What Is In Vitro Fertilization?

In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) is a medical procedure where a woman’s eggs are removed from her ovaries and fertilized in a lab with sperm from her partner or selected donor. The embryos created from the fertilization are returned to her uterus, or the uterus of a surrogate mother, in hopes of creating a pregnancy. As a woman’s age increases, the live birth rate from IVF decreases.

A 35 year-old woman can expect a live birth rate of approximately 30% to 35%. If a woman’s partner or sperm donor suffers from infertility issues such as low sperm motility or movement, then intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) may be necessary. ICSI is a delicate procedure requiring the lab technician to inject a single sperm into the egg, and is performed at an additional cost.

How Much Does In Vitro Fertilization Cost?

The cost of IVF varies across Canada. The chart below outlines the per-treatment cost ranges for IVF alone and when sperm injection (ICSI) is required.

Geography Costs– IVF Cycle Cost IVF + ICSI Medication
Western Canada $4,000 – $8,000 $5,400 – $9,500 $2,000 – $7,000
Ontario $4,500 – $7,000 $6,000 – $8,150
Quebec $5,500 $7,000 – $8,000
Maritimes $5,400 – $5,925 $6,900 – $7,425

Additional costs may include fees for initial consultations and/or registration with the fertility clinic, other recommended services and procedures such as assisted embryo hatching, legal fees for egg, sperm or embryo donor contracts and surrogacy contracts, and other miscellaneous expenses such as travel costs and lodging.

Alternative Funding Sources

You may also be eligible for provincial and federal tax credits when claiming your non-reimbursed medical expenses on your Canadian income tax return. How much of a credit you will receive is dependent on your income.

Some fertility treatment clinics offer financing options to help pay for the cost of treatments. Your employer health benefits may also offer coverage on drug prescriptions and select procedures.

Debate #1 – How Many Embryos To Transfer?

Many intended parents opt to have multiple embryos transferred at one time in order of one at a time in order to increase the chance of pregnancy and decrease the cost associated with multiple IVF cycles. Due to the risks associated with multiple births, more clinics are now providing more thorough information sessions to prospective parents and some clinics are insisting on single embryo transfers. Depending on your circumstances and conditions, some of your treatment may be covered by provincial health care. For example, in Ontario, OHIP will pay for three cycles of IVF (but not the medications) for women under the age of 40 with bilateral blocked fallopian tubes that has not resulted from a sterilization procedure. In Quebec, three rounds of IVF treatment for couples are funded only if one embryo is transferred at a time. Check with your provincial health ministry to see if any costs are covered before you begin your treatments.

Debate #2 – Should Government Cover The Cost Of IVF?

UK regulators have recently proposed changes to IVF coverage that would include women up to the age of 42 (previous limit was up to the age of 39), same-sex couples and those suffering from terminal illness. These changes have sparked conversation around the world and recently re-ignited the debate in Canada regarding whether the government should also cover women up to the age of 42, same-sex couples and those suffering from terminal illnesses.

Pregnancies created from the transfer of multiple embryos are 17 times more likely to result in a pre-term birth, are more likely to require a caesarean birth, and the infants are more likely to need expensive care at birth and throughout their lives. Quebec instituted the one-embryo-at-a-time policy to help reduce the risks, thereby reducing the costs associated with multiple transfers. Supporters of broader IVF coverage advocate the cost savings and/or health benefits to the government, the intended parents as well as the surrogate mother. A study by Dr. Keith Barrington and colleagues from the University of Montreal has reported that Quebec has experienced a decrease in twins from 27% to 5% in the first 6 months of government funding.

What do you think? Should the government expand IVF coverage in Canada? Let us know your thoughts.