Fertility specialist urges caution on 'cut price' IVF clinics

Leading Illawarra fertility specialist Dr David Greening has urged couples to be cautious about "cut-price" IVF clinics.

His words of warning follow the opening of a bulk-billing IVF clinic in Sydney this week, which claims it will cut the average out-of-pocket expenses for patients to about $500 per cycle.

That's a far cry from the thousands many couples and individuals fork out for the fertility treatment.

However, Dr Greening said it was important to read the fine print.

"The clinic will be bulk billing the fresh cycles but it's not offering to freeze embryos without payment," he said.

"That will provide a disincentive for many to freeze, which will mean they face a fresh cycle each time at an added cost.

"Freezing is one of the huge advantages of IVF as it means less exposure to drugs as the eggs can just be put back during a natural cycle, plus it limits the number of egg retrievals.

"And once you freeze an embryo, it never ages, so while women will age between having children, their eggs won't. And ageing is not good in the world of fertility."

There was also the question of what would be done if more than one embryo developed during the process.

"What will they do with an additional embryo if the patient opts not to freeze - will they transfer two?" he said.

"IVF has been pushing very hard for single-embryo transfers for a long time as a single pregnancy is much safer than a twin pregnancy."

The Sydney clinic set up by Primary Health Care, Australia's largest medical centre group, has already received hundreds of inquiries.

However, Dr Greening, whose Figtree clinic is part of the Sydney-based IVF fertility group Genea, said low-cost clinics could struggle to attract fertility specialists.

'While cost was a factor, patients' main concern was the length of time it took to get pregnant and that was why they chose a clinic with a good success rate, he said.

"If they don't get the result they want, it comes at a huge emotional cost."

Dr Greening said bulk-billing clinics could also come at a high price for the taxpayer.

"The overall costs on Medicare are huge - if people are doing fresh cycles every time then taxpayers are going to be paying a lot more," Dr Greening said.

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