Nova Scotia has long aimed for its population to exceed one million, relying on immigration from around the world and from the rest of Canada.
But many people are denied access to medical treatment that could help them increase the population the old-fashioned way – to have children.
Statistics Canada reports that 15 percent of Canadians will face infertility and advocates say that Nova Scotia’s current rules allow people to treat a medical condition face hefty bills, and that the poor, LGBTQ or single face People with disabilities face even greater obstacles.
Alexandra and his wife Samantha Conway married two years ago and live in Halifax.
“Ever since we got married, we’ve been trying to raise our family,” says Alexandra Conway. “We have four pets. We didn’t have any known fertility issues. The only thing holding us back was, apparently, two females.”
They got on a waiting list for an initial consultation with a doctor to explore their options and saw a doctor four months later.
All fees must be prepaid and the initial consultation costs around $300 – for them, and for singles.
For heterosexual couples, the first meeting is covered by taxpayers. This is because heterosexual couples are seen discussing options covered by the MSI, and single and same-sex couples are discussing things not covered by the MSI.
“No one wants to go through such a mentally and physically draining path, but it is our only option to really grow a family,” she says. “Everyone should be treated equally.”
Conways knew she would have to pay about $10,000 for in vitro fertilization, but was shocked to learn that the accompanying drug would add up to $800 per day for 12 days.
“In total, we have spent over $20,000 on IVF and IUI (intrauterine insemination). This year, and we still don’t have a baby. It’s wild to think about it.”
‘Nova Scotia is lacking’
She thinks that same-sex or single people should get the same coverage as opposite-sex couples, and doesn’t understand why the PEI funds the process, but Nova Scotia does not.
“I think Nova Scotia is lacking in this area and I think the breeding community feels really overlooked and not heard by the province.”
Conway says that he and his wife feel like they have to “break the heart of their family as well as their family” every time a child is not born.
“I think it’s a little harder for straight couples because there’s a stigma against not being able to conceive naturally,” she says.
“I think some of the friends we’ve made will be lifelong friends and hopefully one day we all have kids and they can be friends too.”
Emma Griffin and her husband, Mike Johnson, share that hope. The Dartmouth couple borrowed money to obtain a university degree and buy a house. She became pregnant, but lost the child. He learned he would need IVF.
“We did everything right, as they say. We got a good education, got a job, bought our own house, got married, and then realized that until we paid for it, we could have a healthy baby.” will not be able to procreate,” Griffin says.
Griffin calls this a “financial sterilization,” because many people would struggle to come up with $20,000.
“If you don’t choose treatment, don’t move forward with treatment, don’t find a way to finance treatment, you won’t have children.
“We talk about Canada being the things that free health care and insurance cover, and then we have this, which is a treatment for a health condition that’s not covered.”
She thinks the government should clearly see this as a medical issue that disproportionately affects women, and is “ignored” because of this, she says.
Her friend Amy Terrio from Hammonds Plains calls herself an “infertility warrior,” whose own experience has inspired her to become an advocate for menstrual and reproductive health.
Terio says she and her husband struggled to get a family doctor, who then diagnosed her with polycystic ovary syndrome, a hormonal disorder that can affect fertility. He started an online fundraiser to pay for IVF.
“It’s essentially our only chance to have a natural baby. I didn’t have any shame at all, no guilt about it, because I felt that my community, my family, my friends, they were there for us too. That’s what they want.”
It put pressure on that community to keep it updated, and all the updates so far have been that nothing has changed.
“There are many people who suffer because they feel shame or because they feel unworthy or because society doesn’t see fertility as medically necessary. [procedure],” she says.
“I felt ashamed of my body and what it wasn’t capable of and felt like I was unworthy. I still really struggle with it — every day I have to remind myself that I’m worthy.”
5 provinces include some IVF
Carolyn Dubey is the executive director of Fertility Matters Canada, a charity that helps people find resources and urges better public policy. Dubey says five provinces provide some coverage for IVF, but the rest offer nothing. There is no national strategy.
In New Brunswick, people have to pay upfront and apply for a one-time grant for half the cost – up to $5,000. PEI has a fertility fund that impacts household income and offers up to $30,000 over three years.
Quebec is changing its model from a tax credit to a full plan this fall. Ontario covers one IVF cycle. Manitoba offers tax credits.
