Date Published: January 25, 2019
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Author(s): Bart C. J. M. Fauser, Jacky Boivin, Pedro N. Barri, Basil C. Tarlatzis, Lone Schmidt, Rachel Levy-Toledano, Qinghua Shi.
Fertility rates in Europe are among the lowest in the world, which may be attributed to both biological and lifestyle factors. Cost and reimbursement of fertility treatments vary across Europe, although its citizens enjoy wide access to fertility care. Since few regional studies evaluating public support for fertility treatment exist, we conducted the Listening IVF and Fertility in Europe (LIFE) survey to ascertain public perception of in vitro fertilization (IVF) and gamete donation as a treatment for infertility among European men and women.
This survey was distributed via an online questionnaire to 8,682 individuals who were voluntary participants in an online research panel residing in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, or the UK. The survey covered items to determine respondents’ beliefs regarding IVF and its success, the need for public funding, the use of IVF among modern families with different lifestyles, and the support for gamete donation. Results were analyzed by age, country of origin, sex, and sexual orientation. A total of 6,110 (70% of total) men and women responded. Among all respondents, 10% had undergone IVF treatment and 48% had considered or would consider IVF in case of infertility. Respondents estimated IVF mean success rate to be 47% and over half of respondents believed that availability of IVF would encourage people to delay conception. Although 93% of respondents believed that IVF treatment should be publicly funded to some extent, a majority believed that secondary infertility or use of fertility treatments allowing to delay parenthood should be financed privately. Survey respondents believed that the mean number of stimulated IVF cycles funded publicly should be limited 2 to 3 (average 2.4). 79% of respondents were willing to pay for IVF if needed with a mean amount of 5,400 € for a child brought to life through IVF. According to respondents, mean minimum and maximum ages for IVF should be 29 and 42 years old, respectively. The current survey showed support for egg and sperm donation (78%), for IVF in single women (61%) and for same-sex female couples (64%). When analyzing the results per group (i.e., sex, age, sexual orientation, and countries), youngest age groups, homosexuals, bisexuals, German respondents, and men had similar overall positive attitudes and beliefs toward IVF and opinions on public funding. Perceived limits to availability were stronger in women.
Overall, the survey results demonstrate a positive attitude among respondents in an online panel toward IVF, gamete donation, and support for public funding for fertility treatment. These findings could potentially drive discussions between patients and prescribers to explore IVF treatment and among legislators and payers to support public funding for these procedures.
Since the development of assisted reproductive technologies (ART), also referred to as medically assisted reproduction , couples with reduced fertility or advanced age, single women, and same-sex couples now have options to experience parenthood. The evolution of and increased access to fertility treatments have resulted in a substantial increase in number of babies born via in vitro fertilization (IVF) since the first IVF baby was born in 1978. According to the most recent available data published by the International Working Group for Registers on Assisted Reproduction and the International Committee for Monitoring Assisted Reproductive Technology, infants born annually via ART in countries reporting, increased approximately 40-fold from 11,323  in 1989 to 404,364 in 2010 .
To our knowledge, the current LIFE survey represents the largest study performed so far concerning public opinion regarding ART with over > 6,000 respondents across Europe. The respondents expressed favorable attitudes in relation to IVF and its success, the need for public funding, the use of IVF among modern families with different lifestyles, and support for gamete donation. The youngest age groups, homosexuals, bisexuals, German respondents, and men had similar overall positive attitudes and beliefs toward IVF and opinions in relation to public funding and perceived limits to availability. Perceived limits to availability were stronger in women. These differences in acceptability, beliefs, and perception should be taken into consideration for future research or when designing awareness campaigns or other initiatives in these groups. The survey revealed over-optimism about success of IVF which may lead to too much reliance on IVF as a mean to overcome infertility.