Is your IVF clinician's advice driven by profits or data?

1 June 2016 | Women over 40 should know the facts about IVF conception rates.

Cycling against the odds

A report by ABC TV's Four Corners program on the corporatisation of fertility treatment in Australia highlights the need for current and potential IVF patients to question clinic claims about the patient's suitability for treatment.

Four Corners spoke to fertility specialist Professor Rob Norman, who believes that clinics are under pressure to use more and more IVF for their own profit.

"IVF brings in more money for a clinic," Professor Norman told the program. "I think some people who are getting IVF shouldn't be getting it."

A 2012 study found that 4% of all women who gave birth in Australia were given some form of assisted reproductive treatment.

The ABC's investigation brought to light concerns about the number of women over the age of forty undergoing fertility treatment – stating it has increased three-fold in the last decade. And unlike other OECD nations, Australia has no age limit on publicly subsidised IVF.

Fertility treatment last year cost Medicare more than $250 million, the report revealed.

What are the odds?

CHOICE has scrutinised the IVF industry, which is self-regulated in Australia, and uncovered data showing the very poor chances of women over 40 having a baby through IVF.

Data obtained by CHOICE from UNSW and the Fertility Society of Australia shows that only 9.2% of women aged 40 to 44 had a baby per embryo transfer cycle, and this fell to 2.3% for women aged 45 and over.

The ACCC told CHOICE that it has been working with the accreditor of the businesses, the Fertility Society of Australia, to develop a code of practice. The ACCC said some IVF businesses have changed their representations to customers but there's more to be done and the ACCC is deciding whether enforcement action may be warranted.

Our research shows that shopping around for the right clinic is neither simple nor straightforward. A clinic may reveal their IVF success rates to reflect the chance of conceiving, but patients aren't always given access to the clinic's full results. And as there's no industry standard for how results are displayed, it's impossible to compare statistics from clinic to clinic.

Find out more