IVF Treatments in Victoria Paused for 90 Days — For Some Couples, That Is a Lifetime

ivf victoria

When you’re trying to start a family, time is both of the essence and your greatest enemy. Contrary to what we’re told as teenagers (“if you so much as look at a boy, you’ll fall pregnant!”), the window for natural conception each month is incredibly tiny and, if you miss it, the wait for that window to open once more feels inexorable.

For couples who are unable to conceive naturally and need to rely on fertility treatments to make their dream of starting a family a reality, timing is even more of a frustration as it can take weeks for a person’s body to be ready in order to commence the intricate IVF procedure.

So, you can well understand why couples in Victoria have been devasted to learn that IVF clinics are being asked to put treatments on hold for up to 90 days to free up health services as the state continues to deal with the Omicron variant of COVID.

Following the announcement of a ban on all non-urgent elective surgery on January 6 — a precaution that came into effect on January 12 — several providers of fertility assistance have confirmed that their clients will be affected by the new rules.

Speaking to news.com.au, Vitrus Health Group CEO Kate Munnings said the fact that IVF has been restricted to cycles commenced before January 6, or to those who are reaching in-health treatment that would render their eggs unviable, is “devastating news” to couples trying to conceive.

“It has momentous impacts on the stress and mental anguish experienced by people who are seeking fertility treatment, particularly as delays such as these can impact on their ability to have a baby,” she said.

One woman took to Instagram to share her grief, saying that 90 days could mean the difference between becoming a parent and never realising that dream.

“To put a blanket ban on IVF for three months … we think COVID is a pandemic, infertility is a pandemic, and now we’re dealing with both,” the woman, whose name is Melanie said.

“Our bodies cannot be paused for 90 days,” she said as she urged Victorian Premier Dan Andrews and health minister Martin Foley to familiarise themselves with the fact that one in eight women will face infertility issues.

Lynn Burmeister, who is the medical director for Number One Fertility, told news.com.au: “Infertility is not a choice. I have many patients who cannot have a baby any other way than through IVF. [This ban] is effectively saying, ‘You cannot have a family right now’. Patients are in tears — it’s absolutely heartbreaking.”

In response to the news, a petition has been circulated on change.org, with over 115,000 signatures so far. The call to action urges Dan Andrews to “Reinstate Fertility/IVF treatments in Victoria – an essential service for many.”

“Experiencing infertility is considered as stressful as a cancer diagnosis, loss of a family member or going through a divorce,” the petition explains.

“It increases anxiety and depression, childless women are at higher risk of suicide and 13% of women going through IVF experience suicidal ideation. This recent decision is likely to create a mental health crisis among the infertile, who are already dealing with a copious amount of synthetic hormones running through their systems and the incredible financial strain placed on them by requiring treatment.

“Women in their late 30s/early 40s (or those with low ovarian reserve) do NOT have time to wait to start their family, as their egg quality declines with each passing cycle,” it continues.  “IVF is NOT a choice. Politicians should NOT be allowed to decide on the timing of anyone’s reproduction.”

Plenty of the responses on the petition were from people who had actually undergone IVF procedures themselves.

“Gone through years of IVF, this is not elective,” one woman wrote. “Every woman has a right to have a child. Don’t take that option or chance away from us. Time is critical!”

Another added, “Having been through this and it almost breaking me, I know 90 days feels like a lifetime and may be the difference between success and not. How it frees up resources is illogical”, while another still argued, “IVF is not elective, most IVF clinics run separately to hospitals, hospital needs are minimal, why create more setbacks for a process that already has so many setbacks?”

The petition gained over 100,000 signatures in less than 24 hours with Change.org Australia Country Director, Nic Holas noting, “This is the fastest-growing petition we’ve seen in over a year. The powerful comments from thousands of signers reveal what a personal, vitally important issue this is for so many. Hopefully, the Victorian Government will acknowledge this huge outpouring of support.”

Federal Minister for Women’s Economic Security Jane Hume has also spoken out against the ban, saying, “I have watched the stories of many women going through IVF who have tried every avenue of starting a family and this was the last and only option. Some women don’t have three months.

“Victorians, for two years have done the right thing, locked down when required, isolated when required, and got vaccinated. After all this, for some to be told they can’t have IVF now to have the opportunity of having children is heartbreaking,” Hume said. 

“I am calling on the Victorian Government to reverse this decision immediately.”

You can sign the petition, here.

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