3.6 Do not offer women 'natural cycle' IVF treatment. [2013]
1.12.3.7 Do not use growth hormone or dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) as adjuvant
treatment in IVF protocols. [new 2013]
1.12.4 Triggering ovulation in IVF
1.12.4.1 Offer women human chorionic gonadotrophin (urinary or recombinant) to
trigger ovulation in IVF treatment. [new 2013]
1.12.4.2 Offer ultrasound monitoring of ovarian response as an integral part of the IVF
treatment cycle. [2013]
1.12.4.3 Clinics providing ovarian stimulation with gonadotrophins should have
protocols in place for preventing, diagnosing and managing ovarian
hyperstimulation syndrome. [2004]
1.12.5 Oocyte and sperm retrieval in IVF
1.12.5.1 Women undergoing transvaginal retrieval of oocytes should be offered
conscious sedation because it is a safe and acceptable method of providing
analgesia. [2004]
1.12.5.2 The safe practice of administering sedative drugs published by the Academy of
Medical Royal Colleges should be followed. [2004]
1.12.5.3 Women who have developed at least 3 follicles before oocyte retrieval should
not be offered follicle flushing because this procedure does not increase the
numbers of oocytes retrieved or pregnancy rates, and it increases the duration
of oocyte retrieval and associated pain. [2004]
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1.12.5.4 Surgical sperm recovery before ICSI may be performed using several different
techniques depending on the pathology and wishes of the man. In all cases,
facilities for cryopreservation of spermatozoa should be available. [2004]
1.12.5.5 Assisted hatching is not recommended because it has not been shown to
improve pregnancy rates. [2004]
1.12.6 Embryo transfer strategies in IVF
1.12.6.1 Women undergoing IVF treatment should be offered ultrasound-guided embryo
transfer because this improves pregnancy rates. [2004]
1.12.6.2 Replacement of embryos into a uterine cavity with an endometrium of less than
5 mm thickness is unlikely to result in a pregnancy and is therefore not
recommended. [2004]
1.12.6.3 Women should be informed that bed rest of more than 20 minutes' duration
following embryo transfer does not improve the outcome of IVF treatment.
[2004]
1.12.6.4 Evaluate embryo quality, at both cleavage and blastocyst stages, according to
the Association of Clinical Embryologists (ACE) and UK National External
Quality Assessment Service (UK NEQAS) for Reproductive Science Embryo
and Blastocyst Grading schematic (see figure 3). [new 2013]
1.12.6.5 When considering the number of fresh or frozen embryos to transfer in IVF
treatment:
For women aged under 37 years:
In the first full IVF cycle use single embryo transfer.
In the second full IVF cycle use single embryo transfer if 1 or more top-quality
embryos are available. Consider using 2 embryos if no top-quality embryos
are available.
In the third full IVF cycle transfer no more than 2 embryos.
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For women aged 37–39 years:
In the first and second full IVF cycles use single embryo transfer if there are 1
or more top-quality embryos. Consider double embryo transfer if there are no
top-quality embryos.
In the third full IVF cycle transfer no more than 2 embryos.
For women aged 40–42 years consider double embryo transfer. [new 2013]
1.12.6.6 For women undergoing IVF treatment with donor eggs, use an embryo transfer
strategy that is based on the age of the donor. [new 2013]
1.12.6.7 No more than 2 embryos should be transferred during any one cycle of IVF
treatment. [2013]
1.12.6.8 Where a top-quality blastocyst is available, use single embryo transfer. [new
2013]
1.12.6.9 When considering double embryo transfer, advise people of the risks of
multiple pregnancy associated with this strategy. [new 2013]
1.12.6.10Offer cryopreservation to store any remaining good-quality embryos after
embryo transfer. [new 2013]
1.12.6.11Advise women who have regular ovulatory cycles that the likelihood of a live
birth after replacement of frozen–thawed embryos is similar for embryos
replaced during natural cycles and hormone-supplemented cycles. [2013]
1.12.7 Luteal phase support after IVF
1.12.7.1 Offer women progesterone for luteal phase support after IVF treatment. [new
2013]
1.12.7.2 Do not routinely offer women human chorionic gonadotrophin for luteal phase
support after IVF treatment because of the increased likelihood of ovarian
hyperstimulation syndrome. [2013]
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1.12.7.3 Inform women undergoing IVF treatment that the evidence does not support
continuing any form of treatment for luteal phase support beyond 8 weeks'
gestation. [new 2013]
1.12.8 Gamete intrafallopian transfer and zygote intrafallopian transfer
1.12.8.1 There is insufficient evidence to recommend the use of gamete intrafallopian
transfer or zygote intrafallopian transfer in preference to IVF in couples with
unexplained fertility problems or male factor fertility problems. [2004]
1.13 Intracytoplasmic sperm injection
1.13.1 Indications for intracytoplasmic sperm injection
1.13.1.1 The recognised indications for treatment by ICSI include:
severe deficits in semen quality
obstructive azoospermia
non-obstructive azoospermia.
In addition, treatment by ICSI should be considered for couples in whom a previous
IVF treatment cycle has resulted in failed or very poor fertilisation. [2004]
1.13.2 Genetic issues and counselling
1.13.2.1 Before considering treatment by ICSI, people should undergo appropriate
investigations, both to establish a diagnosis and to enable informed discussion
about the implications of treatment. [2004, amended 2013]
1.13.2.2 Before treatment by ICSI consideration should be given to relevant genetic
issues. [2004]
1.13.2.3 Where a specific genetic defect associated with male infertility is known or
suspected couples should be offered appropriate genetic counselling and
testing. [2004]
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1.13.2.4 Where the indication for ICSI is a severe deficit of semen quality or non-
obstructive azoospermia, the man's karyotype should be established. [2004]
1.13.2.5 Men who are undergoing karyotype testing should be offered genetic
counselling regarding the genetic abnormalities that may be detected. [2004]
1.13.2.6 Testing for Y chromosome microdeletions should not be regarded as a routine
investigation before ICSI. However, it is likely that a significant proportion of
male infertility results from abnormalities of genes on the Y chromosome
involved in the regulation of spermatogenesis, and couples should be informed
of this. [2004]
1.13.3 Intracytoplasmic sperm injection versus IVF
1.13.3.1 Couples should be informed that ICSI improves fertilisation rates compared to
IVF alone, but once fertilisation is achieved the pregnancy rate is no better
than with IVF. [2004]
1.14 Donor insemination
1.14.1 Indications for donor insemination
1.14.1.1 The use of donor insemination is considered effective in managing fertility
problems associated with the following conditions:
obstructive azoospermia
non-obstructive azoospermia
severe deficits in semen quality in couples who do not wish to undergo ICSI. [2004,
amended 2013]

