How much do some parents pay to have a baby?
It takes a lot to be a parent. A lot of energy. A lot of patience. And — let’s be honest — a lot of money. Haven Life wants to lend a hand. No, we’re not available to babysit, but we’ve spoken to some experts (plus a few moms and dads) to get their advice on starting a family, raising a family, and yes, paying for a family. These are their stories, and this is our “Growing Family” series.
Reproductive technology has come a long way, but, as many would-be parents find out, medical assistance to have a baby can come with a hefty price tag. Even if people are lucky enough to have insurance-provided coverage, they are sometimes surprised by unexpected costs or limits on services or providers. Not only that, but pricing opacity makes it tough to figure out just how much you may be spending on the procedure.
Who needs IVF?
Infertility is common; according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 10% of American women from ages 15 through 44 have trouble getting or staying pregnant. In general, if a couple has trouble conceiving after a year of attempting to conceive (six months if a woman is over 35), they will be referred to a fertility specialist.
Couples that are facing infertility have a number of options. IVF is a well-known option and one of the most effective forms of assisted reproductive technology, but it’s typically not the first method attempted. Once the couple decides to go this route, sperm and egg are combined outside of the woman’s body in a lab. After an embryo (or embryos) forms, it is placed inside the woman’s uterus for the remainder of the pregnancy.
What is the cost of IVF?
The American Society of Reproductive Medicine reports that the average cost is $12,000. That number, however, does not include some big-ticket costs that are part of the IVF process, including:
- Fertility drugs
- Hospital stay
This cost can vary dramatically based on factors such as:
- Your location
- The number of cycles required
- Amount of required medication, including hormones
- Amount of insurance coverage (more on insurance coverage shortly)
“I shopped around,” says Kay in Brewster, MA. “Prices were all over the map. In California, we were quoted over $30,000 to share a batch of donor eggs with another couple, with one transfer included. In Boston, we were offered a ‘guaranteed’ package – one batch of donor eggs and as many transfers as it took to achieve one live birth – for $27,000. I found similar offers in Europe for even less.”
How couples pay or budget for IVF
As IVF has become more and more openly discussed among friends, family, and in the media, some couples consider it a possibility even years before they are ready to try to conceive, looking at insurance options, saving money in an emergency fund, or otherwise exploring payment strategies in the event they face this challenge in the future.
When it comes to trying to have a baby, couples make tremendous financial sacrifices. Some couples max out credit cards, tap emergency funds, use inheritances, pull money out from retirement accounts, or obtain private or family loans. Some even try crowdfunding to get help with the high costs. A quick search for “IVF” at GoFundMe yielded more than 6,300 results. Given the price of IVF, financing could require creativity and a combination of sources.
Ideally, IVF and other forms of fertility treatment would be covered by health insurance. With insurance coverage, even if you have to meet a deductible or pay a coinsurance amount for IVF, the cost would be far lower than without insurance.
Unfortunately, only 16 states currently have infertility insurance coverage laws. Click here for a full list of states with infertility insurance coverage laws for details. Even residents of those 16 states seeking coverage for IVF have a tough path ahead of them. Numerous exceptions and exclusions can adversely impact your chance of getting coverage. For example, self-insured plans typically do not have to provide coverage and many plans that do have infertility treatment coverage specifically exclude IVF. You may also face a lifetime maximum coverage amount on IVF. In other words, while insurance is a possibility, it may not pave the entire way to the birth of a child.
A real-life IVF story
Every infertility and IVF path is unique, but as more and more couples undergo fertility treatments, the procedures have become less taboo and shrouded in silence. The result? Couples have found ways — in real life or via Facebook groups — to share their experiences, tips, treatment notes, and even financial tips for affording the process.
Here’s one woman’s path to parenthood — including the six-figure price tag she and her husband paid to become parents.
