A Derry couple who have forked out tens of thousands of pounds on fertility treatment have spoken about the “IVF inequality” which exists in Northern Ireland.
Deborah and Stephen Cross, who have been through four cycles of IVF after being unable to conceive naturally, say NI must be brought into line with treatments on offer in the rest of the UK.
Just one cycle of IVF is provided free of charge to couples in NI compared to three in Scotland and two in Wales.
Deborah says this is a “blatant health inequality.”
She added: “Access to fertility treatments should not be determined by one’s ability to pay.
“In the North, we demand a gold standard similar to Scotland in which three cycles of IVF treatment is standard.”
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends women under 40 struggling to conceive and who meet the right criteria receive three full cycles of IVF treatment on the NHS to maximise their chances of getting pregnant.
At present, each IVF cycle can can cost anywhere between £1,300 and £6,000 and offers success rates of about one in three for women under 35.
Deborah and Stephen Cross, who are about the embark on their fifth cycle of treatment, have been trying to start a family since 2010 when they were told by doctors they would not be able to conceive naturally.
The first and only free cycle didn’t result in a pregnancy and, to date, they have spent in the region of £20,000 on private treatments.
Deborah says: “When you are looking down the lens of life with only a view of childlessness, then you’ll do all in your own power to try to change that view for yourself and others. It’s that innate desire that keeps us going.
“But it’s not easy. It’s emotionally draining and financially difficult with the realisation that your dream might never come to pass. However, we’re not ready to give up just yet.”