Accessing IVF in rural, remote areas

07 September 2020

Sarah Pride knows the challenges that face women living in regional and remote areas when it comes to health care.

Looking to fall pregnant, Sarah had to turn to IVF due to having hypothalamic hypopituitarism.

Living in Broome (roughly 1600km from Perth / a 2.5 hour flight), Western Australia, made the experience less than ideal.

“Initially, I was referred to the gynaecology team at Broome Hospital…, I was then referred to a Fertility Clinic in Perth to discuss my options for beginning a family,” Sarah recalls. “The knowledge of the doctors in the obstetric/gynaecology team at Broome Hospital was incredible and the assistance provided to both my partner and myself made this initial shock (of being diagnosed with hypothalamic hypopituitary) very easy to deal with. The team went above and beyond to answer all questions we had.”

To access IVF, Sarah had to fly to Perth.

“Unfortunately for us, travelling to and from Perth for initial consults and treatment was not a great experience,” Sarah says. “I had to have a full month in Perth without my partner to complete ICSI, which was very emotionally draining. The treatment is challenging enough, let alone not being able to have your family close by.

“Lucky for me, my family are located in Perth, so I had the support of immediate family, when my partner was unable to be close. I did experience a complication in surgery, requiring going in a second time two days later, which was even more challenging with my partner so far away. Had it not been for my family able to take time off work to assist, I would have not been able to complete treatment. I believe myself and my partner flew down five times in relation to IVF.”

While the State Government’s Patient Assisted Travel Scheme assisted with some of the cost of flights and accommodation, “the extended costs involved with treatment away from home are excessive”. “The financial costs – including taking time off from work – as well as the emotional and mental strain makes living regional almost impossible to undertake things like IVF,” Sarah says.

“The main point is that if I did not have a supportive family in the city and we did not have the financial backing, the possibility of children would have been almost impossible for us. Even if we were able to gain a spot in the public system, the time away from home is still a huge hurdle.”

Now blessed with a happy, healthy three-month-old boy, Hunter, Sarah is calling for additional mental and emotional support for regional patients. “There should be options for a partner/husband to be able to fly and be there as a support for their partner,” she says. “Another option, which would be a huge step, is for RANZCOG to advocate for a special form of annual/sick leave to be available for regional patients. This would eliminate or decrease the stress involved around unpaid leave, paying for treatment and having to take such extended times off work.”



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