Close to 6 500 in vitro fertilisation (IVF) cycles take place every year in SA, estimates Paul le Roux, a fertility specialist from the Cape Fertility Clinic.
With cost averaging at R32 000 per cycle, that amounts to more than R200m being spent annually on fertility treatment. ‘It is also not uncommon for a couple to require two or three courses of IVF – pushing the cost up to at least R90 000.’
But despite the crushing costs, Aziza Cassim, manager at the BioART Fertility Clinic in Johannesburg, says the economic downturn hasn't really affected clinic numbers.
‘For many, having a baby is almost a life-and-death situation, so they won't easily let something like that put them off. They would much rather let go of other luxuries.’
The costs include R800 for the initial consultation, which includes an ultrasound, doctor's consultation and counselling. If a sperm test is needed, another R600 will go towards that.
Cassim says artificial insemination is the cheaper option at R1 000 to R5 000 per session, but many people need the more expensive IVF which goes up to about R30 000 per session. It may reach R32 000 at some clinics.
While most medical schemes won't cover infertility treatment, some will refund part of the expenses and one, the Chartered Accountants Medical Aid Fund (Camaf), will cover most of the cost of artificial insemination.
Infertility is usually a bolt out of the blue which most couples have not made any financial provision for. And because of the ticking biological clock, they do not want to wait until they have saved up enough to cover treatment.
So for many couples, short-term debt is the answer.
A recent development is so-called medical loans – personal loans to fund specific procedures. Jason Sive, the director of medical loan provider First Health Finance, said his organisation has received close to R16m worth of applications just for fertilisation procedures in the first eight months of 2010 alone.
Whichever way it is financed, people need to be prepared for the financial toll treatment will take, a nurse at a fertility clinic advised.
She says it can't be a spur-of-the-moment decision, especially with procedures which can be very emotional. ‘They need to decide how many times they are going to try and realise (what) their budget (constraints are).’
The lucky patients who do conceive may have to cope with the financial fallout of the treatment for many years to come.
For more, read the full story on Fin24.
How much have you paid on infertility treatment? How did you finance it?