1.14.1.2 Donor insemination should be considered in conditions such as:
where there is a high risk of transmitting a genetic disorder to the offspring
where there is a high risk of transmitting infectious disease to the offspring or
woman from the man
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severe rhesus isoimmunisation. [2004, amended 2013]
1.14.2 Information and counselling
1.14.2.1 Couples should be offered information about the relative merits of ICSI and
donor insemination in a context that allows equal access to both treatment
options. [2004]
1.14.2.2 Couples considering donor insemination should be offered counselling from
someone who is independent of the treatment unit regarding all the physical
and psychological implications of treatment for themselves and potential
children. [2004]
1.14.3 Screening of sperm donors
1.14.3.1 Units undertaking semen donor recruitment and the cryopreservation of donor
spermatozoa for treatment purposes should follow the 'UK guidelines for the
medical and laboratory screening of sperm, egg and embryo donors' (2008)[9]
describing the selection and screening of donors. [2004, amended 2013]
1.14.3.2 All potential semen donors should be offered counselling from someone who is
independent of the treatment unit regarding the implications for themselves
and their genetic children, including any potential children resulting from
donated semen. [2004]
1.14.4 Assessments to offer the woman
1.14.4.1 Before starting treatment by donor insemination (for conditions listed in
recommendations 1.14.1.1 and 1.14.1.2) it is important to confirm that the
woman is ovulating. Women with a history that is suggestive of tubal damage
should be offered tubal assessment before treatment. [2004, amended 2013]
1.14.4.2 Women with no risk factors in their history should be offered tubal assessment
after 3 cycles if treatment by donor insemination (for conditions listed in
recommendations 1.14.1.1 and 1.14.1.2) has been unsuccessful. [2004,
amended 2013]

