Date Published: 1 March 2009
Assisted Reproductive Technology a boon for fertility
The birth rate was turned around in the first two years after the introduction of the baby bonus in 2004, as Australians appeared to heed the then-treasurer’s advice and have a third child “for the country”.
These findings form part of a broad examination of fertility and government published in the March 2 edition of the Medical Journal of Australia.
According to a report from Ms Samantha Lain and colleagues from the University of Sydney at Royal North Shore Hospital, the birth rate in NSW showed a downward trend from 1997-2004, but increased in 2005 and 2006, with the greatest proportionate increase in births being to teenage mothers.
Rates of first births did not change significantly but rates of third or subsequent births increased across all age, socioeconomic and geographical subgroups.
“Whether it has encouraged couples to increase their family size or just change the timing of a birth is yet to be seen,” said the researchers.
“But the results of this social experiment suggest that financial incentives do affect birth rates.”
According to Professor Robert Jansen, director of Sydney IVF, and Sandra Dill, CEO of Access Australia, Medicare funding for IVF has proven more than twice as productive as the baby bonus. In an editorial, titled How and when to welcome government to the bedroom, they comment on how various government initiatives in Australia have impacted on our fertility.
Quoting 2005/06 figures, they estimated that the baby bonus represented a government investment of just over $45,000 for each extra baby.
“We know that in these two years more than 16,000 babies were conceived by IVF and that having an IVF baby most likely indicates reproductive intentions independent of the bonus.
Accounting for pre-bonus birth rates and IVF births we calculate that about 37,000 extra babies were born in the two years as a result of the bonus.
Medicare rebates for IVF births in the same period were $295,000 which works out at less than $20,000 for each baby.”
In another study relating to Assisted Reproductive Technology in the special fertility issue, Yueping Wang from the University of NSW and colleagues reported, based on data from the Australia and New Zealand Assisted Reproduction Database, that babies born after a single embryo is transferred into the mother’s womb are less likely to be underweight at birth, premature or stillborn than those born after two embryos are transferred.
Single embryo transfer is gaining in favour in Australia: more than half the babies in the study were conceived in this way in 2006.
“Given the fewer maternal complications, lower rate of adverse perinatal outcomes and higher cost-effectiveness… continuing to encourage single embryo transfer will benefit women and their babies as well as society in general,”concluded the researchers.