The number of Waikato couples needing help to conceive has increased 800 per cent in the past 10 years, and delaying children till later in life is one of the main reasons.
But couples who leave it too late are facing hefty bills.
Fertility Associates, which treats the vast majority of couples in Hamilton having fertility issues, said there had been an eight-fold increase in demand for IVF at the clinic in the past decade.
Although the company wouldn't release specific figures citing commercial sensitivity, 1803 babies were born in the past decade from treatment at their clinic and it treated thousands of patients annually for various reasons, not just IVF.
Ministry of Health figures show that during the same period, almost $19 million in public money has been given to Fertility Associates to fund couples for up to two cycles of IVF treatment.
But that doesn't come close to reflecting the sums being spent these days to conceive, with the majority of clients seen by Fertility Associates opting to privately fund their own IVF treatment as many didn't have the time to wait on the public list, or were too old for public funding.
One cycle of IVF can cost anywhere between $12,900 and $13,700 and couples have been known to take out personal loans or re-mortgage homes to fund it.
Fertility Associates medical Director Dr Ved Prakash (VP) Singh said about 20 per cent of clients these days were women over 40, who didn't qualify for public funding.
He said the later age at which women were giving birth to their first child was the biggest change he'd seen over the past decade, and had contributed to the increase in IVF.
"In 1990 it [the average age of first-time mums) used to be 24 or 25, now it's around 30," he said.
"So the trend is to have children later in life for various reasons like their careers or not yet meeting a suitable partner.
"But once you start to have babies, from 30 years on the quality of your eggs is affected . . . by the time you are 35 the number of eggs has already declined and after 35 there's a steep decline."
But he said that social acceptance, more knowledge of IVF and better technologies had also boosted the numbers seeking IVF.
When IVF was first introduced, success rates were about 5 per cent - now it was around 50 per cent.
But as advanced as the technology is, IVF was not always successful.
"I can't guarantee someone will have a baby, but I can give them hope and at least give them closure knowing that they tried," Dr Singh said.
Fertility Associates counsellor Sue Saunders knows too well the emotional toll going through IVF can take on a couple, and her job is to help them through it. Her advice to those wanting a family was to not leave it too late.
"Get in well before you are 40 . . . and if you are wanting more than one child, coming in at 37 is really marginal."
PUBLIC FUNDING FOR IVF IN THE WAIKATO
July 2004 to March 2013 (Ministry of Health) Year Total cost
2004/05 $1.43 million
2012/13 (March) $2.27m
TOTAL $18.45 million
- © Fairfax NZ News
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