When our doctor told us we needed fertility treatments to achieve our dream of having a second child, I didn’t know how we would afford it. As is often the case, our health insurance didn’t provide much coverage for fertility treatments.
And we didn’t have the tens of thousands of dollars it could potentially cost in savings. It’s not exactly an expense most people plan for, especially since most people don’t know they’ll have an issue until they start trying to conceive. After all, we’d conceived our first child naturally and without any problems.
Fortunately, I discovered there are ways to manage the high costs of infertility.
Ways to Manage the High Costs of Infertility and IVF Treatments
Fertility treatments often come with a hefty price tag, potentially tens of thousands of dollars. That can leave many prospective parents drowning in debt if they’re not careful.
Before resorting to methods that could put you in overwhelming debt, explore other options for financial assistance.
1. Know Your Coverage
Often, a fertility clinic calls your insurance company on your behalf to find out what it covers and doesn’t for each treatment. It helps you understand your out-of-pocket expenses for various fertility options in advance.
But call your insurance company yourself too. Ask if your insurance covers infertility treatment and specifically what types of reproductive medicine.
For example, some insurers cover some medications, such as oral hormone pills, but not others, such as hormone injections. And some cover medical testing for the diagnosis of infertility-causing conditions like endometriosis or varicoceles. But they might not cover the procedures that could help.
It’s also worth noting that some insurance policies cover treatment for a diagnosable condition that’s preventing fertility but not for unexplained infertility, which is common.
Familiarize yourself with the policy’s fine print so you know what to expect and can budget accordingly. Then, you can start setting aside a family-planning fund from your paychecks, decide in advance where your financial limits are, and shop around for the best fertility center for your budget.
2. Get a New Job With a Better Insurance Plan
If none of the available insurance plans at your current job offer fertility coverage, look into switching jobs, especially if you’re facing high-cost treatments like in vitro fertilization (IVF). Although many insurance plans don’t cover much in the way of fertility treatments, some do. Some even cover IVF partially or completely.
Fortunately, more and more employers are offering infertility coverage. And if there are two of you, you have twice the likelihood of one of you landing one.
Switching jobs may seem like a drastic move. But if you’re considering an expensive medical procedure like IVF, it could be worth it. But be aware that you may need to work at the new employer for a set period before the benefit takes effect.
To start your job hunt, do an online search for employers offering insurance coverage with fertility benefits, like this list of 47 employers compiled by In Her Sight. But double-check the benefits any prospective employer offers before you take the job.
Also be aware that if you plan to pursue surrogacy, your insurance plan won’t cover your surrogate. You’ll need to purchase them a separate plan from an independent insurer if they don’t already have their own.
3. Understand Your Fertility Status Before Trying to Conceive
One of the things that makes dealing with the costs of infertility so difficult is that often, people only discover problems after they try to conceive naturally and it doesn’t work.
If you’re under 35, most insurance policies expect you to try to make a baby the old-fashioned way for one year before fertility treatment coverage kicks in. If you’re over 35, it’s six months. That’s because the chances sex will result in a baby start to decline after 35. And if you’re over 40, visit a fertility clinic right away.
Even with the insurance limitations, it’s worthwhile to see a fertility specialist before trying to conceive, especially if you have any known issues or red flags, such as an irregular period or difficulty achieving an erection. Fertility specialists can help prepare you for potential problems as well as discuss options and possible costs.
Alternatively, if you’re still in the early stages of family planning, at-home fertility tests can give you a picture of where your fertility potential currently stands. At-home tests are a relatively inexpensive way to get quick answers. They cost around $150 and usually qualify for purchase with a health savings account.
You can get at-home fertility tests for ovarian reserve, estrogen, luteinizing hormone, and thyroid hormone, all of which are important to producing and releasing healthy eggs. A few of the top-rated kits include:
You can also get at-home fertility tests that check for sperm count, motility, and morphology (how the sperm are shaped). A few of the best at-home sperm analysis kits include:
- Ro Sperm Kit (formerly Dadi)
- myLAB Box
4. Fully Fund Your HSA or FSA
If you have a health savings account (HSA) or flexible spending account (FSA), fully fund it before — and while — trying to conceive.
Either type of account allows you to contribute part of your pretax wages to an account you can use to pay for medical care. Withdrawals and the interest you earn on your savings are also tax-free.
However, there are some differences. You can contribute significantly more to an HSA. But that’s partly because they’re only available to those with high-deductible health plans.
Further, funds deposited into an HSA roll over every year, while FSA funds do not.
