A fertility doctor has said that Ireland is only one of two European countries that doesn’t provide IVF on the public health system.
The World Health Organisation recognises infertility as a disease. And for women under 35 who are undergoing IVF at her clinic, there’s a 60pc chance of getting pregnant.
Yet in the last European survey, Ireland and Lithuania were the only two EU countries not to offer state-funded assisted reproduction.
Many Irish couples cannot afford the €4,000 to €6,000 fee per cycle of IVF treatment.
Dr Mary Wingfield, clinical director and consultant gynaecologist at the Merrion Fertility Clinic, Holles Street, told independent.ie: “It’s the only medical condition that isn’t on the public system. Even plastic surgery is on the public system in Ireland - as it should be.”
“IVF is very expensive so countries have to make some restrictions, but Ireland is really unique. Right throughout the Celtic Tiger it wasn’t available.”
Dr Wingfield runs a public clinic in the National Maternity Hospital in Holles Street, Dublin.
“It breaks my heart at the public clinic here. People just can’t afford it. They’re borrowing from parents, remortgaging houses.”
“One in six couples have infertility, and at least half of them will need IVF.”
“I’ve seen women who have no fallopian tubes, or men with really low sperm counts and there’s no way they’ll get pregnant without IVF.”
“Infertility isn’t just an optional extra. It affects a couple’s whole life, all their relationships with family, friends, work. A lot of relationships break up over the stress of infertility.”
“Every country with state funding will have different restrictions as to the woman’s age or whether they’ve had ichildren or treatment before. Most will limit it to a number of cycles. In Belgium, you’re allowed have sixcycles”
In Scotland and Wales, couples are entitled to two NHS-funded cycles of IVF treatment if they meet certain medical criteria, regardless of income.
Those in Northern Ireland are funded for one cycle while those in England receive one, two or three cycles, depending on their postcode.
“Belgium had it since the 1990s, UK since the early 2000s. Sweden and Finland were well ahead.
Two per cent of all births in Europe are through IVF, Dr Wingfield says.
"When James Reilly was looking at the universal health insurance proposal, the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists put in a submission saying that IVF should be part of public medical services.”
“It’s not really acceptable from a medical point of view. A lot of people in Ireland who can’t afford it are beginning to travel abroad to Eastern Europe and India. It’s not ideal to be travelling abroad. Guidelines and practices might not be as good.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Health said: “The universal health insurance is being developed and these areas have yet to be covered.”