At up to $20K per round, IVF is out of reach for a growing number of Alberta couples, fertility doctor says

A Calgary fertility doctor says his clinic is performing fewer rounds of in-vitro fertilization as more couples are unable to pay.

'We can't afford it. So I don't know what to do'

Lindsay and Daniel Mundorf have been trying to conceive for eight years. They can't afford to spend $13,000 on in-vitro fertilization. (Lindsay Mundorf)

Lindsay Mundorf always thought she would be a mother. 

After trying to conceive for eight years, Mundorf, 35, and her husband discovered their only option was in-vitro fertilization.

But faced with a price tag of $13,000 for one round of IVF, the Lacombe couple's last hope is out of reach.

"We can't afford it. So I don't know what to do," said Mundorf. "It's really disheartening. It's been a very big struggle."

This is an increasingly common story, according to Dr. Joseph O'Keane, with the Calgary-based Regional Fertility Program.

Dr. Joseph O'Keane, with Calgary-based Regional Fertility Program, says the number of IVF rounds performed in his clinic dropped by seven per cent in 2017. (Jennifer Lee/CBC )

He's watched as fewer of his patients are able to come up with enough money to pay for IVF, which can cost up to $20,000 per round including the cost of medication.

"Every day I see couples really upset because they can't afford treatment. It's really quite heartbreaking," he said.

According to O'Keane, the number of IVF cycles his clinic provides dropped by seven per cent in 2017.

"Almost certainly that's a result of the economic challenges that couples are facing ," said O'Keane.

Fewer look to charity for help

A Calgary-based charity that raises money to help families pay for part of their IVF treatment is seeing a dramatic change in demand as well.

"It's heart-wrenching," said Hejdi Carlsen Feick, president of Generations of Hope which saw an increase in applications for grants when the recession first hit.

But, surprisingly, applications began to slow soon after and have remained low.

"We are seeing half and even some months less than half," said Carlsen Feick.

Hejdi Carlsen Feick, president of Generations of Hope, says applications for their IVF grants have dropped by half since the recession hit. (Jennifer Lee/CBC)

And the grants they do award, often go unused.

"Because people can't afford it. If I give you $3,000 towards your IVF treatment, you still have many thousands of dollars left to find on your own."

The group — which hosts its annual fundraiser on May 5 — is increasing the amount of its grants in an effort to help bridge that gap.

Renewed calls for provincial funding

Generations of Hope and the Regional Fertility Clinic have spent years lobbying the Alberta government to follow Ontario's lead and provide funding for IVF treatments.

Dr. O'Keane says provincial funding would help many of the patients at his clinic.

"We see couples much more stressed out now than before,"  he said

"While we currently do not provide coverage for IVF treatments, this is something that our government may consider as the economy recovers. However, at this time, we're focused on ensuring that we're improving the delivery of our publicly insured services while working to reduce wait times," said Alberta Health in a statement.

The agency does currently fund other infertility services, including diagnostic tests, endocrinology and semen analysis.

Both  O'Keane and Carlsen Feick  hope the Alberta government will consider funding IVF in the years to come.

"We really don't believe that your financial situation should dictate whether you get to become a parent or not," said Carlsen Feick.