Despite the official government announcement last year that €1 million would be allocated for public IVF funding, these funds have still not been released. Those awaiting the much-needed financial and legal supports around assisted reproduction, as promised by the then Health Minister Leo Varadkar three years ago, continue to face uncertainty about when these funds will be made available and what criteria will be required to qualify for assistance.
The Government approved the IVF financial aid plans in October 2017 and a specific €1m fund was then announced by the Taoiseach last December.
In a statement, the Department of Health said a model of care for infertility, tied to long-awaited assisted human reproduction (AHR) legislation and the provision of financial assistance, was still being worked on by officials.
MFC continue to advocate for public funding of IVF for all Irish patients.
To read the Irish Examiner article, please see below:
Dr. Helen Spillane of MFC recently took part in a conference at The Centre for Reproductive Medicine of Universitair Ziekenhuis Brussels. The clinic is a world leader in research, education, development and treatment in Assisted Reproduction & Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis, performing 5,500 cycles of IVF/ICSI yearly.
The Human Fertility and Embryology Authority has just released its latest report on trends and figures in fertility treatment. Their findings have been welcomed by the British Fertility Society, who highlight the increased uptake of fertility treatment, improved success rates and confirmation that “IVF remains a safe and effective approach to address fertility issues”. Figures in the report also show that multiple births, the single biggest health risk from IVF, has now reached an all-time low of 10%, a sharp decline from 24% in 2008.
Other key highlights from the report include:
- in 2017, more than 54,000 patients underwent around 75,000 fertility treatments in the U.K, with IVF treatment cycles increasing by 2.5% since 2016 and resulting in over 20,500 babies being born.
- the average birth rate for women of all ages using their own eggs reaching 22%, while women under 35 using their own eggs have the highest birth rates (30% – fresh embryo cycle, 27% – frozen embryo cycle.
- the fastest growing fertility treatment type is egg freezing, which has increased by 10% since 2016 to 1,463 cycles in 2017.
- frozen embryo treatment cycle success rates (23%) have overtaken fresh embryo cycle success rates (22%) for the first time since records began, indicating that freezing embryos can give as much chance of success as a fresh cycle.
To read the HFEA press release and access the report, please follow the link below:
For the British Fertility Society response to the HFEA report on trends and figures in fertility treatment, please follow the link below:
A recent article in the Sunday Times has revealed that expensive ‘add-on’ treatments are still being offered by a number of Irish fertility clinics.
Despite recommendations by the U.K. Human Fertility and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which highlights the alarming lack of evidence for benefit and safety of such treatments, some private fertility clinics have persisted in advertising and providing them to patients. To guide and inform fertility patients, the HFEA have developed a rating system for the most commonly offered add-ons: https://www.hfea.gov.uk/treatments/explore-all-treatments/treatment-add-ons/
The HFEA has also called for clinics to be more transparent about treatment costs and how likely these are to actually increase the chance of having a baby.
To read this Times article, please see below:
Irish T.V. presenter Kathryn Thomas recently penned an excellent article discussing her struggle to overcome the fear of losing a pregnancy after several miscarriages, and how this affected her passion for running.
We know that a healthy diet and exercise improve fertility, and moderate exercise during IVF and pregnancy is important for general wellbeing and stress relief. While there is no strong evidence that any one form of exercise is best during the fertility journey, those that promote strength and mindfulness (such as yoga) are excellent options.
The most important thing is to choose something you enjoy, and to stay active, both for your health and for your baby’s.
To read Kathryn’s story, see the link below:
MFC is delighted to share that our clinical research fellow Dr. Lucia Hartigan recently received research funding from the National Maternity Hospital Medical Fund.
In collaboration with UCD School of Medicine, Dr. Hartigan will use this funding to investigate new biomarkers that may help predict the developmental potential of an oocyte, and improve ART outcomes.
As a not-for-profit clinic, we at Merrion Fertility Clinic and the National Maternity Hospital are passionate about fairness and making our treatment as affordable as possible for all our patients. An Irish IVF Clinic group has recently advertised an IVF refund scheme and other payment incentives for treatment. In the past, we have carefully explored such schemes whereby patients only pay for their IVF treatment if they are successful and have a baby. While some people will be lucky with such an arrangement, others will end up paying more than they need to. It is our considered opinion that such schemes do not reduce costs overall for the majority of patients and that they may even be unethical. We are not aware of any other branch of medicine where patients are asked to pay up front for several episodes of treatment – in case the first treatment does not work.
In 2017 in Merrion Fertility Clinic, for couples undergoing IVF where the woman was under 35 years, 45% had a livebirth on their first cycle of treatment and 79% of those also had embryos to freeze for the future. They paid for one cycle of treatment. If they had opted for a ‘no baby no fee’ scheme, each couple would effectively have paid an unnecessary €6,000-€7,000 for two fresh cycles they never needed and the clinic would have made a nice profit. Incentive schemes are subject to medical review such that only patients with a good prognosis for success are deemed eligible and there is little transparency about the kind of clinical criteria that need to be met. The schemes also discriminate against couples who do not have €10,000 to €17,000 to spend. There are many other cost considerations also – for instance, Merrion Fertility Clinic does not charge for embryoscope or for sedation administered by Consultant Anesthetists. These services which are included in our base fee are not included in incentive schemes.
In multi-cycle fixed schemes, patients who do very poorly on their first cycle (e.g. get no eggs) will be locked into paying for two cycles, with no refund if they do not conceive. With a pay-as-you-go policy such as ours, such patients may decide to stop after one treatment and will only pay for that one treatment.
It is important to note that the companies offering these incentive schemes are commercial companies with shareholders who want to see a return on their investment. Their investment in fertility clinics reflects the sad but increasing commercialization of fertility treatment, with fertility care (in particular IVF) now being recognized internationally as ‘big business’ offering attractive financial returns. We are not alone in raising questions about incentive schemes for treatment. This recent article from Prof Nicky Hudson (Centre for Reproduction Research) discusses the growing commercialisation of fertility treatment in the UK and internationally, and what this means for the potential exploitation of patients.
We urge patients and the general public to carefully consider how they choose to pay for fertility treatment. And we encourage you to write to the Minister for Health advocating for public funding of IVF for all Irish patients.
As Ireland’s only Fertility Clinic with ‘Guaranteed Irish’ membership, we were delighted to attend this morning’s briefing “Ireland’s Winning Business Teams” which hosted an expert panel of guest speakers including Ms. Helen McEntee T.D. Minister for European Affairs. The main discussion was on Brexit and what Irish businesses across the board need as the necessary outcome of the Brexit deal.
MFC take great pride in reflecting the Guaranteed Irish beliefs of Provenance, Quality and Trust. Our policy for evidence based care and patient focused services reflect the Guaranteed Irish belief in maximum quality of Irish services.
Fertility specialists are advocating for a change in existing U.K. laws that require women who freeze their eggs to use them within 10 years. This time limit does not take into account the remarkable technological advances that have been made in the field, including the introduction of a greatly improved egg-freezing technique called vitrification. As a growing number of women pursue egg freezing in order to preserve their fertility, advocates argue that there is a growing need to update the current legislation around fertility.
To read more, please follow the link below: