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SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - Older women can end up paying more than five times as much as younger women to successfully have an IVF baby, according to an Australian study.
Researchers from the University of Sydney set out to examine a boom in vitro fertilization (IVF) and other assisted reproduction techniques amid a debate on whether the government should subsidize such treatments.
They found that the cost per live birth from IVF increases with maternal age and the number of treatments, with the study finding that maternal age had the greater effect.
The price per baby ranged from A$27,373-A$31,986 ($24,310 to $28,407) for women aged 30-33 on their first and third IVF treatments compared to $130,951-$187,515 (US$116,300 to $116,300) for women aged 42-45 on their first and second IVF attempts.
"This evidence may help decision-makers target the use of IVF services conditional on societal willingness to pay for live births and equity considerations," said researcher Alison Griffiths in a statement.
The government-funded study, published in the journal Human Reproduction, found from 2002 to 2003 there was a 16 percent increase in the use of assisted production technology, or ART, services among Australians compared with an increase of 13 percent among Europeans and 6.5 percent among Americans.
IVF expert Dr. Edmond Confino, of Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, said the Australian study confirmed other research of the past 20 years -- namely, that the cost to produce a baby with IVF increases with a woman's age.
But he voiced concerns that research emphasizing poor outcomes in older women could lead to discrimination against women and prompt policy makers to cap the age for women eligible for government or other assistance.
"In other words, they will say it is not economical to provide you with IVF coverage if you are say 38 and above because that's the age when it becomes very expensive," Confino told Reuters Health.
But Griffiths said in Australia only 9 percent of women starting IVF in 2002 were aged 42 to 45, "which means that the total financial impact of IVF for this age group would be expected to be substantially lower than for younger women."
She added that if the government started restricting age on IVF, some couples may opt to have "more embryos transferred per cycle earlier, leading to higher costs and potentially poorer outcomes due to multiple births."
Reporting by Howard Wolinksy of Reuters Health, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith