IVF and trying to conceive during a pandemic

5 March 2021 / by Jess Goldson
Headshot of Dr. Dixon smiling into the camera. She shares insight on IVF funding in Canada

Dr. Marjorie Dixon, a gynecologist and fertility specialist at Anova Fertility, speaks with CJRU on the state of in-vitro fertilization (IVF) funding in Canada. With input from D2Law LLP Fertility Law’s Sara Cohen, they analyze the effect that COVID-19 has had on those seeking IVF treatments.

“The issues around the pandemic and fertility are really how to provide care safely to patients. And that was one of the first kind of conundrums we had to deal with and then how we had to manage it was in concert with public health guidelines […] We felt that women’s health was essential, and an essential service so shouldn’t be interrupted,” said Dixon on advocating for fertility treatments to continue without interruption during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Cohen, the pandemic has not decreased the amount of people seeking fertility treatments.

“There still has been quite a bit of family building going on. I think, you know, especially because time constraints, time really matters when it comes to fertility. So, people aren’t really waiting,” Cohen says.

The real issue lies in in-vitro fertilization’s inaccessibility outside of the pandemic.

“One of the biggest barriers for fertility patients accessing care is cost. Cost is one. And the emotional rollercoaster is off putting so much that people will stop care. So those are the two big barriers to accessing care,” Dixon explains.

She advocates for change so that marginalized populations may also be able to build their families. One of the ways this can be accomplished is by creating an economic parameter that would include people who cannot afford the treatments. Another solution is to get rid of the wait list that publicly funded programs involve. As Cohen pointed out, fertility has time constraints.

Dixon states that a way to overcome these inequalities is for patients to advocate for themselves as dedicated employees to their employers.

“You say that families are important to you and to your workforce. If you want to retain these talents, you should consider adding this [IVF] to the portfolio of benefits,” she urges.

Dixon works in collaboration with Conceivable Dreams and Fertility Matters Canada, patient advocacy groups, to lobby for fertility support through benefit packages for employees. She continues to advocate for improvements and additional funding for the many Canadians who require fertility treatments.

To hear more, listen to the interview below. This story is the first in a four-part series centred on women’s reproductive health and family planning.