Nicky Catakovic and Dr Neil Astill with baby Sam Blundell (4 months). Photo: AAP Image/Jono Searle
Nicky Catakovic and Dr Neil Astill with baby Sam Blundell (4 months). Photo: AAP Image/Jono Searle

IVF clinic cuts costs for struggling couples

Greater Springfield's new low-cost IVF clinic specialist Dr Neil Astill wants women to have their babies younger.

He said fertility declined for most women after about 35, but the average age of IVF patients is 39.

"The ideal age for a woman to have a baby is 25-29," Dr Astill said.

"If I had an overall message for prospective parents it would be 'have your babies younger'."

For those who haven't taken Dr Astill's advice early, his new clinic at Springfield is offering couples struggling to fall pregnant significant savings on IVF services.

As well as the expense, the chances of success are also sobering with IVF.

Dr Astill said people did the figures in different ways, but the aim was to grow an embryo to five days and then implant it, giving most a 30 per cent of success.

"If they are older, this might drop to 20 per cent, and by age 44 it is considered to be a 3-5 per cent chance of survival."

By keeping the costs down, Dr Astill hopes to make a successful outcome available to more people and with a lower financial burden.

First Step Fertility is Springfield's first non-means tested bulk-billing IVF clinic.

Dr Astill said the cost savings were achieved without a reduction in the quality of the hi-tech medical services offered.

Nicky Catakovic and Dr Neil Astill from the First Step Fertility clinic offering cheaper IVF services in Springfield. Photo: AAP/Jono Searle
Nicky Catakovic and Dr Neil Astill from the First Step Fertility clinic offering cheaper IVF services in Springfield. Photo: AAP/Jono Searle

"These days there is plenty of competition offering IVF services, we don't offer some of the peripheral services such as genetic studies," he said.

"We try to keep it to four visits: an initial consultation, ultrasound, egg pick up and transfer.

"We also avoid hospital time as much as possible, using our hi-tech Sunnybank clinic for some of the procedures and using sedation rather an anaesthetic.

"Everything is streamlined, we regard our patients as being patients of the clinic rather than an individual doctor - patients may not see the same doctor and nurse each time they come, and that helps cut costs," Dr Astill said.

He said patients would mostly know upfront what they would be paying.

"There are some of the more complicated procedures that are not covered in the low-cost, bulk-billed services," he said.

"Otherwise, we work to offer a complete fertility service while minimising the financial stress."

The clinic offers two types of treatments, In Vitro Fertilisation and Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection.

To access the service, patients need a Medicare card to be bulk-billed, but there is no financial means testing, which is sometimes favoured by bulk-billing IVF providers.

Dr Astill said First Step Fertility did not charge a registration fee for standard IVF services and if an IVF cycle resulted in some excess embryos, they offered free storage.

The IVF areas of treatment that do carry an out-of-pocket charge include day surgery costs ($900), non-PBS medication costs (about $200), frozen embryo transfers, and some pathology tests (blood tests are bulk-billed where possible).



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