Devastating cases like a woman who was left infertile by a rape have sparked a call from a leading IVF doctor for the government to fully fund some fertility treatment.
Professor Robert Norman from the Women's Health Centre at the Royal Adelaide Hospital wants free IVF available for the most disadvantaged, including refugees, as long as they meet certain requirements such as age, weight and that they don't smoke.
I know I can help them, I know I can give them a fantastic result but they just can't afford it.Professor Robert Norman, Women's Health Centre.
"I know I can help them, I know I can give them a fantastic result but they just can't afford it," said Professor Norman, who also sits on the board of a private IVF clinic.
"I would see two or three patients a week who need IVF because their tubes are blocked, husband's sperm is terrible and there's nothing I can do for them because they've got zero money," he said.
"Infertility treatment needs to be part of the public system and not shoved off into private hands exclusively."
Fairfax Media last week revealed increasing numbers of Australians were raiding their retirement savings to pay for IVF, which at a premium clinic costs about $11000 a cycle up front, although nearly half of that can be claimed back.
There are few public IVF clinics in Australia that offer subsidised services and even at these clinics the out-of-pocket expenses for IVF can still costs patients up to $3000 a cycle.
Industry leaders say even when profit is removed from the equation, the Medicare rebate of about $5000 for a cycle does not come close to covering the costs of the technology and personnel required to perform IVF.
"I might be seen as the doctor involved in this multi-million dollar service but just for me I would have three scientists, three nurses, two admin staff, a counsellor," said Professor Michael Chapman, the president of Fertility Society of Australia.
"For IVF to run in a public sector there would need to be state and federal funding specifically for that purpose."
A new public model that would allow a few hundred people living in Sydney's east to access a cycle for less than $1000 is expected to be opened out of the Royal Hospital for Women in May.
The doctor leading the clinic, Professor William Ledger, said it incorporates egg and semen-freezing for cancer patients with fertility research and low-cost IVF. It has been funded by the University of NSW and the Royal Hospital for Women Foundation.
"The model is that everyone will have to pay the same, it will be capped as low as it can be because we're not making a profit, we don't have shareholders," he said. "We just have the public hospital that pays its doctors a reasonable wage but nothing excessive in order to deliver that care. It's cheaper than it would be in the private sector."
He said Westmead and Royal Prince Alfred Hospitals offer public IVF services in other parts of Sydney using a similar model.
But in Victoria, there is only the Reproductive Services Clinic at the Royal Women's Hospital, which is affiliated with Melbourne IVF, said fertility specialist Alex Polyakov.
Dr Polyakov, who works at the clinic, said IVF was heavily subsidised but still cost patients a couple of thousand dollars. "I think it would be wonderful if there was a fully-funded service for some patients but what is done in the lab costs a lot of money," he said.
Professor Norman loathes turning away patients who can't pay. Especially those from cultures that prize children above all else, who are often from parts of Africa and the Middle East.
"I see a number of patients who have absolutely no money and for whom having children is the ultimate desire in their life, we've got nothing to offer them.
"IVF is an important medical treatment, infertility is a real disease that causes pain and the two often have to be combined together."
Last week, new data revealed that of 73,598 women who started IVF cycles in 2014, one in five (19.8 per cent) delivered a live baby. It was a 10 per cent improvement in the live birth rate over five years.
But the success rate shrunk to 6 per cent for women aged 40 to 44, and less than 1 per cent for over 45s, throwing into question whether the rebate should be available for older women.
Professor Chapman had told Fairfax Media if all the costs of IVF treatment for women aged over 40 were added together and then divided by the number of babies born, this worked out to $100,000 per baby, and $200,000 for women over 45, compared with less than $30,000 for babies born to women aged 30.
"Is that value for money?" Professor Chapman said. "That's a question the taxpayer has to answer."
Professor Norman will present on the future of IVF at the annual scientific meeting of the Fertility Society of Australia, in Perth this week.