If you really want a baby, you can’t put a price on getting pregnant—or can you? Each year, tens of thousands of women in the U.S. undergo in-vitro fertilization (IVF). And many of these tens of thousands become mothers too. But they’re also paying tens of thousands of dollars for the privilege.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 7.3 million women in the U.S. aged between 15-44 have used infertility services. While these services make them mothers, they’re also expensive, and sometimes prohibitively so—especially IVF, which just so happens to be one of the most successful assisted reproductive technologies.
How much does IVF cost?
On average, the initial IVF cycle costs around $12,000, sometimes spiraling up to $15,000, and never falling below $10,000. Throw in fertility drugs and you’re looking at an additional $3,000 per cycle. Further cycles can cost up to $7,000 each, and if you want to freeze your eggs for the future, you’ll pay a few hundred dollars a year for “storage.” Plus there’ll be travel expenses too, since the majority of clinics in the U.S. are located in urban areas.
But most insurance providers won’t cover your treatments since infertility is not considered a serious medical condition—as serious as cancer, say—never mind that infertility can be as devastating as any life-threatening disease.
Will my insurance cover IVF?
You could be eligible for partial coverage of fertility treatments. Even if IVF is not specifically covered, certain aspects of your treatments, or your fertility drugs, may be. The National Conference of State Legislators reveals that only 15 states require insurance providers to cover fertility treatments. And only five of those states require insurance providers to cover IVF.
That’s why people take out loans, borrow against their retirement, use up their savings, rack up credit card debt, or even turn to crowdfunding. It’s a wonder this financial stress doesn’t serve to hinder all chances of pregnancy.
How can I afford IVF?
Shop around in the same way you would other big-ticket items. Call the clinics and ask them upfront what’s included in the cost. Does the quote purely cover the IVF cycles, or does it account for fertility drugs, blood work, scans, consultations and so on? Know what you’re getting for your money.
You could also consider an IVF refund or multi-cycle program. These allow you to pay for multiple cycles at a fixed price, which is often discounted compared to the cycle-by-cycle payments. You will also receive a full refund if the treatment isn’t successful. But beware that these packages only apply to one child at a time. If you pay for three cycles and get pregnant the first time, you can’t use the subsequent cycles for future attempts to conceive.
Sarah used an IVF refund program and, after six rounds, she identifies with the lengths that people will go to in order to get pregnant. “You get so desperate that you’re prepared to pay whatever it takes,” she said. “But knowledge of the female body is so incomplete, especially if cycle after cycle fails, that clinics can push drugs on you that aren’t clinically proven. Make sure you know what you’re paying for and watch out for added extras.”
Kiran, who is now a mother, paid for IVF treatment with her savings: “We knew that it would be expensive, but the first clinic we chose kept demanding money for drugs we hadn’t been informed about. They really ripped us off. So we tried another clinic that told us about all costs right from the start, and it actually worked out cheaper in the long run.”
Why is IVF so expensive?
This is a point of dispute. Since the vast majority of insurance providers do not cover the treatment, clinics can set their own price. And this price isn’t always reflective of results. A clinic in New York City, for example, may have greater competition and therefore lower prices than an isolated clinic in a rural area.
Some argue that the level of expertise and type of equipment required for IVF are the reasons it costs so much. Would this be the case, however, if infertility were deemed a serious medical issue rather than a lifestyle issue?
Many think that infertility is the end of the road, but there is no single outcome and no one way to finance a family, which is why non-profit organizations like Resolve and Path2Parenthood are advocating for those who are struggling to have a family.
So if you want to get pregnant and it’s proving difficult, you must put a price on it. We have a way to go to fully remove the stigma associated with infertility, but the more of us who challenge the cost of IVF, and those insurance policies that fall short, the higher our chances become of lowering the price we pay for life.