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Women’s Fertility – Between A Rock & A Hard Place

Making a difference for New Zealanders with fertility issues & infertility

Media Release
26 March 2006
For Immediate Release

Women’s Fertility – Between A Rock & A Hard Place

fertilityNZ research released today highlights the dilemma New Zealand women are facing in regard to their fertility.

At the end of 2005, fertilityNZ commissioned a research project to establish the perceptions, experiences and behaviour of New Zealand women in relation to their fertility. “This research is very important as it has never been done before and we now have significant data about New Zealand women’s fertility” said Sian Harcourt fertilityNZ executive director.

The research shows that if a woman wants to decrease the odds of being affected by infertility, she needs to have children before she is 27 years old. However having children earlier comes with some disadvantages, women having children before the age of 25 are seen in the research findings to have a higher rate of marriage separation and are more likely to remain on the lowest household income level.

The research confirms that the majority of women are now leaving childbearing until their thirties - 90% of women aged over 60 years old had their first child when they were less than 30 years old, whereas only 36% of under 30 year olds had given birth.

The social pressure to be in a secure relationship, have a good income, have a home, gain an education and establish a career mean men and women are delaying having children. “Unless we take a good look at how New Zealand can become more fertility friendly, many men and women will miss out on being able to have children altogether” said Harcourt, “as a country we urgently need to think about how we can address the mismatch between our biology and social conditions - adequate social support is needed to make it possible to have babies earlier.”

The findings also indicate that women do not fully understand the prevalence of infertility or the natural decline of a women’s fertility as she ages. When women aged 30 -39, who had not given birth were asked whether they felt they might have a problem conceiving 85% did not think they would have a problem conceiving. “Both men and women need to be educated about the possible consequences of trying for a family too late and that a women’s fertility is finite” said Harcourt, “it’s also important not to put the blame for delayed childbearing at women’s feet – there are varied social reasons why delayed childbearing is occurring.”

Another significant finding of the research is the extent of infertility. Traditionally this has been quoted as 1 in 6 couples affected. However the research shows that in fact 1 in 5 New Zealand women are currently or have been affected by infertility. “Infertility is a medical condition that is affecting a huge amount of New Zealanders – but the funding for infertility treatment is still inadequate” said Harcourt.

fertilityNZ want the research to prompt thought, discussion and action so that New Zealand can become a fertility aware and fertility friendly society.


Background Information About FertilityNZ

fertilityNZ is a national organisation dedicated to supporting, informing, educating and advocating for men and women concerned with reproductive health, infertility, fertility preservation and all forms of whanau building.

- One in five New Zealanders are affected by infertility.
- Infertility is defined as not being able to conceive a pregnancy after 12 months of trying or not being able to carry a pregnancy to term.
- Infertility is a medical condition and is recognised as a disease by the World Health Organisation.
- Infertility is often thought to be a "women's problem" but approximately 30% of infertility cases are linked to men, 30% to women, 30% both and 10% unexplained.

fertilityNZ has a vision of a “fertility friendly” and fertility aware New Zealand where:

- fertility issues and infertility are recognised, understood and supported
- all men and women faced with the medical condition of infertility have access to appropriate, timely and fully funded medical treatment
- men and women have all the information necessary to enable them to make informed decisions regarding their fertility
- young New Zealanders learn about fertility preservation
- fertility and all forms of whanau and family-building are respected and valued

Background Information About Infertility

- Couples requiring infertility medical treatment in New Zealand must meet strict criteria to access public funded fertility treatment, and are limited to either one or two treatment cycles. Couples only have the opportunity to have a second cycle of public funded treatment if the first cycle is unsuccessful.

- Public funded treatment is limited to those who achieve a certain number of “points” (65) relating to a variety of criteria such as; cause of infertility, severity of infertility, duration of infertility, woman's age, hormone levels, body mass index, how many children the couple have etc. If the woman is 40 or over then the couple will not be eligible as they will never reach the 65 points required to access public funded treatment.

- If couples do not meet the criteria, they receive no public funded treatment and must meet all costs of treatment themselves.

- For those who do qualify for public funded infertility treatment, their infertility does not go away after two unsuccessful IVF cycles, so further treatment will have to be paid for privately.

- Infertility does not go away after having one child, so to have any more children in the family after a successful public funded cycle, and create a sibling for the first child, a couple have no choice but to pay for private infertility treatment.

- We already have the situation in New Zealand where many people cannot access medical treatment for their disease of infertility due to the cost of treatment. FertilityNZ strongly believe a persons wealth should not determine whether or not people can afford to access medical treatment or conceive a child.

- Annually New Zealand spends in excess of $300 million on all reproductive health care (including in excess of $20 million on terminations) but just $9.5 million on infertility medical treatment.

- There is no limit to fertility treatment in Australia. In addition, in many countries infertility treatment is covered by medical insurance.

- New Zealand medical insurance companies offer no cover for infertility treatment at all.

- Infertility is often thought to be a "women's problem" but approximately 30% of infertility cases are linked to men, 30% to women, 30% both and 10% unexplained.

- About 2000 IVF treatment cycles are undertaken in New Zealand each year. Approximately 650 babies are born from this.

- An estimated 7000 children have been born in New Zealand through assisted reproductive technology.

- More than one million babies have been born world wide since the first baby, Louise Brown was born 26 years ago in Britain using assisted reproductive technology.

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