Today’s post comes from a reader named Melissa who is facing the expensive decision of trying IVF with her husband in order to have their first child. Infertility is a sensitive and grappling topic that many couples are facing today. We’re having children later now due to our careers, and many of us are struggling to conceive.
Unfortunately, a lot of infertility issues are still unexplained and couples are left facing a foggy future of many unknowns. Even though IVF has enabled many couples to have children, it has also disappointed many others. How much would you be willing to pay to start a family if IVF was your best chance at having a child? Let’s take a look at the costs of IVF and the emotional and financial challenges couples like Melissa and her husband face when trying to start a family.
According to the Center For Disease Control, 6% of women (1.5 million) in the US are infertile. Other sources such as the National Institutes of Health say the percentage of infertile couples is as high as 15%. The numbers are significant and unfortunately I’m one of them.
Even though you don’t know me personally, chances are pretty high that you and your spouse or someone you know has also dealt with the struggles of infertility. The average couple trying takes around seven months to conceive. Meanwhile, I know plenty of couples who’ve taken years.
Speaking from experience, infertility is not an easy subject to talk about, especially the longer you try to get pregnant without success. But a lot of times people don’t realize how emotional infertility can be, especially if you never had any issues yourself or had a “surprise” or two. And to top off the roller coaster of emotions people like me have to deal with, it’s crazy expensive!
DISCOVERING IVF TO COMBAT INFERTILITY
I decided to put myself out there because my husband and I are at a crossroads and sometimes writing things out can help when facing tough decisions. Our doctor recently told us that if we want to have a baby, our best option is in vitro fertilization (IVF). The first things that popped into our minds were “how much does IVF cost” and “can we afford IVF if it takes multiple tries?” While some people might jump straight to yes, we’re not so sure.
We’ve both done well in our careers making six figure incomes, but we definitely don’t feel rich living in San Francisco. We aren’t into fancy cars, designer clothes, or 5 star resort vacations. Target is my favorite store, for example. We’re simple people but we are willing to pay a premium for things like great food and good service. We like to save, we’re already happy with just us as a couple, and we don’t like to rush into any major decision that involves money and well…life.
So to help in our decision-making process I’ve crunched some numbers on the various costs, analyzed some pros and cons, and also want to hear what your thoughts and experiences are. Ultimately we will have to decide which route to take ourselves, but I think it will be helpful to get feedback from other Financial Samurai readers with a decision this significant on lifestyle, health, and our finances.
WHY EVEN CONSIDER IVF?
To help you understand why we’re even considering the expensive costs of IVF, here’s some background on our situation. For a little over one year, we tried unsuccessfully to have a baby on our own. We didn’t take it too seriously at first but every single pregnancy test I took for two years was negative. I can’t even describe how frustrating and sad that was, and still is.
Last year, a few months before I turned 34, we decided it was time to see a fertility specialist. After my exam my doctor explained that I have endometriosis and large cysts on my one of my ovaries. My throat choked up and tears started to flood down my face when I heard the news. That was a tough day. But the good news was our doctor said at our age we still had a good chance to get pregnant despite my condition. We wanted to try the cheapest and least invasive treatment first, so we tried IUIs for about seven months. Our insurance covered the vast majority of the procedures and most of the medications, so we were feeling lucky. But unfortunately none of the IUIs worked.
While we could still continue trying IUIs using our insurance, my doctor doesn’t think it will be successful at this point, and time is becoming more and more valuable. She wants me to get pregnant within six months because my cysts and endometriosis could cause complications if I don’t get pregnant soon. Gee, no pressure right?
All this leads us to the present day, trying to decide if we should do IVF or not, which our insurance doesn’t cover at all. The good news is my doctor thinks we are good candidates for mini IVF, which is a lot cheaper than normal IVF, so we have more options but the downside is it’s also less successful.
HOW MUCH DOES IVF COST?
Ok, so just how much does IVF cost? It can vary a lot between clinics and the specific medications and procedures you require, but the general range at my clinic is $13,000 – $24,000 for one attempt. It’s absolutely ridiculous! Most insurance plans like mine don’t cover IVF at all, which means we’ve got to fund everything ourselves.
