Natalie Akoorie

Natalie Akoorie is a reporter at the NZ Herald based in Hamilton.

Group fights for free 3rd IVF cycle

Campaign will lobby all political parties for funding with symbol of empty prams.

Crystal Raney and her husband Samuel would jump at the chance of a publicly-funded third chance. Photo / Alan Gibson
Crystal Raney and her husband Samuel would jump at the chance of a publicly-funded third chance. Photo / Alan Gibson

A fertility support group is calling for a change in government in vitro fertilisation funding so couples can get a third cycle free.

Fertility New Zealand yesterday began the Empty Pram campaign to lobby all political parties for the funding, about $5 million a year.

The campaign calls for Fertility NZ's 1600 members and other supporters nationwide to post photographs of empty prams to local MPs as well as on a Facebook page which went live last night.

At present the Government funds two cycles of IVF, if the first round is unsuccessful, for eligible patients at an average cost of $12,000.

In an April survey of its members, Fertility NZ found public funding for the third cycle and reduced waiting times were the top priorities.

Leading fertility specialist Dr John Peek said New Zealand had 1000 "missing babies" a year because fertility treatments were under-funded. The prams represented those children.

"New Zealand suffers from people not having enough IVF treatment in that they have some treatment and if they're not pregnant they stop, not because they haven't got a chance of having a baby but because they either run out of public money or they run out of private money."

Statistically the more times a couple undergo IVF the higher their chances are of conceiving.

Dr Peek, group operations manager at Fertility Associates, said it was 10 years since funding was increased to pay for two cycles and it was time the situation was reassessed.

He estimated the cost of publicly funded fertility treatment to be about $15 million a year, and that an extra $5 million might be needed to boost the number of free cycles to three.

Public funding for fertility treatment varied widely around the world, with leading country Israel only this year scaling back its unlimited funding to eight IVF cycles for women up to age 45. "The number of IVF cycles in Israel is more than twice as much as any other country in the world. There, 95 per cent of people who started treatment eventually got a baby."

Many European nations and Australia also had generous funding, offering three cycles free or with a subsidy of several thousand dollars.

Fertility NZ president Nigel McKerras said in Australia every 20th baby was born through assisted reproductive technology, but in New Zealand it was every 35th.

About 1050 couples have one publicly funded IVF cycle, and about 450 couples have a second funded IVF cycle each year. Couples without medically diagnosed infertility must wait five years before they can go on the waiting list.

Treatment proves too costly for pair

Early childhood educator Crystal Raney has always wanted children.

But when the 33-year-old's husband Samuel Raney came around to the idea five years ago, nothing happened.

The Rotorua couple tried for a year before they discovered Mr Raney had male factor infertility.

The devastating blow almost tore the couple apart but instead they went on a publicly-funded waiting list for in vitro fertilisation (IVF) using intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), where a single sperm is injected into each egg.

Mrs Raney, originally from Canada but now with New Zealand residency, underwent the invasive treatment in March 2012 and again in February last year, but both cycles failed.

Though Mrs Raney produced dozens of eggs in each cycle which resulted in six embryos, none of them successfully implanted.

Now if the couple want to undergo another round of IVF using ICSI, it would cost them around $16,000.

Mrs Raney said with two students loans totalling $48,000 after she had to re-train in New Zealand, and Mr Raney's student loan at $18,000, they can't afford to get further in debt.

"I feel like I would be taking away from what I could offer a child, like swimming lessons or dance classes."

She said if a publicly-funded third cycle was available they would jump at the chance.

"It's not our fault and so it would be nice if they came on board and they valued what's going on with us and this next generation that we're trying to have to benefit this country."

- NZ Herald

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