ACCESS FERTILITY ANNOUNCES SPECIAL ARRIVAL OF 100% MONEY-BACK GUARANTEE IVF PROGRAMME AT GCRM-BELFAST
Around one in six couples in the UK today are struggling to conceive, which equates to over 3.5 million people!
An innovative IVF programme is making private infertility treatment more accessible to couples across Ireland through a partnership between leading local fertility clinic, GCRM-Belfast and Access Fertility – the UK’s first independent provider of IVF payment programmes and treatment plans.
Access Fertility, which provides accessible and affordable in vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment – has announced the launch of a new 100% Money-Back Guarantee Programme. The new Refund Programme aims to give peace of mind to people that are struggling to conceive, relieving the financial burden and emotional impact of IVF treatment on local couples.
In 2014, GCRM-Belfast was the first clinic in Ireland to offer IVF patients a 70% refund if they fail to have a baby after undertaking infertility treatment through Access Fertility. Now, the clinic’s Refund Programme has been extended to offer a 100% money-back guarantee to couples that are not successful in having a baby. Outreach clinics have been established in Donegal and arrangements have also been put in place with a Dublin-based clinic to ensure patients from across Ireland can conveniently access treatment at GCRM-Belfast.
Based on UK figures, as many as one in six couples in Northern Ireland could be experiencing difficulty conceiving. Since the arrival of Access Fertility’s first 70% money-back programme at GCRM-Belfast in 2014, the clinic has helped hundreds of couples across Ireland access IVF treatments. And that number is expected to rise, with the introduction of this new programme.
After struggling to conceive for two years, Caroline and Carl Henderson, who live in Moira, Co. Armagh, went through IVF treatment at GCRM-Belfast through the Access Fertility Refund programme last year. After one round of treatment, Caroline became pregnant in March 2015. Their daughter Aibhilín – Irish for ‘longed for/wished for’ – was born on 31st October 2015, realising their dream of becoming parents.
Commenting on their experience, Caroline Henderson, aged 32, said: “We had been trying to get pregnant for about two years after we got married. It was a very stressful time – waiting and hoping every month for good news whilst dealing with well-meaning but often upsetting questions from friends and family about when we were going to have children. I stopped counting after month 28. We eventually went to our GP and discovered that our challenge was a male factor and that natural conception would be very unlikely for us. Not many people realise that 40% of fertility problems are male factor – it was certainly a surprise to Carl and I.
“We were put on the waiting list for IVF treatment on the NHS but decided to look at private treatment, whilst time was on our side. I was 31 at the time and research shows that fertility begins to decline in women after 32 – we wanted to give ourselves the best possible chance.
“The Access Fertility refund programme at GCRM-Belfast offered us great peace of mind. We were very lucky to conceive after one round of IVF but I had done a lot of research and knew that in most cases, it can take up to three or four attempts. Going into the process, it eased both the emotional and financial strain, knowing that we would have more than one chance if we weren’t successful the first time round.
“There’s still a lot of stigma around IVF – people don’t talk about it and with increasing rates of infertility it is something we need to talk about more. We hope that our story will provide hope and inspiration to other couples out there that are trying to conceive.
“The staff at GCRM-Belfast and Access Fertility were fantastic and guided us through the process – we felt like part of the family. They helped us to work against the odds and we will be forever grateful to them for helping us to bring our daughter into the world.”
IVF success rates decline significantly with increasing female age, meaning that staying in treatment is even more important to maximise the chances of having a baby. The Refund Plans now allow couples to do this by making treatment more affordable than ever.
The New Access Fertility IVF Refund Programme at GCRM-Belfast offers a 100% refund if patients do not have a baby. The treatment, which covers up to three cycles of IVF and all frozen embryo transfers is open to couples where the woman is aged up to 37 years old.
With Access Fertility, women aged 37 to 40 can apply for the 50% refund option, meaning that GCRM-Belfast are the first and only clinic in Ireland to offer a refund to all patients under the age of 40.Any patient who is ineligible for the Refund Programme will automatically be offered the Multi-Cycle Programme, which gives patients (using their own eggs) up to two IVF cycles and all frozen embryo transfers requiring no medical review. All patients aged 42 and under can benefit from the Multi-Cycle Programme.
A unique feature of all Refund Plans is that patients are not locked into completing the full three cycles of treatment and can withdraw from the scheme at any time and still receive a refund.
A third of Access Fertility patients experience a live birth after one cycle of IVF and 70% of patients experience a live birth when they go through three cycles. Only one cycle of IVF treatment is available on the NHS in Northern Ireland therefore, many couples are choosing to go privately. The average cost of private IVF treatment in Northern Ireland is between £4,000-£5,000 per cycle.
Robbie Kerr, Laboratory Director at GCRM-Belfast commented: “Infertility is a harsh reality for people, with around one in six experiencing difficulty conceiving. We understand how challenging undergoing IVF treatment can be for prospective parents –both financially and emotionally – so to be able to offer this security to our patients in the event of unsuccessful treatment was the perfect fit for our ethos at GCRM-Belfast. The new Access Fertility Refund Programme not only makes financial sense, giving our patients peace of mind – it also increases our patients’ chances of conceiving because treatments are more accessible.”
