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Germany is poised to start paying couples who want families to have IVF treatment as it seeks ways to reverse its drastically declining birthrate.

Family minister Kristina Schröder also pledged to cut down on bureaucracy for people who want to adopt.

Pregnant herself and expecting a baby in June, Mrs. Schröder, said she found it 'intolerable' that couples wanted children but couldn't afford the cost of medical treatment.

In an interview with Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung she went on; 'We rarely talk about it, but most people know friends or relatives who have this misfortune.'
Germany's population is aging fast; it has the lowest birthrate in Europe and parts of depressed former Communist East Germany have the lowest in the world. Mrs. Schröder pledged more financial help for treatments such as in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and more opportunities for adoption.
Intolerable: Pregnant herself and expecting a baby in June, family minister Mrs. Schröder, said she found it 'intolerable' that couples wanted children but couldn't afford the cost of medical treatment

'I find it intolerable if the hope for children is dashed because of money,' she went on. 'I get many letters from couples who tell me how they scrape together the money, then despair when it doesn't work, and start saving again - all that with the pressure of the biological clock ticking.'
Treatments for IVF cost between 3,000 and 4,500 pounds with age limits set in Germany at 40 years for women. On average every fourth attempt is successful, according to statistics.

Financial constraints in hard times, plus pressure on the budgets of the compulsory insurance funds which make up the German health system, have seen a dramatic fall-off in applications for IVF in recent years.

It is unclear how high the financial incentives might be although some media reports said they might be as much as half of the total cost of treatment.

Financial assistance has been available in the past for IVF in Germany but cutbacks have curtailed both the amount of money available and the number of tries the state was willing to underwrite.

Since 2004 it has stopped financial assistance altogether for the fourth attempt - the crucial one at which most women become pregnant. That has resulted in a fall off by approximately half of all couples seeking to start a family through the procedure. Mrs. Schroeder hopes that paying half - and perhaps even three-quarters - of the costs for all treatments will promote a spike in applicants.
She was speaking as new economic figures show that Germany's recovery is continuing to outpace the rest of Europe with a corresponding rise in tax cash which she hopes will be used to fund the IVF programme.

'There is here a highly transparent connection between national policy and the number of births. Therefore we must do something,' said Mrs Schröder.

Mrs. Schroeder, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU Conservative party, is hoping to fine tune her proposals for a parliamentary vote on the issue before the summer recess.

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Oh b*gg*r, we moved back to the UK from Germany in 2006. Not that we were ttc then or had any idea of what lay ahead, and not that I ever want to move back there, but this could tip the balance if our current, only funded cycle of ICSI fails...

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