DESPERATE to start a family, Shamlin and Denise Chetty are among the many South African couples spending in total more than R220-million a year on fertility treatment.Shamlin, a mechanic, and his wife, a state-employed nurse, have spent almost R86000 in the past year on three unsuccessful in vitro fertilisation treatments.Cape Fertility Clinic specialist Paul le Roux estimates that close to 7000 IVF treatments, at an average cost of R32000 each, will take place in South Africa this year.”It is not uncommon for a couple to require two to three courses of IVF, the total cost then being in excess of R90000,” he said.

Sandton’s Vitalab fertility specialist, Lawrence Gobetz, said the clinic has seen a 20% to 30% year-on-year rise in the number of patients being evaluated and treated for infertility.

He attributed the increase to women delaying having children, therefore finding it more difficult to conceive naturally at an older age.

Jason Sive, chief executive of First Health Finance, which funds couples who want to conceive, said that his company received applications for close to R16-million to fund fertility treatment last year.

“Most medical aid schemes view fertility treatment as nonessential medical care, so affordability becomes a significant issue in the patients’ life,” Sive said.

The average age of applicants for finance was 32.

Most applicants were from Gauteng, 25% were from Western Cape, and 5% were from KwaZulu-Natal.

“Fertility treatment is not something that a couple chooses to prolong because there is an element of desperation, understandably, about falling pregnant,” said Sive.

“In certain situations, we have seen clients, who are clearly over-indebted, struggling to meet other instalments and still apply for finance. As a result, we must decline certain applications.”

The Chettys have saved enough money for one more IVF treatment.

“If it does not work, we have to cut our losses and move on. We have spent a lot of money and time and we can’t obsess over having a child if it is not meant to be,” Denise said.

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