However, you should fully fund your account regardless of which type you have. You’ll likely use the low threshold of an FSA on maternity care alone. And since HSA funds roll over, you can use your higher limit to help pay for any costs incurred in pregnancy and delivery, even if you never encounter infertility issues.
Even if you’re in the middle of your fertility journey, it’s still in your best interest to fully fund your FSA or HSA. At the very least, it will allow you to pay for all your medical care tax-free, which could save you at least a small amount of money. And when it comes to planning for a family, every dollar counts.
If you have a high-deductible health plan that doesn’t come with an HSA, it only takes a few minutes to set one up through Lively for free.
5. Know Your Limits
Becoming a parent is an emotional decision tied to who we imagine ourselves to be and what we want our lives to become. That makes spending money — any amount of money — on fertility treatments worth it to many would-be parents.
Had my husband and I not run out of options for conceiving a second child of our own, I would have been tempted to move heaven and earth to find the money to make the dream of having another child a reality — no matter the cost. And I write about personal finance for a living.
I understand firsthand how difficult it can be to try to put a price on having a child. Children are priceless. Unfortunately, infertility treatments are not. So before you get too far into the process, there are several decisions you need to make.
Set Treatment Limits
Setting an upper limit for how far you’re willing to go doesn’t only mean how much money can spend. You may also decide there are certain treatments you don’t want to try, regardless of the price tag.
For example, if your doctor tells you IVF is less likely to work for you, you may decide not to waste money on it. Or if your doctor suggests donor eggs are the only viable option, you may decide adoption makes more sense than going through the extra risks and complications of IVF and pregnancy.
Set Financial Limits
The high cost of fertility treatments could easily cripple any family financially. It’s important to weigh that against the additional costs of raising a child.
If you destroy your finances before your child is even born, raising them will be extremely difficult. And if you have other kids, you need money to meet their needs too.
Like it or not, money matters. And the financial decisions you make today impact which opportunities are available to you in the future. For example, if you spend $50,000 on several cycles of IVF, you may not have that money available for adoption, which can cost that amount of money or more.
Plus, substantial debt can put a tremendous burden on couples in a relationship. One of the most common things partners fight about is money. And that fighting only gets more intense as debt builds.
That can affect your current or future child emotionally and psychologically in addition to impacting your ability to provide them with the kind of life you imagine.
So it’s essential to stick to your upper spending limit no matter what. Understand that it doesn’t necessarily mean the end of your parenting journey. It may just mean you try a different option.
There are a few things you need to hash out before you can calculate your upper limit.
- Your After-Baby Expenses. How much will you need to spend raising a child, including the cost of medical care, food, diapers, baby gear, and child care? The list should include regular expenses that may or may not go up after the baby, like rent.
- Your Emergency Budget Needs. How much do you need to put in the bank monthly and keep there to cover emergencies? Include those that could arise during pregnancy or delivery, such as premature birth or a C-section.
- How Much You Can Afford. If you’re considering taking on debt to cover the costs, consider how much you can reasonably afford in monthly payments after accounting for all other expenses.
Add up all your monthly expenses to ensure you can afford the treatment you want or need and set a firm limit. If you can’t afford a treatment option, you’ll know exactly how going over your limit will affect your finances now and in the future, including the potential impact of taking on debt.
Knowing your limit can also help you decide whether to start with less invasive options or head straight for the heavy hitters. For example, several cycles of intrauterine insemination may cut into your ability to try in vitro fertilization if the treatment cycles don’t work. So you may want to jump straight to IVF to preserve the option.
To help you stick to your limit, make a list of all the potential negative consequences of overspending. When strong emotions threaten to push you past your agreed-upon threshold, use the list as a way to remind you why you need to stop.
Forgo Treatment if Necessary
Deciding not to spend money on fertility treatments at all is also a viable option. If you believe your chances of conceiving aren’t sufficient for the money you’d spend, you may choose to keep trying naturally, adopt, or remain child-free instead.
Deciding not to exhaust your resources on a potentially fruitless endeavor is a choice only you can make.
Instead, you could invest your money toward early retirement, pursue your passions, or take some time to build enough savings to afford adoption.
As difficult as the decision may be, opting to forgo or stop treatment can help you mourn the loss and move on. Spending years on a potentially unsuccessful journey with fertility treatments is financially costly and emotionally traumatic.
Every month I didn’t conceive for the three years, I rode an emotional roller coaster. My hopes rose whenever I produced eggs only to be dashed month after month when it didn’t result in a pregnancy. Stopping helped me get off the heartbreaking ride so I could focus my time and money on the amazing kid I already have.