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1.14.5 Intrauterine insemination versus intracervical insemination
1.14.5.1 Couples using donor sperm should be offered intrauterine insemination in
preference to intracervical insemination because it improves pregnancy rates.
[2004]
1.14.6 Unstimulated versus stimulated donor insemination
1.14.6.1 Women who are ovulating regularly should be offered a minimum of 6 cycles of
donor insemination (for conditions listed in recommendations 1.14.1.1 and
1.14.1.2
) without ovarian stimulation to reduce the risk of multiple pregnancy
and its consequences. [2004, amended 2013]
1.15 Oocyte donation
1.15.1 Indications for oocyte donation
1.15.1.1 The use of donor oocytes is considered effective in managing fertility problems
associated with the following conditions:
premature ovarian failure
gonadal dysgenesis including Turner syndrome
bilateral oophorectomy
ovarian failure following chemotherapy or radiotherapy
certain cases of IVF treatment failure.
Oocyte donation should also be considered in certain cases where there is a high risk of
transmitting a genetic disorder to the offspring. [2004]
1.15.2 Screening of oocyte donors
1.15.2.1 Before donation is undertaken, oocyte donors should be screened for both
infectious and genetic diseases in accordance with the 'UK guidelines for the
medical and laboratory screening of sperm, egg and embryo donors' (2008)[10].
[2004, amended 2013]
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1.15.3 Oocyte donation and 'egg sharing'
1.15.3.1 Oocyte donors should be offered information regarding the potential risks of
ovarian stimulation and oocyte collection. [2004]
1.15.3.2 Oocyte recipients and donors should be offered counselling from someone
who is independent of the treatment unit regarding the physical and
psychological implications of treatment for themselves and their genetic
children, including any potential children resulting from donated oocytes.
[2004]
1.15.3.3 All people considering participation in an 'egg-sharing' scheme should be
counselled about its particular implications. [2004]
1.16 People with cancer who wish to preserve fertility
1.16.1 Cryopreservation of semen, oocytes and embryos
1.16.1.1 When considering and using cryopreservation for people before starting
chemotherapy or radiotherapy that is likely to affect their fertility, follow
recommendations in 'The effects of cancer treatment on reproductive functions'
(2007)[10]. [2013]
1.16.1.2 At diagnosis, the impact of the cancer and its treatment on future fertility
should be discussed between the person diagnosed with cancer and their
cancer team. [new 2013]
1.16.1.3 When deciding to offer fertility preservation to people diagnosed with cancer,
take into account the following factors:
diagnosis
treatment plan
expected outcome of subsequent fertility treatment
prognosis of the cancer treatment
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viability of stored/post-thawed material. [new 2013]
1.16.1.4 For cancer-related fertility preservation, do not apply the eligibility criteria used
for conventional infertility treatment. [new 2013]
1.16.1.5 Do not use a lower age limit for cryopreservation for fertility preservation in
people diagnosed with cancer. [new 2013]
1.16.1.6 Inform people diagnosed with cancer that the eligibility criteria used in
conventional infertility treatment do not apply in the case of fertility
cryopreservation provided by the NHS. However, those criteria will apply when
it comes to using stored material for assisted conception in an NHS setting.
[new 2013]
1.16.1.7 When using cryopreservation to preserve fertility in people diagnosed with
cancer, use sperm, embryos or oocyctes. [new 2013]
1.16.1.8 Offer sperm cryopreservation to men and adolescent boys who are preparing
for medical treatment for cancer that is likely to make them infertile. [new
2013]

1.16.1.9 Use freezing in liquid nitrogen vapour as the preferred cryopreservation
technique for sperm. [new 2013]
1.16.1.10Offer oocyte or embryo cryopreservation as appropriate to women of
reproductive age (including adolescent girls) who are preparing for medical
treatment for cancer that is likely to make them infertile if:
they are well enough to undergo ovarian stimulation and egg collection and
this will not worsen their condition and
enough time is available before the start of their cancer treatment. [new 2013]
1.16.1.11In cryopreservation of oocytes and embryos, use vitrification instead of
controlled-rate freezing if the necessary equipment and expertise is available.
[new 2013]
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1.16.1.12Store cryopreserved material for an initial period of 10 years. [new 2013]
1.16.1.13Offer continued storage of cryopreserved sperm, beyond 10 years, to men who
remain at risk of significant infertility. [new 2013]
1.17 Long-term safety of assisted reproductive technologies
for women with infertility and their children

