Stephanie Bayliss hoped to be pregnant with her first baby by now, but the COVID-19 pandemic is another barrier preventing her from starting a family.
- Stephanie Bayliss is one of many women unable to access IVF treatment due to border closures
- Some women have secured exemptions to travel overseas to start a family
- IVF Australia is calling on state governments to allow exemptions for fertility procedures interstate
The 32-year-old and her partner began IVF treatment at the start of the year, and in May were about to attempt an embryo transfer — but the procedure was postponed due to complications.
Then on July 22, Ms Bayliss — who lives in Coffs Harbour on the New South Wales Mid North Coast — got the call from her fertility clinic in Brisbane informing her that test results showed she was ready to attempt the procedure.
But that was the day a hard border closure was reinstated as the COVID-19 Delta variant rapidly spread throughout NSW, a devastating blow for Ms Bayliss.
“This extra battle of COVID and border closures just adds this whole extra hurdle to an already incredibly difficult process,” she said.
“I was pretty distressed and pretty upset”.
LIVE UPDATES: Read our blog for the latest news on the COVID-19 pandemic Stephanie Bayliss and her husband began their IVF journey at the start of the year.(ABC Coffs Coast: Claudia Jambor)
More than four months on, Ms Bayliss and her husband’s pursuit of starting a family has been in limbo because they’re not allowed to cross the border.
The Queensland government website says time-sensitive exemption requests, such as those on compassionate grounds, are prioritised. But the website also states that most people will not be granted an exemption.
Calls for compassion
Ms Bayliss considered transferring her embryos to a Sydney clinic. But she discovered it would cost thousands of dollars, on top of accommodation and paying for medical tests required for the procedure.
In Brisbane, the couple stay with family and the facility bulk-bill parts of the treatment.
The leading body for fertility specialists, IVF Australia, said women like Ms Bayliss were struggling to access clinics in Brisbane due to stringent border restrictions.
IVF Australia is calling on the Queensland government and others to show compassion by allowing women exemptions to undergo fertility procedures.
Peter Illingworth says he has heard of Australian women travelling overseas to access fertility treatment.(Supplied: IVF Australia)
The organisation’s medical director, Associate Professor Peter Illingworth said he was aware of women who have secured exemptions to travel overseas to start a family.
“It’s just a bit unusual that someone could get a visa to travel to Europe for treatment, but not to Brisbane,” he said.
“It’s surprising that greater access to fertility services is being afforded to Australian women travelling abroad than interstate.”
Ms Bayliss aims to cross the border on December 17, when the Queensland government will allow fully vaccinated visitors to enter by road or plane, provided they have a negative COVID-19 test 72 hours before arrival.
Ms Baylis says she has “a tiny little window” to access treatment.(ABC Coffs Coast: Claudia Jambor)
She hopes to undergo embryo transfer before the fertility clinic she attends shuts down over the holiday period.
“I’ve got a very small bubble of time. I can’t control my own body,” she said.
“So, I’ve got to try and time it so that I can go up in that tiny little window.
“Otherwise, it’ll be mid-January before we can before we can do it. So [we’re] trying to get in [to the clinic] as soon as possible.”
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Despite the challenges of the pandemic, and the emergence of the latest Omicron variant, Ms Bayliss is determined to start a family.
“We just have to cross our fingers and wait and see if the Omicron variant affects the [Queensland] border,” she said.
“There’s not really an alternative not to keep going and to keep pushing and to keep fighting.”
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