But my journey and choices may look different from yours. Only you can balance the financial and emotional costs you’ll experience.
6. Shop Around for Fertility Clinics
When you’re searching for a fertility clinic, you don’t have to stick with the first one your OB-GYN refers you to. Contact multiple clinics within traveling distance to see what they all have to offer.
Start by checking out the clinics’ success rates. Compare those with the cost of treatments. Ideally, you want a clinic with the best success rate for the treatment you need at a cost you can afford.
When comparing prices, ask what’s included. For example, many clinics will quote you a price for IVF. But it often excludes the cost of medications or storage for frozen eggs or embryos, and it sometimes excludes the costs of ultrasounds and blood work.
You can attempt to negotiate with your chosen clinics. If you can get a better price from one but prefer the more expensive clinic, explain your situation and ask if the more expensive clinic can come down in price.
And don’t forget to consider travel expenses. Many lower-cost clinics around the U.S. offer considerable discounts on treatments that may make a longer travel distance worth it for some people.
For example, CNY Fertility offers IVF at a third the cost of the national average. But if you have to travel far to get to one of their clinics in New York state, Atlanta, Georgia, or Montreal, Quebec (Canada), consider whether the cost of airfare, hotel stays, and time off work will offset any savings.
7. Save on Prescriptions
Fertility drugs aren’t cheap, but you may be able to get discounts or better prices by doing a little research. Even if your doctor recommends a particular specialty pharmacy, shop around to see if you can get a better deal.
You can use a service like GoodRx or SingleCare, which can help you get the best price for your medications. Or try a warehouse club like Costco or Sam’s Club, which offers discounted prices on medications for their members, though they may not carry all fertility drugs.
Another way to save money on fertility drugs is to look into discount programs like those offered by organizations like AAA or AARP (available to anyone of any age).
Additionally, some pharmacies provide their own discount programs for those who qualify, so it’s worth asking at the pharmacy where you fill your fertility prescriptions.
For example, I got my fertility medications at our local branch of Avella Speciality Pharmacy. And although I didn’t think my husband and I would qualify for assistance, we still received 50% off my fertility meds, which saved us thousands of dollars over the course of treatment.
Some drug manufacturers also have discount programs. EMD Serono, the maker of Gonal F, offers a discount structure of 25%, 50%, or 75% off their fertility medications for those whose incomes qualify. And Ferring Pharmaceuticals, the maker of Bravelle, Menopur, Endometrin, and Novarel, also has a discount program.
Some discount programs are for self-pay patients, while others are designed for use alongside insurance, so check the rules of each discount program before applying.
8. Talk With Your Doctor
Doctors may be willing to provide a discount if you explain your situation. For example, if you don’t have the time to save up for family planning, some clinics offer a sliding scale. And if you’re in the middle of treatment when you run out of funds, many clinics offer payment plan options.
Your doctor may also be able to provide you with free medications. Fertility clinics often receive samples from drug manufacturers and are willing to hand these out to patients in need.
For example, during one particularly long treatment cycle, I hit my monthly financial limit. But my doctor gave me $600 worth of additional medication from his sample stash so we could keep trying.
9. Apply for a Grant
Many nonprofit organizations offer grants to cover all or part of the costs associated with fertility treatment. For example, the Tinina Q. Cade Foundation offers an annual grant that awards up to $10,000 to help cover fertility treatment or adoption costs for lower-income families.
Other organizations include the Baby Quest Foundation, which offers numerous grants to help with fertility medications, and Parental Hope, which offers grants to help with the cost of IVF or frozen embryo transfer performed at the Institute for Reproductive Health.
Note that each grant has its own requirements. Some are quite strict, such as getting your treatments from a specific clinic.
And they don’t have unlimited funds. For example, the Baby Quest Foundation offers approximately 10 grants for every 300 to 400 applicants.
For a list of fertility grants and scholarships, visit The National Infertility Association’s website at Resolve.org. A list of fertility treatment, medication, and adoption grants is also available at Fertility Within Reach.
10. Sell Your Stuff
When you think of fundraising, you probably don’t think of garage sales, but I have a friend who raised $1,500 through a single garage sale after advertising it as a fundraiser to help with adoption costs.
How much you can raise depends on what you have to sell. But you can potentially collect thousands by getting friends and family members involved. For example, my friend sold several big-ticket items donated by family members, such as a like-new patio set and furniture.
Some enterprising individuals have even gone so far as to sell cars to help fund their baby-making efforts. I’ve personally made thousands of dollars selling unwanted goods through websites like eBay, OfferUp, and Craigslist, and it helped me pay for many rounds of hormone injections.
