A report has renewed calls for Alberta to pay for in-vitro fertilization, arguing that public funding would save the province money.

The report concludes that publicly funded systems reduce multiple births because couples aren't pressured to implant more than one embryo to keep their personal costs down. And that means fewer complications, fewer premature babies and fewer neonatal intensive care stays.

The 500-page report was prepared for the province by the University of Alberta's school of public health. Alberta asked for the study as part of an on-going review of its fertility treatment policies.

"The bottom line is that in the long run you will save money if you pay the money up front to provide the service," said Dev Menon, one of the authors and a University of Alberta professor.

"Exactly the amount you'd save would depend on the kind of policy you put in place. A policy could limit the amount of embryos by age and this is done in some places."

That kind of restrictive model could save Alberta an estimated $97 million over 18 years, a span that covers from birth until adulthood. That number takes into account the expected increase for the service if it was publicly funded.

New parents support public funding

One Calgary family says they wouldn't have been able to afford the $30,000 it took to conceive their children, Faith and Kaylee, through IVF without a grant from a local charity. Their father, Brandon Newell, agrees the provincial government should help.

"This is a medical condition and we need to get this funded,” he said. "It's just a little bit of money and kids like Faith and Kaylee get to have just an awesome life to look forward to."

Terri Abraham, a spokesperson for Generations of Hope, a charity that helped the Newells and other people who struggle to conceive, can’t understand why IVF wouldn’t be funded.

"You're sitting there with information that says you could be saving money, and in this fiscally responsible government that's trying to reduce our deficit, why wouldn't they just do it?"

 Up to 16 per cent of Canadians struggle with infertility. The charity says about one in six Alberta couples have trouble conceiving a child, and about 1,300 cycles of IVF treatment were done in Alberta last year.

Corrections

  • The University of Alberta report originally stated the province could save an estimated $97 million dollars a year by funding IVF. In fact, the savings are estimated over 18 years.
    Feb 18, 2014 1:07 PM MT