I’ve joked that conceiving a child costs some people a Friday night’s bar tab, but for those of us with infertility, the price is much higher. It’s no wonder that one of the most significant barriers couples face when struggling with infertility is financial. How will we even afford to try to have a child?
Although there is a range of prices and providers for IVF, the universal truth is that it’s expensive. Take a minute to go check out this IVF Cost Calculator. Click around, check out the different sections, do some calculations. See how much it would cost you to have a child.
According to the calculator, a basic IVF cycle (with the lowest dose medications and without any additional procedures like ICSI or preimplantation genetic testing) is about $12,000. Now run it with those additional “options,” which aren’t really optional for many infertile couples.
Of course, even with all the “options” checked, this calculator doesn’t cover every possible procedure in every possible scenario, so you better add a few thousand (or maybe ten thousand) extra.
It also doesn’t cover things that we don’t think about like repeated labs (I was tested for “communicables” aka STDs, three times in a year and a half), multiple ultrasounds, annual exams, appointments with general practitioners for conditions the specialist wants treated at home, appointments with urologists for male-factor infertility, back-up sperm freezes, travel and lodging expenses, advertising charges, and coordination fees among others.
Now remember that cost comes with no guarantee of success. When we started talking about trying IVF with my eggs, we were given a 30% chance of success. Some family members said, of course, why wouldn’t you try? All I could think about was spending money that would pay off half our mortgage for a 1 in 3 chance of having a child. Usually, when you pay tens of thousands of dollars, you go home with something–like a new car. And of course you should know, many fertility clinics require full payment up front.
Now go back to that calculator because you, like most couples with infertility, did not have success with your first IVF cycle. Maybe you were lucky and have frozen embryos left, so on the next attempt, you’ll “just” need to pay for medications and the transfer, unless, of course, your doctor orders new tests (like the biopsy I had to the tune of $790 plus $384 of medications plus an office and procedure call). But, you may be unlucky, like us, and told to use a donor. So go back to the calculator and run some numbers for using a donor or a surrogate. And remember, there’s still no guarantees here.
“But what about insurance?” you say. “We pay thousands of dollars in premiums, surely it will cover infertility treatment.”
I’m going to just leave this meme here:
According to Resolve, while 1 in 8 couples struggle with infertility, only 1 in 4 insurance policies cover treatment and only fifteen states mandate infertility coverage. (Kansas isn’t one). Some couples relocate to states with mandatory coverage; others switch jobs or pick up second and third jobs with infertility benefits.
But before you get too excited because you live in Texas (or one of the other covered states), you should call your insurance company and see what coverage they provide. It’s likely you’ll find that your company doesn’t have infertility benefits because their plan is written in a state that doesn’t require it or your employer is “self-insured” and exempt from the law. If insurance does provide benefits, you may only qualify after trying to conceive unsuccessfully for a specific number of years. Or it may dictate the providers and clinics you can use. Or it may restrict certain procedures or require others in a certain order or for a certain number of tries regardless of your doctor’s treatment plan. Or it may cover diagnosis and medications only.
Since insurance isn’t going to cover your necessary treatments and medications, you’re going to have to look elsewhere to fund your infertility treatment. Some couples drain their savings accounts, some take out credit card after credit card, some get loans from companies specializing in medical finance, and some use the financing options that few fertility clinics provide in house. A few couples qualify for and are awarded grants through infertility organizations and not-for-profits.
Others find more creative ways to pay for treatment.
I’ve heard of one woman who held online auctions with donated crafts to raise money. Many woman join direct-marketing businesses (like LuLaRue or Rodan & Fields) and use their income for IVF. Still others make GoFundMe and other crowdfunding pages.
I was asked once if someone could create a fundraising page for us to spread awareness and help us afford our treatment. I declined because of reactions like this:
(Because paying tens of thousands of dollars up front, repeatedly–and, yes, adoption is just as expensive as IVF if not more–is totally the same as that of raising a child over decades.)
The last two things couples struggling to conceive need to worry about are how to afford medical care and judgment and negativity concerning their decisions. Yet these two issues are often at the very the top of the list. Imagine being diagnosed with an often treatable medical condition with a vast array of causes from genetic to physical to hormonal to . . . to . . . to . . . (the list is never-ending). Or, worse yet, knowing something is wrong and that there are treatments available but never even getting a diagnosis because it’s unaffordable.
That’s when you start to incur the real costs of infertility because you don’t just bankrupt your finances for infertility.
You also bankrupt your
- hope, joy, and faith
- family and friends
- hopes and dreams and wishes and plans
And you trade all your resources in on a membership to the infertility club and it’s many benefits:
- a whole new vocabulary
- complicated calendars
- cycle day 1’s
- diagnostic testing
- pills, pills, and more pills
- hormone replacement therapy patches and vaginal suppositories
- trigger shots
- multiple reminder alarms
- bruised veins
- a bruised belly
- and a bruised backside
- needles and needles and more needles
- and band aids
- invasive exams
Then one day, when you finally come up for air, you check your account to find that all that’s left is
- and judgment
And you still don’t have a baby.
Last week, we learned that our frozen embryo transfer (with our one remaining embryo) failed. A few days ago, we had a consultation with our doctor. He’s sure that we could have a child and wants us to try again. He thinks the donor eggs were probably the problem as so few made it to blasts. This time he wants us to select a proven donor (preferably one that “over-produced” eggs and embryos and ideally resulted in multiples). He’s even offered us $5,000 toward the next cycle, plus donated medications (but the nurse says they don’t get a lot of these) and $5,000 toward genetic testing of the resulting embryos. Sounds like a good deal, right?
It’s tempting. Because what if it works this time.
But what if it doesn’t. And how can we afford it either way?
What’s the cost of infertility? More than anyone can afford to pay.