Here’s a look at the summary of costs at my clinic for conventional IVF:
HOW MUCH DOES MINI IVF COST?
Mini IVF is appealing because it’s much less invasive, less complicated, less shots, and less expensive. But the downsides are the success rates are lower that conventional IVF and there’s also very limited chance to have enough extra embryos to freeze for a second cycle.
Here’s a look at the breakdown of costs at my clinic for mini IVF:
HOW MUCH WOULD YOU PAY FOR A 33% CHANCE?
The success rates for IVF are another important aspect to consider because if you do the math, a lot of the times a single attempt isn’t going to be successful. Here’s a look at the success rates in 2012 for my particular clinic:
I’m just turning 35, so I figure I have about a 32-34% chance of having a baby in each attempt. That certainly isn’t high enough to get very excited about. It’s very hard to feel comfortable paying $15,000 for a 33% chance.
From a simple mathematical standpoint, one must therefore spend $45,000, or three attempts, before one is successful. Unfortunately, each attempt is independent of the next, which means we could be trying to bet on black at the roulette table while red keeps showing up. Just like investing, there are no guarantees.
NON-MONETARY FACTORS TO CONSIDER BEFORE DOING IVF
As much as money is a huge factor in our decision, it isn’t the end all be all. We all know the major pro of doing IVF is being able to have a baby and raise a family. But here are some of the cons I’ve come with beyond the costs.
Time – I haven’t even mentioned the amount of time involved in doing an IVF cycle. There are a lot of doctor appointments, trips to the pharmacy, lab tests, and procedures involved. Fortunately we have fairly flexible work schedules, but the more time away we spend from work, me in particular, the less time I have to earn money.
LOTS of shots – Getting blood drawn is not fun. I just had three vials taken today. But injecting myself with needles is much worse. It seriously sucks getting up the nerve to shove a needle in your stomach, especially as someone who gets queasy at the sight of blood. The fear and unpleasantness of all the shots involved with IVF is one of the major cons I have with IVF. Perhaps you’d argue it gets easier each time you do it, but I still cringe at even the thought of injecting myself.
Emotional factors – Infertility is incredibly emotional. It’s frustrating, sad, painful, hopeful, and disappointing. We’ve come to peace that IUI didn’t work and having insurance helped us a lot. I worry that it will take a lot longer to get over the disappointment of IVF if it doesn’t work. Having a supportive partner or spouse is incredibly important.
Surgery risk – It seems silly now, but I didn’t realize that IVF is actually a surgery until recently. It makes sense when you think of how expensive it is. And as with any surgery there are always risks. The only other surgery I’ve had before was getting my wisdom teeth out, so taking anesthesia still freaks me out.
Chance of miscarriage – Even if IVF results in a pregnancy, there’s no guarantee I could carry a baby full term (life birth). I can’t imagine the emotional roller coaster of going from total elation of finally being pregnant for the first time to the devastation of losing a baby. There’s a delicate balance between staying positive while also setting expectations really low.
Ethical considerations – While I don’t want this article to spew into a debate over whether IVF is ethical or not, there’s no denying that some people are flat out against it. My husband and I don’t have any moral conflicts with IVF nor are we trying to have a giant family. But sometimes I wonder since I haven’t been able to get pregnant for 3 years now, perhaps it just wasn’t meant to be?
An unhealthy baby – Who knows whether IVF can affect the health of a baby, but what if we have a baby with abnormal symptoms? Would we end up blaming IVF or ourselves for going against nature? Taking care of a child is no easy matter and we will be full-on, committed parents. One of the benefits of IVF is the clinic can supposedly choose the highest quality embryos for insemination.
ALTERNATIVES TO IVF
Although my doctor recommends IVF as the next step, there are certainly other alternatives. But of course, none of them are guaranteed either.
Chinese (Eastern) Medicine – One of my friends over 40 has had multiple miscarriages and was told by her ob-gyn that her only option to get pregnant was using an egg donor. After finding a Chinese Medicine infertility center, however, she was able to get pregnant and gave birth last year through the help of acupuncture and herbal medicine.
