Infertility and ART in Australia
What is infertility?
Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive a pregnancy after 12 months of unprotected sexual intercourse.
If you are a woman, your fertility may be affected by:
- your age
- if you have any problems with your fallopian tubes
- if you have endometriosis or an ovulation problem
- any fibroids
- if you have pelvic inflammatory disease or a sexually transmitted infection (STI)
- your weight or if you smoke
Adult male fertility may be affected by:
- problems with the tubes that connect to the testes
- low sperm production
- high numbers of abnormal sperm
- genetic problems
- problems with the sperm DNA
What is assisted reproductive technology (ART)?
ART encompasses a range of strategies to help people conceive. While IVF is the most well-known treatment for significant infertility, ART also includes fertility assistance options such as ovulation induction treatment.
Source: The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners
Medibank Chief Medical Officer Linda Swan says:
Approximately 15% of couples experience fertility difficulties.
The number of people seeking help through assisted reproductive technology (ART) has been steadily increasing.
Close to 5,000 Medibank customers accessed ART treatments in 2019.
Because more people are now having children later in life, age-related infertility affects an increasing number of women and men.
The average age of a Medibank customer accessing fertility treatments last year was 37.
Our customer data shows that 13% of Medibank mothers had received IVF in the year before their private hospital birth in 2018, up from 7% in 2009.
We know this journey isn’t an easy one and it presents significant challenges.
There can be high out of pocket costs for ART due to the many steps in both preparing for treatment and in the ongoing care after treatment. Medibank contributes to hospital and medical costs for ART during a hospital admission, if the patient has right level of cover and has served waiting periods.
We are also working on new ways to better support our customers wanting to be parents.
Dr Karin Hammarberg, fertility expert from Monash University says:
While a lot of it is up to nature, there are some things you can do to improve your chances of having a baby.
There’s no question that age remains the single most important factor when it comes to your ability to conceive. A woman’s fertility starts to decline in her early 30’s, accelerates by 35, and by 40 her chances of a successful pregnancy are halved.
And it’s not just women, where age matters. While a woman’s eggs are finite, the quality of a man’s sperm starts to decline from the age of 45.
To give yourself the best chance of conceiving naturally and with IVF, a healthy diet and lifestyle are key.
More than 40% of Australian’s aged 18-45 who want to have a child are unaware that smoking and obesity significantly reduces fertility.
For both men and women, a nutritious and well-balanced diet, staying in the healthy weight range, exercising, cutting back on alcohol, sugar and caffeine and not smoking, are not only just good life choices, but simultaneously can improve reproductive health.
This is not only important for the chance of getting pregnant, it also gives your baby the best start to life.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2019. Australia’s mothers and babies 2017—in brief.
Reproduced with permission from The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners
- Years relate to financial years.
- Includes Medibank customers.