Infertility. It’s a word that becomes a reality for so many. According to the National Survey of Family Growth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in eight couples have trouble getting pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy, and more than 85,000 women in the U.S. undergo in vitro fertilization (IVF) each year. Estimates are that more than a half million babies are now born each year from IVF1. But what so many don’t realize is the extreme financial burden IVF can carry.
According to FertilityIQ data, the cost of a single cycle of IVF runs around $23,474, depending on where you have it performed and what services you include. The majority of IVF patients will fail on their first cycle and will continue treatment for a second, third or fourth cycle. The average patient will undergo 2-3 cycles in total and spend close to $50,000.
My husband and I tried for children for over seven years. Numerous tests, dozens of procedures, one failed adoption and 4 extremely difficult rounds of IVF led us to our miracle babies. Under extreme stressful conditions and a burning desire to be parents, your emotions will likely keep pushing you forward. Whether you’ve planned for it or not, you continue to move to the next round. Looking back I had no idea what our journey would entail, but we made it a financial priority to get to where we are now.
It’s important to have a financial road map established before deciding to move forward with any large financial commitment. You need to prioritize your other financial goals and make sure that by incorporating this cost you aren’t creating financial destruction that may cause more undo stress later. Here are some tips, guidelines and facts as you approach the financial side of your infertility journey:
Know what you are signing up for:
As the statistics mention, infertility can be a long road with many out-of-pocket costs that do not guarantee a pregnancy right away or at all. Emotionally it’s hard to walk away, so know what you can afford in advance or what you are comfortable spending regardless of the outcome.
Is adoption an alternative for you? Some couples are comfortable with the idea of adoption and others are not. With adoption you will have to jump through a lot of hoops to navigate the adoption process and there may potentially be a long wait. Like infertility, adoption, too, can carry a high price tag.
Is it covered by insurance?
The actual IVF procedure oftentimes is not covered by insurance (although it’s always worth checking), but other steps of the process might be. For example, preliminary testing, monitoring, and prescriptions may be covered. Your clinic should give you a detailed summary of services to submit to your insurance company for review. The insurance company should be able to tell you right away what’s a covered expense and what’s not.
What if it’s not covered by insurance?
There are programs such as Attain Fertility that work with specific clinics to offer more “all inclusive” bundle packages that have agreements attached to them. You will likely pay a higher price up front, but you could get a refund back if you are unsuccessful after multiple tries. This could take the financial pressure off of needing it to work the first or even second time. Depending on the type of program you sign up for it typically takes two full cycles to break even on the cost you would’ve spent outside the program BUT potentially having a refund in the end is like adding an insurance policy to your process.
How am I going to pay for this?
There are many ways in which you can fund this expense. It’s important to be mindful of what you can/can’t afford. These should all be considered very carefully with your financial advisor because they may impact you in ways you aren’t aware of. Here are just a few ideas:
- If you’re eligible to fully fund a Health Savings Account or a Flexible Spending Account, consider using this bucket first.
- Use money from your regular savings account. It’s important to still maintain an adequate emergency fund (3-6 months worth of expenses) but beyond that this is a great place to go.
- Pay for services from your cash flow. If you have discretionary income after your expenses are covered, pay as you go. Often times the expenses come in chunks at various times throughout the process. If you’re making extra payments toward low interest debt, like a mortgage, stop for the time being.
- Take a loan from family members. If you have family that’s willing to help, take the offer! Family or friends may even offer to start a crowdfunding website like GoFundMe, which can be a great way for more people to help your cause.
- Consider reducing what you’re contributing to your employer retirement plans to create more cash flow. If you’re contributing a large amount to your employer retirement plan, you might consider reducing it. If you’re able to contribute enough to still take advantage of your employer match that’s preferred. Again, it’s ideal to discuss the implications of doing so with your financial advisor.
- Apply for a medical loan through your clinic. Your clinic may have a lending opportunity that offers lower interest rates and more term length options than a personal loan might.
- Additional lower interest options may include refinancing a vehicle that has equity, using a home equity line of credit or potentially taking a loan from your 401(k).
- Personal loans and credit cards are an option but should be a last resort unless your plan consists of paying them off quickly.
What are the potential drawbacks?
With any big purchase there is opportunity cost involved. You may be sacrificing other financial goals for this goal, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing it’s just something you need to know and understand in advance. If you’ve taken on debt as a result of your treatment process, this will impact cash flow and may cause financial angst at some point. One of the biggest emotional hurdles is being able to stomach what you spent if in fact it doesn’t work. It’s worth a conversation with your spouse or partner in advance.
What are the potential gains?
It works and it’s the best money you’ve ever spent!
With IVF there is an increased chance of having multiples so make sure you have a plan in place to prepare for the outcome if indeed that does happen. And this may be common knowledge but I feel it’s worth repeating...kids are expensive! If you plan to be a working mom and/or working dad, prepare for daycare costs in advance. Whether you have a nanny, do an in home daycare or a center they all will be a large out of pocket expense for the next 5 or so years. And if you have multiples, that cost is 2X or 3X. And if you plan to have one stay at home parent, make sure you prepare for living on one income.
The tricky thing with infertility and IVF is it really feels like gambling. You don’t know if your investment will provide the return you are looking for and it’s not an inexpensive bet. This is why it’s extremely important to meet with an advisor to review your financial plan and to incorporate this as a goal so you can see the total financial picture of what you’re signing up for. If you can save yourself from financial destruction or hardship, it will lighten the emotional load.
1 Source: Susan Scutti, “At Least 8 Million IVF Babies Born in 40 Years Since Historic First”, CNN.com, July 3, 2018, as of April 15, 2019