Having gone through the process of fertility treatment to start our family, I know what a minefield it can be. It can be an overwhelming process and you may not know who to turn to for advice. Where do you even begin?
It can be both an isolating and confusing time in your life, so having good resources and adequate support is not only helpful - they're essential. There are many different reasons why a couple or a single person might need fertility treatment. You may have infertility, you may be an LGBT+ couple, or you may be a single person who wishes to become pregnant with donor assistance.
The Low Down
Here are the main options which people in Ireland may choose when it comes to fertility treatment. These are IUI, IVF and egg or sperm donation.
IUI: Intrauterine Insemination is a method of conception where sperm is injected directly into the uterus around the time of ovulation. It can only be done in a clinic setting and is not the same as home insemination. You will usually take fertility drugs to increase your chances of getting pregnant. This method may be successful, but the success rates are not as high as IVF. The cost is significantly lower than IVF.
IVF: In Vitro Fertilisation (literally meaning fertilization in glass) is a method of conception where eggs are retrieved and then fertilised with sperm outside of the body. Embryos are then placed back into the womb. As someone who has gone through multiple rounds of IVF with my wife, I can attest to the fact that it is a tough process. However, if you are successful, the outcome far outweighs the difficulty; in our case, two beautiful daughters.
Egg/Sperm Donation: Many people going through fertility treatment require egg and/or sperm donors in order to do an IUI or IVF cycle. In Ireland, the only type of donors allowed as of May 2020 are ‘identifiable’. This means that they are anonymous to the intending parents, but their details will be stored on a donor registry. Any children conceived will be able to contact them once they reach 18. You can read more about there here.
Surrogacy is also a really popular form of treatment for many couples and people in Ireland. However, the fertility clinics in Ireland at present do not facilitate surrogacy. This means if you wish to avail of surrogacy you will need to travel abroad. Even if you have a family member or friend who wishes to act as your surrogate, you will have to travel to a clinic abroad to complete this process. It is very important to note that under current Irish law, the surrogate is considered the biological mother and has superior rights to the intending parent(s).
Fertility treatment is not cheap and there are currently no publicly funded options like there are in the UK. This means that you will have to pay for everything yourself. You will, however, be able to claim tax relief on any cost associated with your fertility treatment; including travel and accommodation. So you may get a portion of the cost refunded, depending on how much tax you have paid in that year. IVF can cost anywhere from 5 to 10K per cycle, depending on your individual needs. IUI is considerably less, though the success rates are much lower, so you may end up spending the same amount in the long run.
As of May 2020, any couple who goes through fertility treatment in a clinic in Ireland will be entitled to both be recognised as legal parents to their child, even if a donor(s) was used to conceive. Prior to this, only heterosexual couples were automatically entitled to these legal rights, as there was no obligation to disclose the nature of their child's conception. LGBT+ couples were only allowed to register the parent who gave birth as a legal parent. With these new laws, going forward, all donor-conceived children born will have a special mark on their birth certificates. This will inform them that there is additional information about their conception and birth.
Going through fertility treatment is hard, regardless of your reasons for doing so. My main advice to you is to try to link in with others who have been through the same process. It is invaluable to speak to someone who understands what you are going through and who may be able to offer bits of advice from their own experience. There are plenty of online social media groups and chat rooms which you can join and which you may find helpful. Find your tribe, as they say!
For more information on the different types of treatments available, check out my Instagram page where I have short videos explaining each process.