Dangerous IVF Trend

Australian women desperate to have babies but low on cash are pressing their physicians to transfer multiple embryos during their IVF treatments. The hope is that this will reduce their expenses by increasing their chances that they will get pregnant the first time around with their first cycle of IVF. The women figure that IVF is like the old saying: "If you throw enough mud, some of it is bound to stick."

Giving Up

Health experts state that recent cuts in Medicare rebates in Australia have jacked up the patients' costs from IVF to $1500 per cycle.  As the costs to the patients rise, some couples are putting off, or giving up altogether, on ever getting pregnant.

At the same time, Australian physicians claim their patients are placing pressure on them to transfer a greater number of embryos during a cycle of IVF in order to ensure conception. Though the doctors are warning the patients about the dangers that are entailed by multiple pregnancies and births, which bring with them five times the risks for premature delivery, infant death, and a slew of other complications, the patients are so anxious to have babies that they don't mind taking those chances.  

Gab Kovacs, an international medical director at Melbourne's Monash IVF says that parents come in saying that they know of the greater dangers but they just can't afford a second cycle. They tell their doctors to transfer two embryos and let the blame rest on themselves for this demand. Furthermore, the would-be parents tell physicians that if their babies have to spend 8 weeks in NICU, Medicare will cover those expenses; as if that makes it all right.

But the medical director of Sidney's Fertility First, located in Hurstville, Dr. Anne Clark says that while just a few couples have asked for such multiple embryo transfers, most have just given up on having a child by IVF.

Long-Term Issues

President of Australia's Fertility Society as well as the medical director of IVF Australia, Peter Illingworth believes this situation may end up having a negative impact on Australia's health system. Twins born via IVF often have long-term health issues. Illingworth says that physicians prefer to transfer just one embryo per IVF cycle because of these risks but that the pressure from patients to transfer two at a time is enormous.

The federal Health Minister, Nicola Roxon, put a cap on Medicare safety net payments back in January of 2010. The payments cover 80% of a doctor's fee after the rebates from Medicare. However, a review of the process found that specialists were overcharging patients.  Roxon believed that patients would receive equal care even if specialists were to charge no more than $6000 per IVF cycle, with this being the government's idea of the typical cost for this procedure.

But doctors say that an average cycle can cost $7500 or more. The phones are ringing off the hook at infertility hotlines with calls from distraught fertility patients ever since the price cap went into effect.

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