For the last two years, Mallory Sir and her husband Samuel have been trying to get pregnant. The Sirs are among the one in six Canadian couples who are faced with infertility.
Mallory was diagnosed with diminished ovarian reserve. It is a condition where the ovary loses its normal reproductive potential, making pregnancy more difficult to achieve.
“Like most people when they get married, especially in their late twenties, we thought a family was a natural next step,” she told Global News.
She unsuccessfully underwent one in vitro fertilization cycle (also known as IVF).
“When we did do a round of IVF, there were not a lot of eggs to take,” she explained. “What was there we put in, and it didn’t work.
“Now we’re looking at doing the whole thing all over again.”
The process has been both emotionally and financially consuming.
For Mallory and her husband, that one cycle of IVF, paired with medication, amounted to roughly $15,000.
“It’s debt. It’s our parents helping us,” she said. “I’ve been teaching for eight years. That feels horrible to be like: ‘Mom, dad – could you help me?'”
Coverage for IVF varies from province to province. In Alberta, the procedure is not publicly funded, leaving patients to foot the bill.
In Manitoba, there is a fertility treatment tax credit that covers 40 per cent of treatment costs, including IVF, to a maximum of $8,000 a year.
In Ontario, one cycle per eligible patient is covered. What is not: the cost of fertility drugs.
Quebec used to cover the procedure but in late 2015, the plan was replaced with family income-based tax credits.
Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman said, while she strongly sympathizes with couples facing similar challenges to the Sirs, the government still is not in a position to change things.
“Today and especially given the current economic climate, it isn’t an area we’re able to expand on.”
A 2014 report commissioned by the former Progressive Conservative government suggested if public funding was provided for IVF, the province could see around $179 million in health care and societal cost savings over 18 years.
Hoffman said the NDP government is continuing to monitor the issue and gather information.
“What I’m really reluctant to do is bring forward a program and have to reverse it, which I’ve seen in some other provinces.
“I think that certainly wouldn’t be fair to Alberta families and I want to make sure that when we do move forward, that we have a plan for it to be sustainable and long term.”
As for Mallory and her husband, they will be undergoing a second round of IVF, but it will not be in Edmonton. In fact, they will be leaving the country to cut costs.
The Sirs say they are grateful for the support of their family and friends. Their hope is that by opening up and sharing their story, other individuals will feel empowered to speak openly about fertility challenges.
“She fights and gets up and she does everything she can,” Samuel said. “She’s sacrificed so much for us to even try to have a family and it’s remarkable.
“I’m very lucky and grateful to have her.”