Accessing IVF in Australia

Starting a family can be an exciting time, however, it doesn’t always go to plan. In Australia, one in six couples experience difficulty falling pregnant at some stage in their family planning journey. Infertility can affect anyone. Overall, one-third of infertility cases are caused by female reproductive issues, one-third by male reproductive issues and the other third by combined or unknown factors.

It can be hard to know when to seek help with your family planning journey. If you are aged 35 years or over and have been trying to conceive for six months or more or are under 35 and have been trying for 12 months or more, without success, then it may be time to seek help. Assisted reproductive technologies (ART) such as in-vitro fertilisation (IVF), have been helping people to have babies for over 40 years. 

If you find yourself needing assistance to start your family, the amount of information available to you can be overwhelming. IVF treatment is available at over 80 fertility clinics across Australia that are accredited by the Reproductive Technology Accreditation Committee of the Fertility Society of Australia and New Zealand. To book an appointment with a fertility specialist you must have a referral from a General Practitioner (GP). Fertility treatment can be physically, emotionally and financially demanding, so it is important to find a clinic and specialist that is right for you. 

Choosing an IVF clinic

Choosing an IVF clinic is a very personal decision, there are many factors that need to be considered. It is important to look at each clinic as a whole, the range of treatment options, the clinic success rates, the qualifications of the fertility specialists, counselling options, cultural factors, location, accessibility, wait times and costs. For most people, cost will rank as one of the most important factors. 

When considering IVF, it is important to note that it will likely require multiple cycles. According to VARTA, Victoria’s statutory authority on assisted reproductive technologies, a 36-37 year old woman has a 32% chance of having a baby after one cycle of IVF, a 44% chance after two cycles, and a 50% chance after three cycles. Many couples underestimate the number of IVF cycles needed to achieve a successful pregnancy and therefore the cost. 

Cost can be a major barrier and cause of stress for many Australians seeking fertility treatments. The perception that IVF has to cost over $10,000 for one cycle is simply not true. There are bulk-billed private clinics that offer high quality treatment at a more affordable price point so do shop around. 

Treatment options

There are a range of treatment options available which vary from clinic to clinic. Your specialist will recommend a treatment plan tailored to your needs. This plan may include one or more of the following options. 

  • Ovulation induction/Ovulation tracking (OI/OT)

Medication may be used to stimulate ovulation and your cycle tracked with blood tests and ultrasounds which informs the best timing for intercourse and then hopefully conception.

  • Intrauterine insemination (IUI) 

This involves the insertion of prepared sperm obtained from the male partner or donor into the woman’s uterus. IUI assists with irregular menstrual cycles and sperm abnormalities.

  • Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI)

ICSI can be used to overcome a number of male fertility problems. Sperm is injected into the cytoplasm of the mature egg in a culture dish, with the aim of achieving fertilisation.

  • In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF)

With IVF the sperm and eggs are brought together in a culture dish in the laboratory where they are monitored, allowing the eggs to hopefully fertilise, and embryos to develop before being transferred back into the uterus.

  • Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET)

A frozen embryo transfer is a cycle where a frozen embryo (from a previous fresh IVF cycle) is thawed and transferred back into a woman’s uterus.

The range of treatment options available to assist those planning for a family can also include egg freezing. Recognising that a woman’s egg reserve diminishes in both quantity and quality over time, this is a great option for women who choose to start a family later in life. 

Many clinics also provide the option to use a donor. This offers a wonderful alternative for those who are unable to use their own sperm or eggs, those in same-sex relationships or those seeking to become a solo parent. Reciprocal IVF or egg sharing is a popular option for same sex female couples where one partner provides the eggs and the other partner carries the baby.

Success rates

Funded by the Australian Government, is Australia’s only independent source of information showing IVF success rates for each IVF clinic. Not only can you compare success rates across clinics in your location, but the website is also a good source of information for anyone wanting more information about IVF.