IVF in Canada shouldn’t be a matter of geographic luck

As many of us are all too aware, where we live will greatly dictate what level of state funded fertility treatments are available to us

In Canada, the only place a couple can receive a publicly funded programme of IVF is Ontario.

Even then, not all of the treatment is covered, and when one cycle costs up to $30,000, the costs that are down to the patients can still spiral out of control. Added to that, places on state funded IVF schemes are limited, with a waiting list of around three to five years. With the odds of conceiving reducing as a woman gets older, especially past 35 years old, often this is a wait women can’t afford to have.

One woman, Melissa Stasiuk, Head of Programming at The Globe and Mail, told the online newspaper that she considered herself a lucky one. In spite of her fertility journey being fraught with bumps along the way.

Melissa says that she witnessed a lot of things that surprised her. Including, “a patchwork of services and fees at clinics, and a system that didn’t provide equal access to everyone (your wait time for funding could vary from three months to three years or more depending on the clinic you happened to be referred to)”.

Infertility affects one in six couples in Canada, yet Ontario is the only province with a publicly funded IVF system

Provinces such as Newfoundland don’t have any IVF clinics at all, not even private ones.

In Ontario, the IVF system costs $50million every year, but this huge cost obviously helps people become parents and it also sets the standards of safety and allows governments a say in how private clinics operate.

Melissa thinks the rest of the country should follow suit

But this was far from her mind as she and her partner joined the waiting list in February 2018, thinking seriously about “ransacking their savings or taking out a loan”.

Like many of us, Melissa had taken the contraceptive pill for many years and had focussed on her career before deciding the time was right to have children. Delaying motherhood helps woman gain an education, enter the workforce and climb the corporate ladder, so Melissa asks, with women’s fertility declining with age, why isn’t the help there to help them “when they’ve sacrificed their most fertile years?”

At the age of 33 when Melissa came off the pill, she noticed that her periods were erratic

Wanting to become pregnant, this was the first sign that there was a fertility struggle ahead. She was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a cause of infertility.

The number of IVF cycles has increased by 40% in Canada since 2013, with around 2% of live births in the country as a result of IVF. Yet it’s still, in the main, only an option for those who can afford it.

In Ontario, the funding covers a large part of one cycle, but patients must pay for the prescription costs (unless workplace insurances cover this) that can still run into thousands of dollars. It does though apply to anyone, regardless of their sex, gender, sexual orientation or family status. The only restriction is that it only applies to women under the age of 43.

Lobbying elsewhere in the country is commonplace, to make other provinces come into line with Ontario

As Melissa says, “If more provinces offered publicly funded IVF, more doctors could be incentivised to open fertility clinics, knowing they would see a steady stream of patients who otherwise could not afford it, and in turn increase access to all types of fertility treatments”.

“The simple reason not to fund IVF is the high cost. Governments have to make choices about where to put their healthcare dollars. But asking someone to pay tens of thousands of dollars for IVF is not the same as asking someone to pay a few hundred dollars for glasses or a teeth cleaning.”

Melissa’s first round of IVF ended in success and she’s due to give birth in April

She says although she’s excited, she still “feels a pang of guilt at the thought that other couples struggling with infertility may not get the same chance”.

“Infertility is accompanied by intense feelings of shame and there is a lot of misunderstanding about the disease. Public funding would go a long way toward easing that by showing affected women and men that it’s not their fault, that they are deserving of help. Most importantly, that they are deserving of hope.”

Have you gone through IVF in Canada? What’s your experience been? We would love to hear from you at mystory@ivfbabble.com 


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