Nova Scotia Health Minister Zach Churchill did not respond to a request for an interview on Nova Scotia’s policy.
Dubey says some employers will cover it through insurance, but that means people will have to talk to their boss about their desire to get pregnant.
“Most people don’t tell their boss, ‘I’m going to try to get pregnant,'” she says. “Women in particular are concerned that if I have that conversation, will it affect my ability to grow within the company? Am I being viewed as a threat to the company or because I am a family member.” want to keep it?”
Dubey says infertility affects about 5.5 million Canadians, including 155,000 Nova Scotians. There are 37 clinics in Canada and 17 of them are in the Toronto area. This means that many Canadians will have to travel for treatment.
She says the World Health Organization classifies infertility as a disease, either through a medical diagnosis or through “social infertility,” which includes LGBTQ and single people. And studies show that getting a diagnosis of infertility is as difficult as a diagnosis of cancer.
“But in Canada, we don’t recognize it as such. And that may be part of it,” she says.
bank loan for kids
Dr. Heather Cockwell is one of three physicians at Atlantic Assisted Reproductive Therapies in Halifax, one of two facilities offering IVF in Atlantic Canada. The other is Conceptia in Moncton.
AART is a non-profit and it provides services at a cost, but it still adds up to a huge bill. She says many people take two or three cycles to get pregnant, which can cost as much as $50,000.
“I have people who have had to mortgage their homes to do this,” she says. “I see a lot of patients who want to pursue fertility, but they say, I can’t stand it. And it’s really devastating for them as a couple and as an individual, because It’s sometimes their only chance to conceive.”
She says Nova Scotia stands alone among the maritime provinces in its approach to funding.
“Early work-up and screening are covered – if you are a heterosexual person. Interestingly, they do not cover initial counseling, follow-up and screening if you are a same-sex person, LGBTQ+ or non-sexual -binary, or people who have non-heterosexual relationships.”
She is working with Doctors Nova Scotia to create awareness and provide equal access to all who seek fertility treatment.
Infertile couples trying to conceive have about a 25 percent chance each month. For infertile couples, IVF increases their chances from zero to about 50 percent.
This means that about half of those who seek IVF do not end up with a child.
Cockwell says the whole process often leads to depression, anxiety, and feelings of shame. Some people withdraw from social life, having a hard time celebrating with pregnant friends, births and birthdays.
His clinic consults with about 500 people annually and performs 300 IVF cycles mostly for people from Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador and PEI. They also perform about 300 frozen embryo transfers and 150 insemination cycles per year.
“It’s strange that people coming from PEI to Nova Scotia have funding, but people in Nova Scotia don’t.”
She thinks that if Nova Scotia covered IVF, about 1,000 people would go through the procedure each year.
Brittany Bell volunteers with East Coast Miracles, a patient-led advocacy group in Atlantic Canada. They want to make IVF more accessible and affordable.
“IVF is a chance for a baby,” she says. “You put yourself through the toll of the process, then unfortunately go through many pitfalls. And you hit a wall: Do I want to go through with this? Is it worth it?”
She knows many people who started out feeling lonely but found others through East Coast miracles and social media, and knows how hard it can be to help someone decide to stop trying could.
Bell says infertility takes a toll on mental health and the couple’s relationship. Individually and as a couple, they must balance the hope of a child with the effort and cost of trying again, set against the knowledge that for many people the journey ends without a child. .
Little support for men
While she found a supportive community online, her husband, Aaron, says few men talk about infertility.
“I think it was the most shocking – how many people don’t talk about it because maybe they’re afraid, maybe they’re ashamed of themselves. I can’t speak for everyone, but how common is it? How calm it is, very worrying,” he says.
“We’re just trying to be the provider and supporter, it’s no one’s fault, but you still don’t know. It almost feels like giving false hope when you’re trying to support. Just being the rock.” Trying, the family felt that everything was falling apart.”
He spoke to encourage other men to be more open about the difficulty of undergoing IVF. “It’s okay not to be. There are a lot of men who can feel the same way in this situation. It’s okay to talk about it,” he says.
For the Belles, it worked out and they have a 13-month-old boy named Nathan. It took six years and several miscarriages.
“Against literally zero percent odds, we have an amazing 13-month-old boy, for whom I would do it all over again. Every shot, every procedure, all the heartache that comes from it. For that, I would totally do it.” All.”
“It gets better. Just hang it there.”
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