Trish, who lives in San Diego, began her journey with IVF when she was 36 by freezing her own eggs. Due to family history, she suspected she would have trouble conceiving when she was ready to start a family. She was required to do three cycles of retrieval which harvested 16 eggs. The cost? $16,000 per retrieval.
Three years later, when she and her husband were ready to begin their family, she worked with her doctors to transfer the four embryos that resulted after her frozen eggs had been combined with her husband’s sperm. Only one embryo was viable. The doctors performed the transfer to her uterus, but she miscarried in a few weeks. The total cost of that transfer was $20,000, although Trish noted that this was on the high end because of the amount of medication she was required to take.
After that miscarriage, Trish and her husband decided to try conception with donor eggs. The cost to obtain a single batch of donor eggs was $35,000, and Trish suffered another miscarriage after the first transfer from that batch.
She pressed on with yet another transfer of an embryo from the same batch, at a cost of $11,000, and finally welcomed a daughter.
How much did medical insurance cover of the $114,000 in total IVF costs? “Not a cent,” Trish said. The entire process took several years and as you might imagine, put the couple through a huge amount of emotional struggle. Trish said she had to work hard to not get upset at the constant stream of bills for numerous tests and medications. She noted that the process is “not for the faint of heart. You’re either in or you’re out.”
“I look at my beautiful daughter now and have absolutely no regrets. I was ready to give up so many times. The process was brutal, and believe me, we’re not rich by any stretch of the imagination, so the financial commitment was huge. But totally worth it for our family.”
Trish advises starting early to gather information. Conception and pregnancy become harder for women who reach their mid-30s.
Kay agrees. “If I had known earlier that I was not likely to conceive, I would have pursued donated eggs at least two years earlier.” She had put off even talking to a fertility doctor, opting instead to diligently try the old-fashioned way. Doctors will recommend a variety of first steps first, so it can take a couple of years before you even face IVF or donated eggs as a consideration.
Gathering information can clue you in to other options that might be more affordable. Trish is expecting her second child via a surrogate. Surrogacy is costly, too, but her second child will incur less than half the expense of the first.
The “other” costs of IVF
Is IVF expensive? Absolutely. But there are other costs to consider as well. The process of pursuing IVF can be a long, emotional slog.
At an event called “The Real Cost of IVF” presented at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in the UK, fertility experts presented some grim statistics. Professor Jacky Boivan, a professor at the University of Cardiff, noted that IVF provides hope to individuals facing fertility problems, even when faced with low odds of IVF success. A Danish study followed fertility patients with unsuccessful IVF outcomes and people who did not undergo IVF treatment and found that the IVF group suffered a higher risk of divorce, mental health problems and suicide. While not everyone will face these problems, it is safe to assume that the IVF process comes with significant emotional costs for everyone involved.
Be ready for the journey, and open to a wide variety of outcomes.
If you are trying to get pregnant through IVF, you’re not alone. Although the journey can be a tough one, with financial and emotional costs adding to the struggle, there are some resources that can be helpful.
- Resolve, a non-profit, has a helpful resource list of organizations that may be able to offer options for infertility financing as well as an interactive page to assist with finding an IVF support group
- The American Society of Reproductive Medicine offers a robust website with information about all kinds of assisted reproductive technology, including IVF
- The Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology is an affiliate of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine and although its a society for medical professionals, it also has a useful patient information page
- Matt and Doree’s Eggcellent Adventure. A podcast (and an accompanying Facebook group) all about the infertility process, hosted by journalist Doree Shafrir
- Pregnantish. An online magazine and resource center for couples and individuals who are undergoing fertility treatments, considering conception options, or finding that there is no “easy” way to have a baby. This site highlights articles, personal essays, and resources for couples at any stage of their IVF or infertility journey.
When it comes to a process like IVF, having more information and being as prepared as possible for what lies ahead will give you a head start.
Rachel Parisi is a freelance writer and attorney. She focuses her writing on insurance, financial services, and employee benefits. In her previous life, she served in the United States Air Force as a missile combat crew commander (think ‘Wargames’).