1.17.1 Long-term health outcomes of ovulation induction and ovarian
stimulation

1.17.1.1 Give people who are considering ovulation induction or ovarian stimulation up-
to-date information about the long-term health outcomes of these treatments.
[new 2013].
1.17.1.2 Inform women who are offered ovulation induction or ovarian stimulation that:
no direct association has been found between these treatments and invasive cancer
and
no association has been found in the short- to medium-term between these
treatments and adverse outcomes (including cancer) in children born from ovulation
induction and
information about long-term health outcomes in women and children is still awaited.
[new 2013]
1.17.1.3 Limit the use of ovulation induction or ovarian stimulation agents to the lowest
effective dose and duration of use. [new 2013]
1.17.2 Long-term health outcomes and safety of IVF
1.17.2.1 Give people who are considering IVF treatment, with or without ICSI, up-to-
date information about the long-term health outcomes (including the
consequences of multiple pregnancy) of these treatments. [new 2013]
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1.17.2.2 Inform women that while the absolute risks of long-term adverse outcomes of
IVF treatment, with or without ICSI, are low, a small increased risk of borderline
ovarian tumours cannot be excluded. [new 2013]
1.17.2.3 Inform people who are considering IVF treatment that the absolute risks of
long-term adverse outcomes in children born as result of IVF are low. [new
2013]

1.17.2.4 Limit drugs used for controlled ovarian stimulation in IVF treatment to the
lowest effective dose and duration of use. [new 2013]
[1] Also see recommendation 1.10.5.3 about caffeine intake and IVF treatment.
[2] Please note the reference ranges are only valid for the semen analysis tests outlined by the
World Health Organization.
[3] Follicles of ≤5 mm measured by transvaginal ultrasound on day 3 of cycle: low response was
<4 oocytes.
[4] Follicles of 2–10 mm measured by transvaginal ultrasound on day 3 of cycle: high response
was ≥15 oocytes or ≥20 oocytes.
[5] Beckman Coulter assay: poor response defined as <4 oocytes or cancellation.
[6] Beckman Coulter or DSL assays: defined high response as ≥15 oocytes to >21 oocytes.
[7] Long protocol of down-regulation: low response defined as <4 oocytes or cancellation; high
response defined as >20 oocytes.
[8] At the time of publication (February 2013), metformin did not have a UK marketing
authorisation for this indication. The prescriber should follow relevant professional guidance,
taking full responsibility for the decision. The patient should provide informed consent, which
should be documented. See the General Medical Council's Good practice in prescribing
medicines – guidance for doctors 
for further information.
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[9] This recommendation has been updated to reflect a new guideline issued by the joint working
party of Association of Biomedical Andrologists (ABA), Association of Clinical Embryologists
(ACE), British Andrology Society (BAS), British Fertility Society (BFS) and Royal College of
Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG).
[10] Royal College of Physicians, The Royal College of Radiologists, Royal College of Obstetricians
and Gynaecologists. (2007) The effects of cancer treatment on reproductive functions: guidance
on management. Report of a Working Party. London: RCP.
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2 Research recommendations
The Guideline Development Group has made the following recommendations for research,
based on its review of evidence, to improve NICE guidance and patient care in the future. The
Guideline Development Group's full set of research recommendations is detailed in the full
guideline
.
2.1 Expectant management before IVF
What is the optimum period of expectant management for women of different age groups before
invasive treatment such as IVF is considered?
Why this is important
Where there is no known cause for infertility, expectant management increases the cumulative
chances of successful conception. However, the chances of a live birth both by natural
conception and by using assisted reproductive technology decline with advancing age because
of a woman's decreasing ovarian reserve. The guideline currently recommends a shorter period
of expectant management for women who are 36 years or older. This is a very crude cut-off. If
there were better evidence it might be possible to customise the period of expectant
management based on a woman's age, including longer periods of expectant management for
younger women.
2.2 Embryo selection for single embryo transfer
Further research is needed to improve embryo selection to facilitate single embryo transfers.
Why this is important
In current IVF practice it is common to transfer more than 1 embryo in order to maximise the
chance of pregnancy. As detailed in the guideline, this practice has inherent risks, especially of
multiple pregnancy. Embryo selection is based on the assessment of developmental stage and
morphological grading criteria in the laboratory. These features are indicative of implantation
potential, though the predictive accuracy is relatively poor. However, if prediction of implantation
potential could be improved, this would facilitate embryo selection for single rather than double
embryo transfer.
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2.3 Adjuvant luteal phase support treatments in IVF
Further research is needed to assess the efficacy of adjuvant luteal phase support treatments
such as low-dose aspirin, heparin, prednisolone, immunoglobulins and/or fat emulsions.
Why this is important
These interventions are starting to be used in clinical practice in the absence of any RCT
evidence of benefit, and even where there is RCT evidence of no benefit. Their use has potential
dangers to the treated women. In cases where women are advised to continue taking the
preparations until the end of the first trimester there is the additional potential for teratogenicity.
Immunoglobulins are also very expensive. It is important that the clinical efficacy of these agents
is formally established so that clear statements about whether they should be recommended or
are contraindicated can be made.
2.4 Long-term safety of ovarian stimulation and ovulation
induction for women

