By Sarah Dingle.
But that simple statement masks a lot of fine print, and a serious emotional, physical and financial toll.
Now, a Four Corners investigation reveals that while a corporatised fertility sector is making money, patients are being left in the dark about their treatment and their chances of success.
In Australia, the number of women over 40 having fertility treatment has almost tripled in the last decade.
Unlike other OECD nations, Australia has no age limit on public subsidies for fertility treatment, which last year cost Medicare more than $250 million.
Author and former IVF user Julia Leigh speaks to This Glorious Mess about the real IVF success rates:
Four Corners has obtained Australian data showing that for a woman over 40, using her own fresh eggs, the chance of taking home a live baby are slim to virtually none.
Fertility specialists have also told Four Corners there is a proliferation of “snake oil” treatments in the industry, which is self-regulating.
And leading clinicians have spoken out, saying some women who are being given IVF should not be.
The uncomfortable truth about 40+
In Australia, by far the biggest-billing IVF treatment on Medicare is a stimulated treatment cycle. This is when a woman does not have any previously frozen (and therefore younger) eggs to use, and is starting from scratch.
This is known as an initiated cycle. She undergoes daily hormone injections to stimulate egg production. If all goes well, she proceeds to an egg collection stage, which is followed by fertilisation.
If a healthy embryo results, it can be transferred back into her body in the hope it will take hold.
But at every stage, something can go wrong. You may over-respond to the hormone injections — a dangerous condition which, in very rare cases, can even be fatal. You may not produce any viable eggs.
Your eggs may not fertilise and grow into embryos, or your embryos may fail at the final hurdle and not implant in the uterus. If you achieve a pregnancy, there is still a chance you might miscarry.
The latest, Australian-only numbers given to Four Corners by the industry show the chance of a live delivery for initiated cycles by all age groups for the year 2013.
The numbers for women older than 40, who are trying to collect and fertilise their own eggs, are extremely low.
The average Australian woman aged 41-42 years old has a 5.8 per cent chance of having a live birth per initiated cycle.
If you’re 43-44 years old, you have a 2.7 per cent chance of having a live birth per initiated cycle.
And if you are over 45, you have a 1.1 per cent chance of having a live birth per initiated cycle — which is almost a 99 per cent chance of failure every time.