Quebec Government Will Fund IVF Treatments

Filed under: Your Pregnancy, In The News

For people struggling with infertility issues, the stress and emotional upheaval can be overwhelming. When you add to that the financial burden of fertility treatments, which can run to tens of thousands of dollars, the dream of a family might seem out of reach for some Canadians. But for the citizens of one province at least, fertility treatments will soon become much more financially feasible.

As reported on, Quebec has become the first province in Canada to offer full funding for in vitro fertility treatments. Health Minister Yves Bolduc announced in a news conference last week that the province will fund up to three cycles of IVF by the end of spring. The move has prompted some to ask whether other provinces will follow suit.

The program will cost $32 million its first year, increasing to $80 million in the next three to four years. But Bolduc said the program will ultimately save Quebec money, up to $30 million a year that is spent to treat premature babies born as a result of fertility treatments. The new program will limit to three the number of embryos that can be transferred into a woman's womb during one cycle of treatment. Bolduc said this will reduce the amount of multiple births, and therefore reduce the considerable costs of caring for all those teeny preemies.

About 2000 cycles are performed in Quebec annually, costing individuals roughly $10,000 per treatment. The government estimates that the number of cycles could jump to 10,000 with this new program.

Gillian Wood is an Ontario-based blogger who has documented her struggles with infertility since 2004 on The Hardest Quest. After several medical procedures and 27 unsuccessful IUIs (intra-uterine inseminations), she had an IVF treatment which resulted, happily, in the birth of her daughter, now six months old. Wood said she is thrilled that Quebec will be funding IVF procedures, and thinks that all provinces should follow suit.

"Creating a family shouldn't be available only to the financially privileged. It's a basic human right," said Wood. "Honestly, with the population in free fall, and fewer individuals in the lower age brackets attempting to support a proportionally higher number of seniors who are also living longer, it would be in Canada's best interests to try to increase the population rather than to rein it in."

Wood was one the people interviewed by the Ontario Expert Panel on Infertility and Adoption, which was appointed by the McGuinty government to study and report on the province's infertility and adoption policies. The group released its report in August 2009, which (among other things) recommended that up to three cycles of IVF should be covered in Ontario, with a limit of two embryos that can be transferred in one cycle. The panel made the same argument as Bloduc, that funding and regulating IVF would save money in the long run, as it would prevent the multiples births that result from transferring many embryos (the Octomom phenomenon, for example).

For her part, Wood agrees with Quebec's three-embryo limit ("Transferring four or more embryos can be extremely dangerous, for both mother and baby"). During Wood's own IVF, she tried to convince the reproductive endocrinologist to transfer four embryos, but lost the argument and they transferred three. The result was her daughter. "So I'm a perfect example of why they only want to transfer three, and discourage more than that," said Wood. However, she suggested that there could be some leeway on the amount of embryos transferred, with physicians deciding on a case-by-case basis, taking a patient's age and history into consideration.

Wood has written on her blog that she and her husband are considering trying for another child, a sibling for their daughter. But she says she would not wait to see if Ontario follows suit and begins funding IVF. As she put it, "time is of the essence". But she said she does know Ontario couples who haven't gone forward with IVF because financially, they can't afford it.

"So if Ontario chooses to provide funding, I know some people will certainly jump at the chance," she said. "I can only hope that Quebec's influence will help other provinces see the cost benefits and societal benefits of funding IVF."

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