Is there an association between ovulation induction or ovarian stimulation and adverse long-term
(over 20 years) effects in women in the UK?
Why this is important
Women need to be reassured that it is safe to undergo ovulation induction and ovarian
stimulation and that these interventions will not lead to significant long-term health issues,
especially ovarian malignancy. Both treatments are common in the management of infertile
women. The use of ovarian stimulation in IVF is particularly important as IVF is the final
treatment option for most causes of infertility. During the course of the review for this guideline
update the GDG commented on the paucity of long-term research on the subject, despite the fact
that the treatments have been established practice for over 30 years. The longest length of
follow-up in the studies reviewed was 20 years, and the larger studies had shorter follow-up
periods.
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2.5 Long-term effects of IVF with or without
intracytoplasmic sperm injection in children

What are the long-term (over 20 years) effects of IVF with or without ICSI in children in the UK?
Why this is important
This topic is important in informing patients, service providers and society at large about the
potential long-term safety of assisted reproduction. Both IVF and ICSI involve manipulation of
egg and sperm in the laboratory, with impacts on the development of the subsequent embryo.
However, while the first successful live birth following IVF was over 30 years ago, there is
relatively little long-term research on the subject. In the review undertaken in this guideline
update, the longest length of follow-up in the studies reviewed was 20 years, and the larger
studies had shorter follow-up periods.
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3 Other information
3.1 Scope and how this guideline was developed
NICE guidelines are developed in accordance with a scope that defines what the guideline will
and will not cover.
How this guideline was developed
NICE commissioned the National Collaborating Centre for Women's and Children's Health to
develop this guideline. The Centre established a Guideline Development Group (see section
4), which reviewed the evidence and developed the recommendations.

The methods and processes for developing NICE clinical guidelines are described in The
guidelines manual.

3.2 Related NICE guidance
Further information is available on the NICE website.
Published
General
Patient experience in adult NHS services. NICE clinical guidance 138 (2012).
Medicines adherence. NICE clinical guidance 76 (2011).
Condition-specific
Ectopic pregnancy and miscarriage. NICE clinical guideline 154 (2012).
Multiple pregnancy. NICE clinical guideline 129 (2011).
Weight management before, during and after pregnancy. NICE public health guideline 27
(2010).
Diabetes in pregnancy. NICE clinical guideline 63 (2008).
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Antenatal care. NICE clinical guideline 62 (2008).
Intrapartum care. NICE clinical guideline 55 (2007).
Antenatal and postnatal mental health. NICE clinical guideline 45 (2007).
Postnatal care. NICE clinical guideline 37 (2006).
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4 The Guideline Development Group, National Collaborating
Centre and NICE project team

4.1 Guideline Development Group
Tom Treasure (Chair)
Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery, UCL, London
Susan Bewley
Consultant Obstetrician, St Thomas' Hospital, London
Siladitya Bhattacharya
Professor in Reproductive Medicine, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen
Kate Brian
Patient representative
Tim Child
Subspecialist in Reproductive Medicine and Surgery, University of Oxford, Oxford
Melanie Davies
Subspecialist in Reproductive Medicine and Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, UCLH,
London
Stephen Harbottle
Embryologist, Addenbrookes Hospital, Cambridge
Helen Kendrew
Nurse, Bath Fertility Centre, Bath
Clare Lewis-Jones
Patient representative
Clare Searle
General practitioner, Watford
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Peter Taylor
Commissioner, London
External advisers
David Hawkins
Consultant HIV/GUM physician
Debbie Lawlor
Professor of Epidemiology
Scott Nelson
Professor of Reproductive and Maternal medicine
Allan Pacey
Senior Lecturer in Andrology
4.2 National Collaborating Centre for Women's and
Children's Health