CEO of Access Fertility, Ash Carroll-Miller said: “We are thrilled to work with GCRM-Belfast, which is deservedly building a reputation as one of the top clinics in the UK and Ireland through its philosophy of combining very high success rates with industry-leading patient support. An IVF journey comes with many challenges and we want to make treatment more affordable, reduce patients’ financial risk and ultimately, help them to achieve their dream of having a baby. We’re proud to exclusively partner with GCRM-Belfast on our 100% Refund Programme to make a difference to patients both in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.”
The Refund Programme aims to reduce the cost of treatment and help prospective parents to minimise the financial risk, giving peace of mind for the future. More importantly, this programme improves the chances of success by allowing patients the opportunity to commit to more than one cycle of IVF at a time.
Access Fertility patients can discuss their options thoroughly with their clinician to choose between a refund amount of between 50% to 100%, with plan fees increasing the higher the refund amount. Under the new plan, the lowest fee option guarantees patients half of their investment back should their treatment not result in a baby. For further information, visit www.gcrmbelfast.com or call 028 9078 1335.
GCRM-Belfast shares their top fertility tips as a first port of call for those struggling to conceive:
- Go Back to School
In planning a family GCRM-Belfast would always advise educating yourself about your own fertility. It might be worth investigating your genetic history as a starting point. Primarily female fertility is age related and knowing how your fertility changes with age is crucial. In women fertility rates start to decline from age 32, increasing from 35 with a sharp decline from 40 onwards. For men, sperm can start declining in quantity and quality from 40 years on. The key is to take charge of your reproductive health and plan accordingly. If having children earlier is not something you wish to consider, options for fertility preservation now exist such egg freezing however, if choosing this option gaining good advice from a reputable clinic is critical so you fully understand the pros & cons of such procedures.
- Healthy weight = Increased Fertility
Being either underweight or overweight can have a negative impact on fertility for both men and women. GCRM-Belfast would recommend that patients calculate their BMI when trying for a baby. For women, in general a target healthy BMI of between 20 and 24.9 is ideal, which will help regulate your menstrual cycle and increase your chances of successful pregnancy. It is also worth noting that if seeking fertility treatment some clinics will not offer treatment unless your BMI is less than 30.
- Eat a healthy and balanced diet
Nutrition plays a big role when it comes to having both a healthy body and equally a healthy reproductive system. Antioxidant rich food such as fruits and vegetables help to protect the egg and sperm from damage. Highly processed foods such as processed meat and sugary foods contain chemical preservatives that can be harmful to your fertility. GCRM-Belfast advise all patients to maintain a balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruit and veg, avoid processed foods, junk food and fizzy drinks and reduce your caffeine intake as much as possible. Omega 3 essential fatty acids found in fish oils and good-quality flaxseed oils are not only recommended for healthy cell development, but also play an important role during pregnancy.
- Alcohol & nicotine
Quitting smoking will not only be beneficial for your overall health, research shows that smoking has a negative effect on both female and male fertility. Smoking can cause hormonal imbalances and damage to the female reproductive system, which can have a critical effect on your chances of conceiving. Furthermore, smoking significantly increases the risk of miscarriage within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. For men, smoking can also have a profound effect on your sperm count and has been linked to increased sperm DNA damage, which will all affect your chances of conceiving naturally. GCRM-Belfast do not advise patients to take up a life of abstinence, however it is a fact of modern society that we are consuming more alcohol on a weekly basis than we would have historically. Heavy alcohol intake in men has been linked to reduced testosterone production and reduced sperm quality, whereas in women excessive consumption is linked to ovulatory problems. Unfortunately we do not know how much alcohol you need to drink before your fertility is affected, so patients should try to reduce their alcohol intake, or try to cut it out completely while trying for a baby.
- Vitamins and supplements
Women should start taking 400mcg folic acid before trying to conceive and during the first three months of pregnancy. Folic acid is important for pregnancy, as it can help to prevent birth defects known as neural tube defects, including spina bifida. If you didn’t take folic acid before you conceived, you should start as soon as you find out that you are pregnant. Eating foods that contain folate (the natural form of folic acid), such as green leafy vegetables, brown rice, some breakfast cereals and margarine will help. However, it is difficult to get the amount of folate recommended for pregnancy from food alone, which is why it is important to take a folic acid supplement.
Vitamin D can be found naturally in oily fish (such as salmon, mackerel and sardines), eggs and meat. Some manufacturers add it to some breakfast cereals, soya products, some dairy products, powdered milk, and fat spreads such as margarine. It is difficult to get enough vitamin D from food alone. Increasing your Vitamin D intake six weeks prior to fertility treatment will benefit normal egg, sperm and embryo development. Vitamin C and E have also been suggested to be beneficial for healthy egg and sperm development as these Vitamins provide protection to the cells of the embryo to keep them healthy.
- Exercise but in moderation – don’t over-exercise
Getting fertility fit can be a challenge – on one hand you need to keep a low BMI and eat healthy. However, too much exercise can also be detrimental if you are trying to conceive. You should avoid vigorous and prolonged exercise as this can cause disturbances to a woman’s monthly cycle, leading to a lack of ovulation, along with other fertility problems. This is particularly common among competitive female athletes. Whilst trying to conceive opt for brisk walks and yoga sessions as opposed to triathlons and cardio sessions at the gym.
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