Illawarra couple share 'gut-wrenching' IVF journey as costs slashed in NSW

One in every 22 Australian babies are now born via IVF - about one in every classroom - and a $42 million state government package over four years will help those seeking the fertility treatment. FILE PHOTO
One in every 22 Australian babies are now born via IVF - about one in every classroom - and a $42 million state government package over four years will help those seeking the fertility treatment. FILE PHOTO

A new $500 rebate won't help a couple which has forked out over $200,000 on IVF and other procedures for infertility over the past decade.

But they do welcome the NSW Government initiative announced on the weekend as part of a $42 million commitment to cut costs for IVF services.

It's recognition of their journey - a journey shared by thousands of other Australian couples and singles - and they say it helps stop any remaining stigma surrounding IVF.

"Twenty years or so ago there was a stigma, but these days most people know someone who has undergone IVF," Alison (not her real name) said.

Yet the fact that Alison, now in her forties, prefers not to be identified shows that many still prefer to keep that often painful journey private.

"We were always going to be a hard case - my husband and I have unfortunately both had health issues that have contributed to infertility," she said. "We've had 10 failed cycles and it's been absolutely heartbreaking.

"The first two or three negative results were gut-wrenching yet we'd known it might take a few cycles. But when we got to the seventh and eighth failed attempts, it was like a death, like we'd lost someone.

When we got to the seventh and eighth failed attempts, it was like a death.

Alison, Illawarra resident

"It takes an emotional, and physical, toll."

But on their 11th - and they'd decided, final - IVF attempt, the couple fell pregnant. Now around four months pregnant, Alison thanked her specialist - Dr David Greening - for his support and expertise.

"I promised myself I wouldn't do a home pregnancy test, yet on the morning of my blood test I couldn't help myself," she said.

"Two lines appeared, but one was very faint so I didn't want to get too excited. The blood test confirmed it yet to this day I still can't believe it, I'm still living a dream. We're both so excited."

The financial burden though has been immense, and despite private health insurance their out-of-pocket expenses skyrocketed.

"We've spent around $250,000 including IVF, investigations and other surgical procedures," she said.

"It can be an expensive process and you have to remember IVF is not a choice for infertile women and couples - they simply can't fall pregnant naturally and this can be their only option.

"So any relief, any rebate, from the government goes some way to help."

Illawarra fertility specialist welcomes IVF initiatives

Associate Professor David Greening at The Fertility Clinic in Auburn St, Wollongong.

Associate Professor David Greening at The Fertility Clinic in Auburn St, Wollongong.

Illawarra obstetrician and fertility specialist David Greening says local women and couples will benefit from the state government's new plan to cut the cost of IVF.

Women across the state seeking fertility treatment can now apply for the $500 rebate under the $42 million package announced by NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard on Sunday.

The rebate can be claimed for pre-IVF fertility testing taken from October 1, 2019 - regardless of where in Australia the fertility test was undertaken - via Service NSW.

IVF pre-screening tests are used to understand the cause of the fertility problem and inform whether a woman is likely to experience a positive result and go on to conceive a baby.

The government is also expanding publicly supported IVF services in three public hospitals in Sydney, making fertility treatment much more affordable for up to 6000 women.

"The government has announced a two-pronged approach, expanding publicly-supported IVF clinics in the city and offering rebates for infertility testing," Prof Greening said.

"The rebate will help cover consultation costs for any investigations into infertility done by an obstetrician/ gynacologist or other specialists such as endocrinologists and urologists.

"The Federal government covers some of the cost of IVF treatment under Medicare, and this is something extra from the state government."

Prof Greening said infertility was a "silent epidemic" affecting one in six couples. He's recently authored a new book, The Road Map to Fertility, to help both women and men navigate the journey.

"Fifteen per cent of people of reproductive age can have issues with fertility, and many suffer in silence," he said. "IVF is not the only option, but if costs are lowered then people can take advantage of this very powerful tool earlier than they otherwise might."

Prof Greening has long been behind a push to make fertility treatment more accessible, and opened up a low-cost centre in Wollongong five years ago.

The Fertility Clinic - in Wollongong's Auburn St - is one of nine centres across Australia run by Virtus Health which offers a simplified treatment model to lower costs.

"We conduct around 400 IVF cycles a year and have an excellent success rate - over 40 per cent for a woman under age 38 per cycle," Prof Greening said.

This story Couple shares heartache and joy of IVF, as costs slashed in NSW first appeared on Illawarra Mercury.