But perhaps the best way to raise funds is to get creative with what you sell. Almost anything can return money beyond its face value when rebranded as a fundraiser. For example, you can:
- Resell a Small Token. The Washington Post reports one couple raised $18,000 toward the cost of adoption by selling individual pieces of a 1,000-piece puzzle at $25 each.
- Sell Raffle Tickets. Find a local business willing to donate a high-ticket item to your cause. Then sell raffle tickets to your family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors.
- Create Your Own Swag. Have T-shirts, keychains, water bottles, or even your own self-created art (a song, painting, or poem) printed by a print-on-demand service like Printful, Zazzle, or Redbubble.
11. Set Up a Crowdfunding Campaign
As talking about infertility becomes less taboo, crowdfunding is an increasingly popular method for helping offset the significant financial impact of fertility treatments.
One of the more popular crowdfunding websites for medical funding is GoFundMe. Fertility fundraisers have become so popular it has a specific IVF portal.
But crowdfunding isn’t without its drawbacks.
For one, to be successful at crowdfunding, you must have a sizable social network. Although the occasional stranger may be moved to donate based on your story, most of your funds will come from family, friends, and friends of friends.
It also requires asking everyone you know for money, which could be difficult emotionally. To make your baby dreams come true, you have to let go of any potential feelings of shame and embarrassment that may come from asking for money and talking about your infertility.
Also, airing your story to everyone you know could open the gates to opinions from just about everyone. Some of those opinions could be negative, so be prepared to hear everyone’s opinion.
Riskier Methods to Manage the Costs of Infertility
No matter how eager you are to have a child, there are some methods for covering the cost of fertility treatments you should think carefully about first.
Any method that results in a significant amount of debt can have severe repercussions. That can seriously strain your relationship, daily life, and ability to provide for any future children. And since no fertility treatment is guaranteed, you may find yourself tens of thousands of dollars in debt with no baby to show for it.
And there are many methods for covering the high costs of infertility that can lead you down such a precarious financial path. That said, they are options and may be right for some prospective parents.
1. Refund & Package Programs
If you need IVF, many clinics offer package deals, either in-house or through a third-party program. Often referred to as shared-risk programs, these are discounts on individual IVF cycles if you pay for multiple cycles upfront.
On the surface, it seems like a great deal. It’s not unusual to need three or more rounds of treatment. So a package deal on multiple cycles could save you a significant amount of money.
But even with the discount, few can shell out the upfront cost, which means resorting to medical financing options. Conveniently, most clinics can offer patients in-house financing in the form of medical loans and credit cards to help cover the cost.
But that just means you end up paying interest on your IVF treatments. So if you take too long to pay off the credit card or loan, it nullifies your discount.
Additionally, these packages come with a money-back guarantee. Again, that sounds good on the surface.
But there’s a huge potential loss for the medical clinic or financing company. So they only offer them to candidates for success in the first cycle. That means it’s very likely you’ll end up overpaying for additional cycles you don’t need.
So “shared risk” is a bit of a misnomer. The clinic and financing company don’t actually share in the risk.
Also, package deals don’t typically cover all costs. They usually exclude secondary costs like blood work, prescreenings, donor egg purchase, and medication, meaning you have to shell out additional money. So check the fine print before participating.
On the plus side, if you don’t conceive, the money-back guarantee allows you to use the money toward another option, such as adoption. But you won’t recoup the expenses you paid outside the package.
But if you decide to take the package, check that the money-back guarantee applies to live birth, not just conception or pregnancy that lasts for a specified period. Many IVF pregnancies result in miscarriage, so a program that defines success as anything but live birth isn’t worth the risk.
2. Medical Financing
Medical loans and credit cards are specifically designed to help with health care costs. You can get them for various health care needs, but some specialize in financing fertility costs.
Some fertility clinics, like Arc Fertility, offer their own in-house financing. Others partner with third-party financing companies like Future Family to offer personal loans to cover all treatment-related expenses.
Note that with loans like Future Family’s, the funds go directly to the clinic and other providers, such as the pharmacy, and not to you. However, one of the pros of a plan like this is you’ll only have one bill to deal with, as you’ll only be paying the loan provider.
Some fertility clinics try to offer patients a medical loan in the guise of a payment plan. But you’re not really splitting it into several payments.
It’s credit, which comes complete with potentially high interest rates (anywhere from 4.99% to 35.99%) and penalties for activities like making late payments or defaulting on the loan.
If you go this route, ensure you can manage the payments over the loan period, which could be as long as 60 months (five years) or more. Remember to account for making your loan payments alongside child care expenses.