David James
Clinical Co-Director Women's Health
Jiri Chard
Senior research fellow
Paul Jacklin
Senior health economist
Rosalind Lai
Information scientist
David Bevan
Project manager (from 2010)
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Fertility
NICE clinical guideline 156
Liz Bickerdike
Project manager (from December 2009 until April 2010)
Cristina Visintin
Project manager (until December 2009)
Ella Fields
Research fellow
Hugh McGuire
Research fellow
Zipporah Iheozor-Ejiofor
Research assistant
Maria Bastos
Research assistant
4.3 NICE project team
Christine Carson
Programme Director
Ben Doak
Guideline Commissioning Manager (to December 2012)
Sarah Dunsdon
Guideline Commissioning Manager (from December 2012)
Palida Teelucknavan
Guideline Coordinator
Judith Thornton
Technical Lead
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Prashanth Kandaswamy
Health Economist
Sarah Catchpole
Editor
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Figures and tables to support chances of conception and
embryo quality recommendations

Table 1 Cumulative probability of conceiving a clinical
pregnancy by the number of menstrual cycles

Cumulative probability of conceiving a clinical pregnancy by the number of menstrual cycles
attempting to conceive in different age categories (assuming vaginal intercourse occurs twice per
week) (Reproduced with permission: Dunson DB, Baird DD, Colombo B [2004]. Increased
infertility with age in men and women. Obstetrics and Gynecology 103: 51–6).
Age category
Pregnant after 1 year (12
Pregnant after 2 years (24
(years)
cycles) (%)
cycles) (%)
19–26
92
98
27–29
87
95
30–34
86
94
35–39
82
90
Table 2 Cumulative probability of conceiving a clinical
pregnancy by the number of cycles of insemination

Cumulative probability of conceiving a clinical pregnancy by the number of cycles of insemination
in different age categories and according to the method and sperm status where assisted
reproduction technology is used (see the full guideline for full references).
Woman's ICI using
Woman's ICI using fresh
Woman's IUI using thawed
age
thawed
age
semen (van
age
semen ( HFEA data
(years)
semen
(years)
Noord-
(years)
and personal
(Schwartz et
Zaadstra, 1991)
communication)
al. 1982)
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6
12
6
12
6 cycles
12 cycles
cycles cycles
cycles cycles
<30
50%
70%
<31
58%
76%
-
-
-
30–34
43%
62%
31–35
50%
71%
<35
63%
86%
>34
33%
54%
>35
39%
55%
35–39
50%
75%
Key: ICI = intracervical insemination; IUI = intrauterine insemination
Figure 1 The effect of maternal age on the average rate of
pregnancy

Calculated on the basis of studies in 10 different populations that did not use contraceptives
(Heffner 2004[11], based on 2 reviews by Menken et al. 1986 and Anderson et al. 2000).
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Figure 2 IVF success in terms of live births per 100 embryo
transfers

The vertical axis shows embryo transfers; the horizontal axis shows age of woman (based on all
52,996 embryo transfers using the woman's own eggs undertaken in the UK between
1 October 2007 and 30 June 2009) [HFEA, personal communication] (note: small numbers of
women aged under 24 years in the HFEA database).
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Figure 3 UK NEQAS embryo morphology scheme
[11] Adapted from Heffner LJ (2004). Advanced maternal age – how old is too old? New England
Journal of Medicine 351: 1927–9.
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About this guideline
NICE clinical guidelines are recommendations about the treatment and care of people with
specific diseases and conditions in the NHS in England and Wales.
NICE guidelines are developed in accordance with a scope that defines what the guideline will
and will not cover.
This guideline was developed by the National Collaborating Centre for Women's and Children's
Health, which is based at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. The
Collaborating Centre worked with a Guideline Development Group, comprising healthcare
professionals (including consultants, GPs and nurses), patients and carers, and technical staff,
which reviewed the evidence and drafted the recommendations. The recommendations were
finalised after public consultation.
The methods and processes for developing NICE clinical guidelines are described in The
guidelines manual.

