Couples facing fertility problems to benefit from new €2m support fund

Couples who are experiencing fertility problems are to receive support from a €2m fund, Health Minister Simon Harris will announce today.

The fund will be aimed at offering financial support for men and women to have a consultation and undergo diagnostic tests to find out what is preventing them from having children.

The move is part of a first step to develop publicly-funded clinics offering fertility treatments, such as IVF, to help women have a baby.

The minister will today ask the Government to publicly commit to funding a model of care for infertility to be developed as part of the public health system. The Government is getting an update on the drafting of the comprehensive legislative framework for assisted human reproduction (AHR).

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Currently, advance fertility treatment such as IVF is not available within the public health care system, leaving couples to access it through the private sector.

The minister is due to tell the Cabinet the initial focus of implementing the model of care will be placed on building up services at secondary care level.

This is where 50pc to 70pc of patients presenting with infertility issues could be managed, without the need to undergo invasive IVF treatment.

The €2m which is now available will be spent on supporting access to consultation and diagnostics for men and women experiencing fertility difficulties.

Around one in seven couples may have difficulty conceiving, while about 84pc of couples will conceive naturally within a year.

For couples who have been trying to conceive for more than three years without success, the likelihood of getting pregnant naturally within the next year is 25pc or less.

The majority of clinics in Ireland list IVF at costing between €4,500 and €5,000. Add-ons can cost from €200 up to almost €9,000.

Fertility treatments include medical treatment for lack of regular ovulation or surgical procedures, such as treatment for endometriosis, repair of the fallopian tubes, or removal of scarring within the womb or abdominal cavity.

At a more advanced level, there will be a need for assisted conception – this may be intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilisation (IVF).

Although assisted conception treatment is not funded publicly, there is some support available – in that patients who access IVF treatment privately may claim under the tax relief for medical expenses scheme.

In addition, a defined list of fertility medicines needed for fertility treatment is covered under the High Tech Arrangements scheme from the HSE.

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