15/09/2017 15:38 SAST | Updated 15/09/2017 15:38 SAST

Thinking About IVF? Here's 5 Cold, Hard Facts About Doing It In South Africa

Most medical aids do not cover the procedure.

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A 2011 study on delayed childbearing in South Africa indicated that increasing numbers of educated women and professionals are opting to have children much later in life.

This correlates with a number of studies that have documented a rising trend of young, healthy women who are delaying childbearing not only for their career advancement, but also to travel. Some want a form of relationship commitment before babies, while others are simply not sure they want to have kids.

1. For those who want to naturally conceive later in life, there may be serious challenges

"The cold hard truth is that eggs have an expiry date," infertility expert Tertia Albertyn told HuffPost SA.

While women are born with all the eggs they need -- about 2 million of them -- by the time they reach puberty, they are left with about 500,000. And every year, the number declines.

"So you may be 42 and lead a healthy life, but have 42-year-old eggs," Albertyn explained.

She cautioned against delaying childbearing because you plan on turning to assisted reproductive technologies such as in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) as a backup plan, as fertility drops with age.

2. The cost is eye-watering

Just one consultation can cost about R2,000. According to Cape Fertility, treatments such as artificial insemination cost between R4,000 to R8,000 per cycle, while IVF costs about R40,000 to R50,000 per cycle, using your own eggs.

Albertyn told HuffPost SA that with donor eggs, each cycle can cost anything from R60,000 to R90,000.

Costs also depend on the amount of medication used and whether additional procedures such as Intra cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) or embryo-freezing are necessary. ICSI can cost up to R46,000.

3. Most medical aids won't cover you

Most medical aids in South Africa do not cover infertility procedures such as IVF. The argument is that infertility is not a life-threatening medical condition, such as heart disease, for example. Some medical aid plans, however, cover some costs of infertility procedures.

It's very hard to get a referral for treatment in a state hospital, and even then, you will need to cover some or all of the (albeit much lower) costs.

4. There are no guarantees

No fertility programme or clinic can offer a 100 percent guarantee. Medfem fertility clinic says its IVF pregnancy rates are around 50 percent. This means women may need to undergo more than one cycle of treatment, and in many cases several.

Albertyn's twins were conceived on her ninth IVF attempt.

The clinic notes, however, that success rates in IVF decline once patients reach the age of 35. This is because the quality of a woman's eggs deteriorate as she grows older.

Studies have also shown that women who are in better physical and emotional shape have a better chance of success with IVF.

5. The process is not for the faint-hearted

IVF is not one single procedure, but a series of smaller steps.

The various stages include ovarian stimulation and monitoring, egg retrieval, fertilisation and embryo development, embryo transfer and luteal phase support. There are medications and fertility injections that accompany these processes.

To allow complete recovery, an interval period of one to two months is recommended before embarking on another cycle of treatment.

Read: Are You Considering Egg-Freezing? Here's What You Need To Know And How Much It Could Cost

"Don't be deceived by celebrities who get twins in their 40s. In my professional opinion, it may most likely have been through IVF or they may have frozen their eggs -- but they can foot the bill, while many women in our country just do not have that type of money," said Albertyn.