“So many couples have had their hopes of fertility treatment dashed because of the prohibitive costs”

It’s been about 10 years since Marie Sherlock learned that she couldn’t conceive naturally.

Although she considers herself a natural optimist, she says it was still a blow to hear the doctor’s words.

“I guess there is a degree of turmoil when you first receive the news,” the Labor senator said.

“It’s as if you were receiving news about your health. It’s a shock. I don’t want to dramatize too much. People live much worse, but there is this sadness. There’s this inner turmoil, and yet you put your face on for the rest of the world.

“While you take the news at this time, it’s like any devastating news.”

She and her husband have begun a journey into the world of IVF, and she describes it as a difficult road.

“For a lot of women, not all of them, it gets to the heart of what it means to be a woman,” she says.

“You don’t fully understand your body and try to make sense of it all.

“I think we decided immediately, ‘This is what we want to do’. Not everyone does. Some people find the process far too invasive and psychologically difficult to handle.

“We decided to move heaven and earth to have a child.

“And then we are very lucky to have a very understanding general practitioner and an excellent clinic.

“After several attempts, we were very lucky to succeed, so I have three children now.”

She says that although fertility treatment is often advertised in the price range of €5,000 to €6,000, there are often other costs, including blood tests and embryo storage.

“I say whatever number you see, you should double it,” she says. “Ireland is one of the few states in the EU that does not provide public support for fertility treatment.

“Not true. This was a government commitment dating back to 2016. Six years later and how many couples have seen their hopes of accessing fertility treatment dashed because of the price?

More than one in five pregnancies end in miscarriage and research by the National Organization of Irish Teachers found that 60% of members had experience of dealing with reproductive health issues during the time of job.

Ms Sherlock is part of a group of Labor senators who recently introduced legislation on reproductive health leave for workers who undergo IVF or early miscarriages.

If passed, it would provide the right to paid reproductive leave of up to 20 days for women who suffer an early miscarriage and up to 10 days for those undergoing fertility treatments like IVF.

The bill will be debated in Seanad today.

She says she was lucky to be able to go on dates and not have to tell anyone else because her job was flexible.

“But there are a lot that don’t and that’s the critical thing here,” she says. “We often talk about couples, but many women want to undertake maternity treatment on their own and find themselves in a situation where they have to take annual leave to have the time to engage in this process.

“There are annual holidays and there is force majeure when something happens or when someone is sick. But people are not sick.

“It’s a workplace issue, especially for those who need treatment and have a job where they can’t take a few hours off to go to their clinic.

“Our bill is based on the experiences that so many women have presented to us. IVF is a very intensive process. It has to work around someone’s body. It’s not like you can say “early July would be perfect for me”.

“There is no manual on fertility. Like most people, you don’t really know what the journey will be like until you try for a baby.

“It’s important that those of us who have had an experience talk about it. There is real sadness and some people have a sense of shame and for some people there is a secret about what they are going through.

“Me, personally, I could not talk about it for a long time. »

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