The process can be slow, roughly 5-7 months, and also involves weekly appointments. The combined use of IUI or IVF with Chinese medicine can be more effective than by itself, but it all depends on your condition. I’m leaning towards giving it a try. It can still get expensive over time, but by itself it’s a lot cheaper than IVF. The estimated cost of treatments is below:
Initial consultation $120
Herbal Medicine $272/month
1st month $672/month
2nd month on $552/month
6 months $3,432 total
Clinical Trials – If you can’t afford IVF, you can consider participating in a clinical trial. The difficulties are finding one in your area that you qualify for and of course there are always risks to consider when participating in any research study. One of my friends lived near a clinical trial, but didn’t qualify due to too many failed prior attempts at IVF. If you do qualify, the entire treatment could be covered and you may even be compensated on top of that. But this can range wildly depending on each study and the amount of funding available. I’ve considered doing a clinical trial, but admit the risks intimidate me, and I haven’t found one nearby yet either.
Adoption – Adoption is a fantastic option to raise a child in need and is certainly something my husband and I are considering. It’s not necessarily a cheaper option compared to IVF, and it can also take 2-4 years. According to Binti, the range of US adoption costs ranges from $20,000-$45,000 and international adoption costs are similar at $20,000-$50,000. If you qualify for the IRS adoption tax credit, you can reduce the expenses by $13,400 in 2015. But if your modified adjusted gross income falls between $197,880 and $237,880 the tax credit begins to phase out, and if you make above that range, then you don’t qualify at all. Adoption can be complicated too and it isn’t as easy as it used to be. According to CNN, international adoptions have dropped 50% since 2004 and many countries like China have become much more restrictive or closed down entirely such as Russia, Ghana, Guatemala, Nepal.
Surrogacy – Typically even more expensive than adoption is paying for a surrogate to carry your baby. We have thought about this option, and while it would be nice to avoid the challenges of pregnancy and giving birth, it feels way too complicated and unaffordable. The cost of surrogacy can range between $80,000-$125,000 in the US! That is out of the question for us but we might consider international surrogacy later. If you’re willing to deal with the complexities of long distance travel and government paperwork there are cheaper options in countries such as India for around $35,000. But there are many risks, legalities, and logistics to consider. Some international agencies have been shut down due to fraud in the past too, so don’t underestimate the importance of due diligence if you have the means to consider surrogacy.
DECIDING ON THE BEST OPTIONS
My husband and I have the means to afford a few rounds of IVF without going into debt, but we’re not rolling in dough. I think the absolute max we would want to spend is about $30,000-35,000 (enough for two attempts), but I still wouldn’t call that “comfortable.” It’s incredibly hard to swallow actually! And IVF isn’t a walk in the park either though we can afford it. There are a lot of appointments, tests, unpleasant medications to take, side effects to cope with, and emotions to bear.
We will have to sell some of our stock positions to free up enough cash flow for the IVF self-pay invoices as we go, postpone a trip abroad, delay some work we wanted to do on our house, and maybe shelve some trips to see my parents who live out of state too.
As much as we don’t want to have to spend tens of thousands of dollars, we also realize that IVF won’t be a realistic option for us indefinitely. Our best chance for success is within the next six months and we don’t want to look back when we’re much older and regret not trying when we had the chance. Even if we pay for one or two attempts and fail at least we can always say we tried. And then we can take our time considering adoption and rebuilding our savings.
I put the below table together of the various options we’re considering sorted by cost. I’m leaning towards incorporating acupuncture and herbal medicine as a first step. It does involve a lot of weekly appointments and drinking bad tasting tea every day, but doing it in preparation of IVF could increase our chances of success with such an expensive surgery.
And who knows we could get lucky “trying” on our own in the months leading up to IVF which is why I’m counting the months of taking herbs and getting acupuncture in the count of total attempts. But the percent chance is probably quite low in the first 1-3 months. There are so many possibilities I feel pretty overwhelmed! Of course we don’t have to decide our entire plan now, but it’s helpful to think of the big picture especially in regards to time and the expenses.
Related: What Is The Ideal Age To Have A Baby?
Updated for 2018 and beyond. Melissa ended up having a handsome baby boy two years after this post in 2017 via natural conception. God works in mysterious ways.
