An 8-and-a-half stone woman was told by NHS she was ‘too slender to be given IVF’

An 8-and-a-half stone woman was told she was ‘too slender to be given IVF’ due to NHS minimum weight rule

  • Samantha Barrett has a BMI of 18.5 which is below target of 19 required for IVF
  • She was repeatedly refused fertility treatment and is now on antidepressants

A minimum weight rule for women seeking IVF is facing criticism after one patient ended up on antidepressants.

Samantha Barrett, 29, is a size ten, weighing just over eight and a half stone (54.7kg).

At 5ft 7in, she has a body mass index (BMI) of 18.5, which is within the normal healthy range but below the target of 19 typically required to have fertility treatment on the NHS.

The teaching assistant from Downham Market in Norfolk spent more than a year desperately trying to gain weight – drinking two high-calorie body-building protein shakes a day, eating huge bowls of porridge and snacking on nuts.

But she has been repeatedly turned down and is now taking antidepressants.

A minimum weight rule for women seeking IVF is facing criticism. File image

Evidence suggests that women with a BMI below 18.5 have lower odds of conceiving.

Mrs Barrett, who is believed to have endometriosis, which can affect fertiity, said: ‘It got to a point where, weighing myself all the time and tracking calories… I started not to cope.’

Dr Raj Mathur, chair of the British Fertility Society, said: ‘ Women below a BMI of 18.5 should be told about the risks and encouraged to reach that BMI threshold, but it seems excessive to deny all these women fertility treatment as a general rule.’

Dr Channa Jayasena, consultant endocrinologist at Imperial College London, said: ‘NHS IVF funding is so tight right now, that restrictions on weight are put in place to maximise the chances of women having successful treatment.

‘But this clearly disadvantages women outside the normal weight range, who still want a baby despite slightly lower odds of successful treatment.’

Mrs Barrett’s case follows that of a 31-year-old woman, who spoke to the Daily Mail anonymously, having been advised by a fertility nurse to put stones in her pockets to meet the NHS criteria.

The woman, who is 5ft 5ins tall, and weighed 7 stones and 10 pounds when she sought IVF, needed to reach a BMI target of 18.5.

After carrying heavy items in her pockets to reach the criteria, she became pregnant in her first attempt at IVF, and her son is now almost 10 months old.

On Mrs Barrett’s case, a spokesman for NHS Norfolk and Waveney said: ‘We sympathise with the couple’s situation and understand the frustration and distress this must cause.

‘When it comes to IVF treatment, we follow guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) which outlines standard clinical and health criteria for treatment, including recommendations on minimum and maximum body mass index levels.’

The NICE guideline recommends telling women their BMI should ideally be between 19 and 30 before starting fertility treatment, and that a female BMI outside this range is likely to reduce the success of fertility treatment.

A NICE spokesman said: ‘It is not mandatory to apply the recommendations, and the guideline does not override the responsibility to make decisions appropriate to the circumstances of the individual, in consultation with them and their families and carers or guardian.’