Women ‘putting off’ IVF due to funding uncertainty, survey finds

Support group critical of ‘real lack of clarity’ on plans for State funding of treatment

Ireland is one of the few countries in Europe not providing a public in vitro fertilisation (IVF) service. Photograph: Corporate Photographers Dublin

Women are putting off having time-urgent in vitro fertilisation (IVF) due to a lack of certainty over the Government’s plans to fund the treatment, according to one of the State’s largest private fertility clinics.

Many are taking a “wait and see” approach but remain in the dark about their eligibility and when funding might come available, Sims IVF says.

The National Infertility Support and Information Group (NISIG) says it is being contacted by women needing treatment who are stressed and anxious about the lack of information around public funding for IVF.

“While we warmly welcomed the announcement that fertility treatment would finally be provided through public funding from September, there is a real lack of clarity and information about the plans at this stage,” chairwoman Caitríona Fitzpatrick said.


“We are unclear as who will be able to avail of this treatment, what – if any – qualifying criteria will be in place, what the full budget for the treatment will be, where it will be available and what the follow-on plans for 2024 are.”

On average, between €4,500 and €6,000 is spent privately on IVF, with Ireland one of the few countries in Europe not providing a public service.

“Those trying to start a family using fertility treatment already find themselves in a very difficult and stressful situation. It is unacceptable that this situation is exacerbated further by keeping everyone in the dark with regards to the plans for the roll out in September,” Ms Fitzpatrick said.

Sims surveyed more than 1,000 of its past and present patients and found that of those who had undergone fertility treatment previously, 54 per cent said they would consider delaying further treatment until public funding was rolled out. The remaining 46 per cent planned to press ahead even if funding comes through this year.

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Ninety per cent of those surveyed expressed concern about potential age limits for publicly-funded treatment, whether there will be a limit on the number of IVF cycles funded and what criteria will have to be met to access treatment.

There were also concerns about whether funding would be available for services locally.

The Government has said it plans to set up a public fertility treatment service but in the interim, it committed in Budget 2023 to provide €10 million in funding for subsidised treatment in private clinics, starting next September.

Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, told the Dáil last month that his officials were finalising rules on eligibility for the scheme but said he was unable to provide details of any criteria that might apply.

Fine Gael Senator Mary Seery Kearney, who has spoken publicly of going through 13 rounds of IVF and then going down the surrogacy route to start a family, said it was clear there was a “significant level of anxiety” among those in need of IVF. She called for “meaningful engagement” by the Minister to reassure people that access to funding will be broad and inclusive.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is a former heath editor of The Irish Times.