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After 40 Years, Test Tube Babies are still for the Relatively Few in Brazil

07/26/2018 - 11h41

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CLÁUDIA COLLUCCI
SÃO PAULO

Four decades after the birth of the first test tube baby, an English girl named Louise Brown, the greatest barrier to in vitro fertilization (IVF) in Brazil continues to be access to the treatment.

Foto: Evening News / Solo Syndication
Louise Joy Brown (born 25 July 1978), known for being the first human to have been born after conception by in vitro fertilisation
Louise Joy Brown (born 25 July 1978), known for being the first human to have been born after conception by in vitro fertilisation

Each IVF cycle costs between R$ 15 and R$ 20 thousand (US$ 4 and US$ 5.5 thousand). On average, the chance of a successful pregnancy is 36% for each attempt according to a recent European study.

In the Brazilian public health care system (SUS), the therapy has been listed as an available procedure since 2005, but few units actually provide it. And in many of those that do, the couple has to pay for the cost of drugs and medications (which can be as much as 50% of the total IVF treatment cost). If they don't, they spend years on a waiting list until being dismissed or giving up.

The lack of access to IVF affects those with healthcare and insurance plans as well. Although infertility is considered to be a disease by the ICD (International Illness Classification), the law from 1998 which regulates healthcare and insurance plans exempts them from the obligation of providing reproductive assistance.

This is a contradiction since the very same legislation guarantees coverage for all diseases and illness recognized by the ICD. Additionally, another norm (from 2009) added a provision requiring coverage of family planning treatment services to healthcare and insurance plans.

Even with all these difficulties, it's been estimated that more than 500 thousand babies have been born through this technique in Brazil since October of 1984, the first year in which a birth was recorded by IVF in Brazil. More than 8 million test tube babies have been born throughout the world.

Beyond the price, another challenge the technique faces is increasing the likelihood of pregnancy by transferring only one embryo, instead of multiple embryos, to avoid having multiple simultaneous pregnancies and resulting births.

Translated by LLOYD HARDER

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