“If the two of you want to have a biological child together, IVF is your only option.”

When I heard this for the first time, I was inundated with emotion, but I finally felt like our infertility journey was leading somewhere. Maybe, just maybe, with this treatment, we would have the family we so desperately wanted. My husband thought our journey was leading somewhere too; to a debt so large it may threaten our financial security. You see, in vitro fertilization (IVF) is a very expensive endeavor. Depending on where you live, a single cycle can cost more than $15,000, and the majority of patients need more than one cycle to be successful. For many, the cost of IVF is out-of-pocket, as most insurance companies do not cover this treatment. For a lot of couples, the cost determines if they will pursue IVF at all, how many times they will cycle, and when they stop treatment.

If you are considering IVF, research your healthcare benefits. Even if you have excellent medical insurance, don’t assume it will pay for IVF or for the evaluations that are needed prior to beginning treatment. In fact, only 15 States have some form of mandated infertility coverage. These state laws vary widely in their scope, with some requiring coverage only for the tests needed to diagnose infertility, and others mandating coverage of treatment procedures, including IVF. Before starting a cycle, verify with your insurer what is and is not a covered benefit.

If you are planning an IVF cycle and do not have insurance coverage, consider approaching your human resources division about adding this to your benefits package. In many cases, employers are not aware of the need for infertility services. You may be surprised at how receptive your company is. According to a survey by Mercer Health and Benefits, commissioned by RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association, 65 percent of employers that offer fertility treatment, or cover some portion of IVF costs, said that they began doing so in response to employee requests. CooperSurgical, the parent company of CooperGenomics, has recently joined the ranks of employers like Facebook, Google, and Microsoft in offering fertility benefits, including IVF coverage, to their employees.

For those who do not have insurance coverage to help with the cost of IVF, there are options available to make it more affordable.

Grants/Scholarships: There are several not-for-profit organizations that offer a limited number of grants or scholarships to those who demonstrate financial need. Most have an application process, and each group has its own requirements, so be sure to read the fine print before applying. BabyQuest, The Cade Foundation, and Parental Hope are just some of the groups that may be able to help you.

IVF Giveaways: Some IVF clinics give away one (or more) free cycle(s) every year. The timing of these giveaways may vary and patients may have to meet certain criteria to be eligible. Again, make sure you read the fine print because there may be some parts of a cycle that are not included in a giveaway (i.e. preimplantation genetic screening). You can inquire about cycle giveaways at the clinics in your area.  

Clinical Trials: Reproductive endocrinology and infertility is an expanding field of medicine. Research is ongoing, and many clinical trials involving IVF are actively recruiting patients. In some trials, participants receive some or all of their treatment cycle free of charge. Importantly, trials may require patients to meet certain criteria in order to be accepted, so review the details carefully. Participating in clinical research is not for everyone, but if you are interested, talk to your doctor, and check out Clinicaltrials.gov or CenterWatch for more information. If you’d like to read about a first-hand account of one person’s experience with an IVF clinical trial to gain insight (and have a laugh), check out this blog post from The 2 Week Wait.

Financing: There are many companies that specialize in financing the cost of fertility treatment. This is money that is borrowed to fund the cost of treatment, so it has to be paid back. However, these financial agencies often offer lower interest rates than traditional lenders or credit cards. Some may partner with clinics or pharmacies to provide discounted pricing to clients. Others offer a refund of some, or all, of the borrowed money if a successful pregnancy is not achieved after a certain number of cycles. Lending Club, ARC Fertility, and CapexMD are a few of the companies offering IVF financing.

On May 23rd, Resolve will be in partnering with the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) to host their annual Infertility Advocacy Day. Advocacy Day is an event where the infertility community comes together in Washington, D.C. to talk to members of Congress about supporting fertility issues like increased access to family building options and financial relief. Several individuals from the CooperGenomics staff will be there showing our support. Until more companies, states, and insurers are willing to cover infertility, be your own advocate. Whether it’s speaking with your HR person (as mentioned above), writing your local representative or state senator, or getting involved with advocacy groups like Resolve to help create change, never underestimate the power of one person’s voice!

As for me? I live in one of the 15 states with infertility insurance laws, but IVF coverage is not a requirement in my state. The medical insurance I had through my employer at the time of our diagnosis did not provide coverage for IVF treatment. Thankfully, my husband’s employer did offer coverage, and we were able to enroll in his benefits prior to cycling.

Like all aspects of an infertility diagnosis, the journey to IVF is long and taxing. I will always be grateful that we were able to pursue building our family without sacrificing our financial security, but I am acutely aware that this is not the case for everyone.

About the Author: Sheila Johal

Sheila JohalSheila Johal is a Manager of Laboratory Genetic Counseling at CooperSurgical; she counsels patients seeking preimplantation genetic testing. She came to CooperSurgical after nine and one-half years at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio, where she provided prenatal, general, and cardiovascular genetic counseling. Sheila graduated with a master’s degree in Medical and Molecular Genetics with a focus in Genetic Counseling from Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis in 2006.

Prior to attending graduate school, she also received a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Kent State University. She has a specific interest in disorders of hemoglobin, CFTR-related infertility, and is passionate about educating genetic counseling students. She currently serves as co-chair of the OAGC Web Design Subcommittee. When she is not working, Sheila enjoys being with her husband and children, listening to baseball on the radio, baking, and reading.