Free infertility treatment brings hope to many families

Since April 2015, an infertility treatment plan called ‘Barekat-e-Khanevadeh’ (Family Blessing) is underway in Iran’s underprivileged areas in ten provinces and all infertile couples between the ages 20-40 years can benefit from specialized treatment for infertility, free of charge.

The provinces include Khuzestan, Kermanshah, Ilam, Lorestan, East Azarbaijan, North Khorasan, Khorasan Razavi, South Khorasan, Mazandaran and Golestan, IRNA reported.

There are around three to five million infertile couples in the country.

More than 1,800 infertile couples in the provinces have been identified so far, and 750 couples have received treatment with the result that six babies have been born in the past seven months.

Three of the babies born in December 2015 include a girl in Sobhaniyeh village, Susangerd County, Khuzestan Province. Her parents waited 6 years for the birth of the baby.

The other two babies were a set of boy-girl twins born to a family living in Karand village, Qaen County, South Khorasan Province.

The fourth baby boy was delivered last month in Palangard village, Eyvan County, Ilam Province.  His parents were infertile for about 8 years.

This month saw the birth of two babies, one through infertility treatment at the Imam-Reza Hospital in Mashhad, Khorasan Razavi Province. After six years of struggling with the problem, finally with the help of IVF treatment the couple got their first child. They live in Lanoo village, Sarbisheh County, South Khorasan Province. The other baby was delivered in Mazandaran.

More women who took infertility treatment will complete their gestation and are expected to conceive in the coming months.

The infertility treatment plan conducted jointly by the Health Ministry and the Barekat Foundation (affiliated to Setad which is a special office for executing the decrees of Imam Khomeini in helping the underprivileged) is in line with the general population policies to enhance population growth set by the Leader, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei in June 2014.

At current fertility rates, Iran’s median age is expected to increase from 28 in 2013 to 40 by 2030. The possibility of zero population growth rate by the year 2050 cannot be ruled out.

The total fertility rate (TFR) or the average number of children born to a woman in her lifetime, is currently 1.8 in Iran which is the lowest among Islamic countries, and even below the world average of 2.1 births per woman.

Costly Treatment

Before the plan was launched, infertile couples at the lower end of the economic ladder were unable to become parents, as most assisted reproductive technologies (ART) are very expensive and not covered by insurance (except for 10 fertility medications which are also unaffordable for rural people even under health insurance. Also, most of the treatments should be used in combination with other treatments like IVF).

The costs of specialized infertility treatment are staggering. While most of the women have per-cycle IVF success rate of only 20-35% (so they usually should go under more than one cycle), each cycle costs $2300 to $2900 in Iran.

According to Ali Asghar Ghafarzadeh, head of the Jihad Daneshgahi Infertility Center in Arak city, Markazi Province, treatment options will vary according to the cause of the fertility problem.

“Sometimes infertility can be simply solved by medication therapy which costs $100 or a little more. As an example if an individual’s hormones are out of balance, medication therapy may get the reproductive system back on track.”

But most cases are in need of advanced and specialized techniques such as IVF, which is not affordable to many households.

By Financial Tribune