Alternatively, many doctor’s offices and fertility clinics offer medical credit cards like CareCredit. These can be even more convenient than medical loans because you can use them for ongoing expenses, including medical expenses not related to conception and pregnancy (many veterinary clinics even take it). But the interest rates can be even higher than on loans.
These credit cards often offer 0% interest for a set period. But read the fine print. Typically, the interest is only deferred, meaning if you don’t pay your balance in full by the end of the period, it applies retroactively. In other words, you pay all the interest you thought you were avoiding.
But if medical financing is something you want to consider, The National Infertility Association (aka Resolve) has a list.
3. Home Equity Loans or Lines of Credit
If you own a home, borrowing against the equity (the home’s value minus debt) may be one of your least expensive options for borrowing. There are two ways to do that: a home equity loan or line of credit.
A home equity loan gives you a lump-sum amount you pay back over a set period. A home equity line of credit (HELOC) functions more like a credit card. You can use funds from your line of credit, replace them, and then use them again.
Both have lower interest rates than other types of loans — 5% to 6% on average. Compare that to the average minimum credit card interest rate across all types of cards, which are typically in the double digits and can get as high as almost 25%, depending on your credit score.
The drawback is that they require you to borrow against your home. If you default on your payments, you could lose your house, and you certainly don’t want to end up homeless with a newborn.
So if you’re going to take out a home equity loan or HELOC, ensure you can manage the payments after accounting for all baby costs.
4. Retirement Account Loans or Withdrawals
Depending on your plan, you may be able to borrow from your 401(k) through what’s called a “hardship withdrawal” or “unforeseeable emergency” loan. Note that it requires disclosing your family planning to your employer, which could come with its own set of gender-based employment issues for some.
Other drawbacks include taxes or penalties, and if you need to quit work or lose your job, you have to pay back the loan within 60 days.
Also, while you can repay this debt dollar for dollar, it’s much harder to replace retirement savings without the benefit of time. Even though you don’t pay interest on the loan, the money also doesn’t earn any interest while it’s out of your account, reducing your overall retirement savings.
But if you have a Roth IRA (individual retirement account), it might be less impactful to borrow from there. Unlike 401(k) accounts, you already paid interest on the contributions, so you don’t pay it again when you withdraw it. And you can make withdrawals at any time without penalties.
5. Credit Cards
Credit cards have higher interest rates than most other forms of debt, so think twice before charging thousands of dollars to a card at a 20% or higher rate. And if you must use them, try to pay off as much of the balance as possible as soon as you can.
When it comes to fertility, time is sometimes of the essence, especially if you’re in your late 30s or early 40s, which makes using credit a convenient solution.
But if your doctor tells you that you can spare the time, it’s probably better to take short breaks between treatments to save up money or pay down debt. Otherwise, you could face a financially crippling situation, potentially including bankruptcy.
6. A Side Gig or Second Job
Taking on a side gig is common financial advice, whether it’s to bring in extra money to pay down debt, build up your emergency savings, or sock away cash for a big goal like a house down payment.
But there are times when it makes sense to steer clear of taking on a side hustle, and when you’re trying to conceive is one of them.
Copious amounts of research shows stress is a major factor that prevents conception. A 2018 study published in the journal Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience even suggests cognitive-behavioral group therapy programs to increase the likelihood of conception.
And there’s no getting around this one. Stress impacts men’s fertility too, according to a 2018 study published in the journal Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology.
So avoiding additional stress, like working long hours can create, is vital when you’re trying to get pregnant.
And a second job doesn’t just lead to stress. It can also impact your sleep. Taking on a second job could impact how much shut-eye you get.
Several studies, such as a 2020 study published in the Journal of Circadian Rhythms, show a lack of sleep influences key hormones in both women and men that affect their ability to make a baby.
Thus, it’s probably best to opt for other money-saving tactics or take on a second job to save money before you even start trying to conceive.
No one ever said having kids is a good financial investment. Needing fertility treatments just adds to the cost.
Unfortunately, unless you’re wealthy enough to pay for it outright or work for a company that covers infertility treatments, figuring out how to deal with the financial impact is inevitable.
And although you may be willing to spend every dime you have — or more — on becoming a parent, you must weigh your desire to have a child against what it could mean for your future and that of any potential children.
It’s impossible to put a price on parenthood. But that’s not what you’re actually trying to do.
It’s all about helping yourself and any future children live the best possible lives. That may mean continuing to try to conceive naturally, undertaking fertility treatments, opting for adoption, limiting your family size, or deciding to live child-free.