This is the last in a series of posts sponsored by Conceivable Dreams.
When Kathleen Wynne became Ontario’s new premier earlier this month, I was full of hope that she would revisit and revive an issue that has been stagnating for four long years in Ontario. Back in 2009, an expert panel recommended that the province should cover the cost of up to three rounds of in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments for women under the age of 42. Last week, I was deeply disappointed to hear that Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews has said the province has no intention of implementing these recommendations.
I had the opportunity recently to participate in a set of media stories for web, radio and TV about IVF. At first I said yes, as you know that promoting funding for IVF has been dear to my heart for years. Before production got underway, though, I backed out. I changed my mind for two key reasons. The biggest reason is that my beautiful IVF baby will be 11 years old next month, and maybe this story is no longer mine to tell, at least not quite so publicly. Second, though, is that I had a sense that the story would be focusing more on the “women putting careers first, waiting too long to have babies” theme.
It’s frustrating to me that the issue of IVF funding gets tangled up with this image of type-A career women who put off marriage and children until their late 30s or 40s, and then turn to IVF when they realize they’re long past their fertility’s best-before date. I’m sure this happens, and of course I have sympathy for ANYONE who wants a child and finds that they are unable to conceive.
We were 28 and 30 years old when we were diagnosed as infertile, and to my great dismay at the time, the infertility was not on my side of the equation. I really think it would have been easier emotionally if it were. We were told we had less than 3% chance of conceiving on our own, and that likely would have been true had we been 24 or 14 years old. This is not an issue about age, this is an issue about inequality, and about a government that can’t seem to grasp that there may be savings instead of costs in funding IVF.
In Ontario, IVF is funded for three attempts when infertility caused by both of a woman’s fallopian tubes being fully blocked. This is a relatively rare diagnosis. If infertility is caused by any other disease, or if it is male factor, or if it is unexplained, the patient pays IVF out of pocket. That’s the first problem with the way the system currently works – the capriousness of having your infertility diagnosis being caused by an eligible or ineligible medical condition.
The second problem is that less invasive fertility treatments like the prescription of fertility drugs or intrauterine insemination ARE covered by the province – but those treatments are both less effective and more likely to result in multiple pregnancies, which in turn add additional costs and stresses to the health care system. IVF allows a higher rate of control of the number of conceptions, and therefore births, that occur. With IUI and other fertility drugs, multiple rates are much higher and completely out of the clinic’s control — millions of frisky sperm seek out up to half a dozen or more fertile eggs. With IVF, the conception occurs in the labratory instead of the uterus, and the doctors place one or two embryos into the uterus, hoping they will implant and grow. It’s the difference between using a calligraphy pen or a bucket of paint to dot your i, if I can make up an analogy. One report says funding IVF and reducing the incidence of multiple births could save the province $650M over ten years.
When I first wrote about provincial funding for IVF four years ago, I proposed what I thought then and what I still think now would be a very reasonable compromise: fund unsuccessful treatment cycles.
Including two IUIs, a cycle of IVF with ICSI, four years of frozen embryo storage, and the costs to thaw and transfer Frostie, we easily spent more than $10,000 to overcome our infertility. I think you’ll agree that my lovely boy is worth every penny times a thousand. We’re lucky that we never had to face the unimaginable agony of an unsuccessful round of IVF treatments compounded by the idea of spending all that money for naught — just try to imagine spending everything you have, financially and emotionally, and coming away empty-handed.
Funding IVF is not just about an emotional salve, though. If an emotional plea doesn’t move Ontario’s new premier, I’m hoping the science and the economics of the matter will convince her. Funding IVF makes sense, and it will save dollars, too.
One in six Ontario families suffer from some form of infertility. That’s why I’m happy to work with the advocacy group Conceivable Dreams, who sponsored this blog post. For more information, you can visit the Conceivable Dreams website, or follow them on Twitter and Facebook.
Disclosure: I am a valued member of the Conceivable Dreams blog team, and I have been compensated for this blog post. However, the opinions expressed on this blog are always my own.
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