Update information
This guideline updates and replaces NICE clinical guideline 11 (published February 2004).
Recommendations are marked as [2004][2004, amended 2013][2013] or [new 2013]:
[2004] indicates that the evidence has not been updated and reviewed since 2004
[2004, amended 2013] indicates that the evidence has not been updated and reviewed
since 2004, but a small amendment has been made to the recommendation
[2013] indicates that the evidence has been reviewed but no changes have been made
to the recommendation
[new 2013] indicates that the evidence has been reviewed and the recommendation has
been updated or added.
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Strength of recommendations
Some recommendations can be made with more certainty than others. The Guideline
Development Group makes a recommendation based on the trade-off between the benefits and
harms of an intervention, taking into account the quality of the underpinning evidence. For some
interventions, the Guideline Development Group is confident that, given the information it has
looked at, most patients would choose the intervention. The wording used in the
recommendations in this guideline denotes the certainty with which the recommendation is made
(the strength of the recommendation).
For all recommendations, NICE expects that there is discussion with the patient about the risks
and benefits of the interventions, and their values and preferences. This discussion aims to help
them to reach a fully informed decision (see also Patient-centred care).
Interventions that must (or must not) be used
We usually use 'must' or 'must not' only if there is a legal duty to apply the recommendation.
Occasionally we use 'must' (or 'must not') if the consequences of not following the
recommendation could be extremely serious or potentially life threatening.
Interventions that should (or should not) be used – a 'strong'
recommendation

We use 'offer' (and similar words such as 'refer' or 'advise') when we are confident that, for the
vast majority of patients, an intervention will do more good than harm, and be cost effective. We
use similar forms of words (for example, 'Do not offer…') when we are confident that an
intervention will not be of benefit for most patients.
Interventions that could be used
We use 'consider' when we are confident that an intervention will do more good than harm for
most patients, and be cost effective, but other options may be similarly cost effective. The choice
of intervention, and whether or not to have the intervention at all, is more likely to depend on the
patient's values and preferences than for a strong recommendation, and so the healthcare
professional should spend more time considering and discussing the options with the patient.
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Recommendation wording in guideline updates
NICE began using this approach to denote the strength of recommendations in guidelines that
started development after publication of the 2009 version of 'The guidelines manual' (January
2009). This does not apply to any recommendations shaded in grey and ending [2004] (see
'Update information' above for details about how recommendations are labelled). In particular, for
recommendations labelled [2004] the word 'consider' may not necessarily be used to denote the
strength of the recommendation.
Other versions of this guideline
The full guideline, 'Fertility: assessment and treatment for people with fertility problems', contains
details of the methods and evidence used to develop the guideline. It is published by the National
Collaborating Centre for Women's and Children's Health.
The recommendations from this guideline have been incorporated into a NICE Pathway.
We have produced information for the public about this guideline.
Implementation
Implementation tools and resources to help you put the guideline into practice are also available.
Your responsibility
This guidance represents the view of NICE, which was arrived at after careful consideration of
the evidence available. Healthcare professionals are expected to take it fully into account when
exercising their clinical judgement. However, the guidance does not override the individual
responsibility of healthcare professionals to make decisions appropriate to the circumstances of
the individual patient, in consultation with the patient and/or guardian or carer, and informed by
the summaries of product characteristics of any drugs.
Implementation of this guidance is the responsibility of local commissioners and/or providers.
Commissioners and providers are reminded that it is their responsibility to implement the
guidance, in their local context, in light of their duties to have due regard to the need to eliminate
unlawful discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations. Nothing in this
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guidance should be interpreted in a way that would be inconsistent with compliance with those
duties.
Copyright
© National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence 2013. All rights reserved. NICE copyright
material can be downloaded for private research and study, and may be reproduced for
educational and not-for-profit purposes. No reproduction by or for commercial organisations, or
for commercial purposes, is allowed without the written permission of NICE.
Contact NICE
National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence
Level 1A, City Tower, Piccadilly Plaza, Manchester M1 4BT
www.nice.org.uk
[email address]
0845 033 7780
ISBN 978-1-4731-0029-9
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