Derry couple who spent £20,000 for IVF call for change in 'unfair' rules in Northern Ireland
A couple made to fund their continuing attempts to have a family through IVF want Northern Ireland brought into line with treatments on offer in the rest of the UK.
Deborah and Stephen Cross from Londonderry are about to undergo their fifth cycle of IVF treatment.
They have helped set up the lobby group Fairness in Fertility, which is calling on the Department of Health to offer three free IVF cycles to infertile couples here.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) - an executive non-departmental public body of the Department of Health in the UK - recommends three cycles of IVF should be offered to infertile couples.
Currently only one cycle is given free of charge to couples from Northern Ireland.
Their counterparts in Scotland get three and in Wales it is two. In England the number varies.
The Derry couple have been trying to have a family through IVF since 2010 when they were told by doctors they would not be able to conceive naturally.
The first and only free cycle did not result in Mrs Cross getting pregnant.
While she did conceive with the second cycle, sadly they lost that baby but have bravely continued with treatments in the hope they will have their longed-for child.
To date they have spent £20,000 on private treatments.
And while they are in a position to pay, they want all couples to be given more opportunities to have a family through IVF regardless of their income.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Mrs Cross said: "The whole issue of infertility is a lot bigger than most people realise and more and more couples struggle conceiving a child.
"When we helped set up Fairness in Fertility one of the main issues was getting more access to IVF on the NHS for couples in Northern Ireland.
"We are fortunate in that we have been able to pay for IVF privately, but there are so many couples who deserve the chance to have a family who may not be able to get IVF away from the NHS so it is unfair that in Northern Ireland you only get offered one cycle," she added.
"Our first cycle, which was on the NHS, failed but we did get pregnant after the second cycle.
"We were so excited, we looked forward to meeting our child and our whole future together but at 12 weeks we lost the baby which was a real hammer blow to us."
The couple grieved for the loss of their baby but decided to try again.
And while the two cycles they underwent haven't been successful, they hope a fifth cycle, which is due to begin soon, will be.
Stephen Cross said infertility is a lonely place for any couple, but the knowledge that there are others in the same position helps.
He explained: "Starting a family is something a lot of people take for granted but as we found out it is not the case for a lot of couples.
"Walking into our first appointment at the clinic in the Royal Victoria Hospital in 2010 to see about half a dozen other couples in the waiting room was reassuring in a way.
"It showed us that this is a issue for a lot of people and that we were not alone.
"We hope that by talking about our experience we can show other couples they are not alone and ultimately get more help on the NHS for couples who find themselves in our position in the future," he added.