Ruth Leonel says
I want to tell all the women in the world with no child that there is hope for you all, because i was also a barren woman, i had no child for the past 12 years i consulted my doctor and he told me that there is no way on earth that i can ever getting pregnant, because of previous abortion i did for my ex husband, so i was confused and my husband was giving up and told me we should adopt a child, i was so sad in such way that i had to talk to a friend about adopting a child, my friend Said forget about adopting a child. She then introduced me to a spiritual Doctor. Marvelspelltemple @ gmail. com i contacted and explained everything to him and immediately Doctor Muna told me not to worry my problems will be solved, i believed and did as he instructed me, including applying her fertility medicine. After 4 weeks i went to hospital for a total test and i found out i was 2 weeks pregnant and today i’m a mother of an amazing twins.
Lady Butterfly says
My best friend had three rounds of IVF in the US(multiple states) and were all unsuccessfully. She was in her early 30’s when she tried getting pregnant and started IVF in her mid 30’s . She tried all the Chinese herbal medicine and non helped. The physical and emotional toll was just too much for her body and she wanted to quit. But her husband really wanted kids and he convinced her to go through IVF one last time, in Thailand. She quit her stressful job (one reason she might not be conceiving), went to live in Thailand for a month, and long story short, she has two beautiful healthy kids at 39. They are fraternal twins, one boy and one girl. My friend probably spent close to $100K.
IVF is expensive but when you see the faces of your kids, it will all be worth it. Sounds like you two have decent salaries(more than my friends combined), so the cost will be small compare to your lifetime earnings. You might just have to sacrifice a little in your current lifestyle to save up.
We faced infertility before but were able to conceive through a combination of Western medicine that isn’t in your choice set (though I did conceive with IUI, that resulted in a miscarriage).
For those of you ladies who have had miscarriage(s) it might worth investigating your DNA; there is one particular gene that might be to blame. If your insurance covers the cost of a simple blood test you can find out if this might have been a factor in trying to conceive. The gene is known as MTHFR; and by race it affects as much as 20% of the hispanic population, in caucasians possibly as high as 12% and blacks up to 4%. This is something that might save you some serious money doing IVF treatments and deal with the true underlying problem–utilizing a relatively inexpensive fix (vitamin formulation) Read up on it.
Hi Chad. Thanks so much for your comment. I’m sorry to hear about your loss. I understand it sounds weird you were relieved the second IVF didn’t work but I know what you mean. If I ever get pregnant I already know I will be worried for 9 months constantly paranoid that something could happen.
Thanks for sharing your story with foster-adoption. How incredible you were able to adopt a pair of siblings when they were young so they could stay together. I’m glad to hear there are people who have had positive experiences with foster-adoption!
Fantastic article. My wife had an ovary removed at 27 and we tried for several years for a child with no luck. Her other ovary has a completely blocked tube, even after several attempts to unlock it (years of acupuncture and herbs as well as surgery).We tried IUI a few times, just in case, but with a blocked tube there really is a 0% chance.
The next step was the $15k IVF at age 30. We were pregmant on the first attempt but she had a spontaneous miscarriage and birthed our son after only a few months. We were devastated, but decided to try again at 31 – we were both so relieved to find that the second IVF didn’t work.As much as we wanted a chil, not going through 8 months of worry about losing a second child truly was a relief.
We decided to foster-adopt a child who was born a few
Omaha premature that was now 2 months out of the hospital. We became licensed foster parents and brought her into our home when our daughter was 6 months old. We officially adopted her when she was 9 months old. Her bio-mom and dad had a boy a few months later and we adopted him shortly afterwards as well.
The cost: negative $96,000 for EACH of our children. Negative? Well, we did not know this until a few months after we adopted our daughter, but the state does not want your new child to a financial burden to you AND wants the child to have a forever family rather than a group home, for many reasons. The state continues a $250/month tax free stipend until the age of 18 per child ($4k/year) that increases when they’re in their teens. They also pay $500/month tax free directly to our pre-school until age 5- so 5 years of $6k/year schooling. If our kids decide to go to a state university in their birth state, that’s free too (not included in the $96k). Also, the federal government gives a $12k refundable tax credit for adopting a child from foster care, and the foster system covers all adoption costs (home study, attorneys fees, flights, hotels, counseling, training, etc). The state also covers special needs children for medical expenses and therapies if needed.
