'No matter how long you wait, you won't get treatment' - Calls for public IVF funding

"Women's age is really important, and people really don't know that"

'No matter how long you wait, you won't get treatment' - Calls for public IVF funding

A mother holds the hand of a new baby | Image: Dominic Lipinski/PA Archive/PA Images

It is thought up to one in six couples in Ireland have issues with fertility.

Professor Mary Wingfield has been at the forefront of fertility treatment for the last 30 years.

Her first book, entitled 'The Fertility Handbook', is seen as an up-to-date guide for anyone who wants to maximise their chance of pregnancy.

The book provides a pre-conception plan with sections on lifestyle, nutrition and the role of stress.

It also looks at demystifying complex treatments such as IVF, IUI and egg freezing - and also features options for single people and same-sex couples from a modern perspective.

Image: gillbooks.ie

Prof Wingfield is a consultant obstetrician gynaecologist at the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin, and clinical director of the Merrion Fertility Clinic.

She spoke with Dr Ciara Kelly on Alive and Kicking about some of the myths and misconceptions.

"Anything in our lives we have to make choices... one of the problems with fertility is women's age is really important, and people really don't know that.

"There are things happening in society because of the advances in infertility.

"Women who are 60 can get pregnant, but they're getting pregnant from donor eggs from someone who's 20.

"But it gives this false impression: Janet Jackson got pregnant recently and she was 50 - it's highly likely that she either got eggs from a younger woman, or that she froze her own eggs when she was younger.

"It's highly unlikely - Guinness Book of Records - that she would have been naturally pregnant when she was 50."

"Also infertility, it's a sad thing about working in the area, it's very commercially driven... so there's this false impression that if you have a problem, IVF will fix it.

"IVF is fantastic and it works brilliantly, but it doesn't work for everybody.

"You lose your fertility if you leave it too late, and IVF won't correct that".

"Infertility is a medical disorder"

Ireland is one of only three EU countries that does not have publicly funded IVF.

Prof Wingfield says: "A lot of people don't have savings, they can't get loans... a lot of people end up getting their parents to take out loans or their parents pay for it.

"Infertility is really stressful and I had a couple recently - they've been attending our clinic for a long time - usually people are fairly upset when they come in, but this day the woman was balling crying when she was sitting out in the waiting room.

"They'd had a failed IVF cycle, her mother had died the previous two days before..and her mother had paid for the IVF because her mother really wanted her to have a baby - it's just wrong.

"Infertility is a medical disorder, it's not something that people choose or people cause.

"IVF is a medial treatment and any other medical treatment in this country, if you've got money you can go privately... but if you don't have money, or you don't want to go privately, you can have it done in the public system.

"You might have to wait a little bit longer but you will get your treatment.

"IVF, no matter how long you wait, you won't get public treatment - and that is completely wrong."

But she says she is getting "more and more optimistic as time goes on" that this may change.

"Just before the last election, the Minster for Health at the time Leo Varadkar acknowledged that Ireland was way out of step in Europe - and that we needed to look at public funding.

"The other thing we need in Ireland is legislation around assisted reproduction, and he committed to progressing that...and since that time the Department of Health is also working on it."

As a result, the Health Research Board (HRB) examined public funding mechanisms for assisted reproductive technologies in different countries.

All royalties from the sale of the book will be donated to the Merrion Fertility Foundation, which funds fertility treatment