Infertility remains a hidden subject despite it affecting one in six couples who long for a baby, it emerged today.
The Women’s Health Council (WHC) called for more information on treatments and low success rates and openness on the repercussions of trying for a child.
It also demanded an official body be set up to legislate the country’s ten private clinics which currently operate unlicensed.
The State agency maintained infertility causes couples as much pain and distress as a divorce and death in the family.
Director Geraldine Luddy said society needs to be more aware of the issue of infertility and more sensitive towards it.
“Infertility treatment can have substantial physical, social and emotional repercussions, especially for women who undergo the majority of invasive investigations and procedures,” said Mr Luddy.
“Women in infertile couples have been found to have lower self-esteem, to be more depressed, report lower life-satisfaction, and be more likely to blame themselves for their infertility than their male counterparts.
“They also experience more isolation and feel a higher level of stigma.”
Less than a quarter of couples who undergo treatment will have a baby, with success depending on patient age, weight, pregnancy history, and IVF procedures.
However, latest figures show the number of babies born as a result of IVF has more than doubled from 135 in 2000 to 301 in 2005.
Demand for advice and treatment is expected to rise over the coming years as couples delay parenthood to pursue career and financial security and as obesity and sexually transmitted infection rates increase.
The WHC warned the average cost for one IVF cycle is €7,000, with fertility drugs up to €3,000.
Elsewhere, sperm donation can be €800 and egg donation costing between €5,000 and €12,000.
Ms Luddy said despite the great lengths people go to overcome infertility, it is still a topic that is not discussed or for which help is easily accessible.
In two reports – Infertility and Its Treatments – the WHC revealed the range of psychological, emotional, social and practical difficulties couples encounter and details of the effectiveness of current treatments.
Meanwhile, the agency said Ireland, Romania and Poland are the only countries in Europe not to have legislation for clinics offering assisted reproductive technologies despite, being available since the late 1980s.
Ms Luddy said although the Department of Health was drafting guidelines for regulations, it was currently impossible for couples to compare the success of clinics as data was collected in different ways.
“Some clinics might tell you the successful pregnancies they have but not the successful births,” added Ms Luddy.
“The clinic themselves would like the regulation because it would be useful for the professionals involved and the couples who attend.”