Your decision isn’t easy.. The fact that you’re this prudent shows you’ll likely be an amazing set of parents. For us, every life is precious and we couldn’t risk losing a life when we could help one of the many children who were born into a bad situation. Our children are now 2 and 3; they know they’re adopted and that we picked them and celebrate that fact. Many friends say: Without you guys, where would they be? I say: without them, I wouldn’t be who I am today.
Mrs. N says
Great post – sounds like the situation my husband and I were in just 7 years ago. While both chasing our careers I woke up at 34 and told my husband the same thing “Are we ever going to settle down and start a family?” We never took birth control and thought it was odd that we never conceived naturally (not that we were trying to specifically conceive) over the 4 years that we had already been married. We saw a specialist who ran some tests on both of us – and we found that hubby had low motility and low count. As for me, everything checked out fine but the Fertility Specialist called it “Unexplained Infertility” because we had not been able to naturally conceive after 6 months of proactively trying.
We started with IUI and the first round worked. I conceived a girl, insurance covered only my medications the procedure cost us about $200 out of pocket. We ran into another problem when we discovered I had an incompetent cervix and lost my daughter at 17 weeks. We tried IUI about 5 additional times over the next year and none of them took. This is where we moved on to IVF. Again insurance did NOT cover the procedure, only the medication. Out of pocket it cost us approximately $9000. On the first IVF attempt, 2 were transferred and one took. At 12 weeks, my doctors recommended a cerclage and strict bedrest to prevent another loss like my first. We had both, but in my 22nd week I went into labor and lost my son, who only lived for 3 hours.
While ready to give up altogether due to the emotional stress and constant life of scheduled appointments, medications, etc. our doctor recommended we stop trying because no human should go through such losses. On the other hand, our MFM told us about a procedure called an Abdominal Cerclage that could be done to eliminate the incompetent cervix issue, however few surgeons know how to do it. I researched the issue and joined Abbyloopers – a nonprofit organization supporting women with 2nd trimester losses due to IC. I found the #1 surgeon in the U.S. and scheduled a phone consultation to learn more about my issue. In 2011 we scheduled the surgery in Chicago, my husband and I flew to Chicago for the surgery. It was 100% covered by insurance and I had frequent flyer miles and hotel points that covered the entire trip. I was there for 2 days and recovered quickly – was back at work within a week. Husband and I went back to the drawing board putting money into our FSA account pretax to try for 2 more additional FET Transfers. Both didn’t take (well one did but we miscarried in the 5th week). FINALLY we said we are taking a break.
We scheduled a 2 week vacation with friends and planned to have a crazy weekend in Las Vegas. Just 5 weeks before the trip, we found out we were pregnant – NATURALLY. Needless to say that our Vegas trip was horrible, I was sick to my stomach and irritable. However; we now have a healthy boy. Nearly 15 months later, we planned to do another FET Transfer to use our last 2 eggs. Just before we scheduled the appointment, we found out I was pregnant AGAIN, naturally.
This has been a rough journey for us, we don’t understand why it has taken us so long to conceive naturally. We’ve always said that we weren’t going to be the kind of people who would do “anything” to have a family. We put a limit at one IVF round and then committed to using all of the embryos that we had, once we ran out, we would have called it quits. The transfers only cost us $1200 and the annual cryo fee is only $300. Luckily things worked out and we’re a late blooming family of 4.
Hi Mrs N. Thanks so much for your comment. Wow what a long and emotional journey it has been for you guys. I am so sorry you had those miscarriages. But wow what a miracle that you were able to get pregnant naturally not once but twice! I’m glad your story has a happy ending!
I think more women could see marriage more as an opportunity to grow as a couple. If you have spent more time for career, school, then I think there are more oppotunities up in the horizon why marfiage is not always about parenting or having your own child. The path you had taken lead to where you are today, i am sure more good stuffs has happened. We human is fantastic at creating a coping mechanism. The technology is there but effective or not or will it give worst impact to your body, who knows, why not try a surrogate ? Please dont see marriage as one type fits all life goals, trust there is a silver lining for each couple to have a child or not, more children or not. Men must evolve too, why marry when you get older, merely to have kids ? I hope not.