Raising children is nothing if not costly – but many Irish people are now finding that even getting pregnant can be very expensive.
In our recent poll, 83 per cent of you said you would consider undergoing fertility treatment if you couldn’t conceive naturally.
But with a single round of IVF treatment now starting at around €4,500, even getting to the stage where you’ve the chance to kit out a nursery can be an incredible financial strain.
“It’s about the service.”
It is expensive but what people don’t appreciate, says Beacon CARE Fertility founder Dr Simon Fishel, is that treatments like IVF aren’t as straightforward as other procedures.
The entire process requires large amounts of specialist equipment and teams of high trained staff, he tells us.
“And it’s not a single visit.
“If you put it into context you have many days of activity involving a patient and many highly trained staff and if you multiply that up, some people say to me ‘well, why doesn’t IVF cost three times the price?’
“It’s about the service. Unfortunately, it compounds it all to a pretty costly procedure if it’s done properly.”
IVF is unusual compared to other procedures in that doctors can’t tell what the result will be, he continues.
“The tragedy with reproduction is there’s no guarantee you’re going to get a baby at the end of the service that is provided.
“If we could guarantee you 100 per cent and it was three times the cost then probably peope would be accepting of that because you’re guaranteed success.”
“People do sacrifice.”
The costs might be justifiable, then – but that doesn’t tell us how people are managing to cover them.
Does the high price of treatments mean that infertility has become a class issue?
Not at all, says Helen Browne of the National Infertility Support and Information Group (NISIG).
“People have said that and it upsets me,” she tells us.
Helen, who helped to found the group after she and her husband went through multiple failed rounds of IVF, has seen hundreds if not thousands of people faced with high costs.
She says that people who really want to have children “will find the money”.
“People do sacrifice, they sacrifice mortgages and they sacrifice holidays, an awful lot. They also borrow.
“We extended our mortgage, we sold a car. Even before the crash, people who were fortunate enough to have a few siblings, they would give them maybe €500 and that would help but then when the crash came nobody could help anybody.
“I know people who have borrowed from the parents and pay it back every month.”
Help from the state
Helen and the NISIG have been campaigning for struggling couples to get financial support since the group began.
Infertility has been officially recognised as a medical condition by the World Health Organisation, she says, meaning the state should help to pay for treatments.
Fortunately, it looks as though there may soon be light at the end of the tunnel.
Last year, the cabinet approved legislation that would help with the costs of fertility treatments.
The Assisted Human Reproduction Bill, which will also cover things like surrogacy and stem cell research, is due to be debated in the Dáil this autumn.
Helen, who has met with successive health ministers over the years, is hopeful but warns that the issue has been de-prioritised in the past.
“Tragically, other health issues come up and I think we get pushed into the background.
“Unfortunately, we’re not vocal.
“We’re not a group that will march outside the Department of Health with banners, demanding. It’s such a private thing.”
This October is Fertility Month on Her, when we’ll be talking all things reproductive health and having babies.
You can check out all of our Fertility Month articles here.
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