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The Real Cost of IVF

Photograph by iStockphoto

It sounds sad to say that a baby has a price.

I'm not talking about the price of decorating an apartment, or buying baby clothes and accessories, or hiring a babysitter or nanny. I'm talking about the cost of actually having a baby; that is, when you can't do it naturally, and need medical intervention.

Sure, everyone knows that assisted reproduction is expensive. But no one really says how expensive it can be and how these financial costs really affect couples. Now a new study shows actually gives us details breaking down what it really means.

Money Is More Important Than Emotions

Believe it or not, the financial implications of infertility outweighed the health or emotional impact for many, with nearly 40 percent choosing costs as their top concern (but 25 percent still chose emotional impact as their biggest worry), according to the May 2015 study "Fertility Treatments in the United States: Sentiment, Costs and Financial Impact," conducted by the polling firm MarketCubed on behalf of Prosper, a peer-to-peer lender which also helps people afford fertility treatments.

"For nearly half of those polled (49 percent), costs impacted the level of treatment they ultimately chose to pursue, opting for a less expensive treatment or facility."

I definitely believe it, because although we think we are making decisions based on one factor, we might be making them based on another. For my first rounds of IVF I chose the $5,000-a-pop clinic over the $15,000 one—and I really believed it was because I liked the doctor better, but in retrospect, I'm sure the price was also a factor, albeit subconsciously.

RELATED: How I Found My IVF Doctor

Money Can Determine Ending Treatment

For the nearly half women surveyed who said finances were their top priority, almost 34 percent of those women had to stop treatment due to costs, the survey found.

I hear this every day from women coming to me with questions. "I only have enough money for either another IVF or donor eggs," someone told me, and decided to pursue the latter after only a couple of rounds, even though her doctor believed she had a high chance of success. Another admitted that after numerous rounds of IVF that resulted in miscarriages, they decided to pursue adoption due to the financial factor.

In fact, doctors do know there are financial concerns—how could there not be at an average of $12,500 a pop?—but they usually don't mention it in the initial stages. It's not like they say, "So how much money will you devote to this process because that will determine our course of treatment." But you should bring it up: "We only have enough for three rounds, so make it work." (Incidentally, the survey found that a majority of women—84 percent—did at least two cycles of IVF.)

Debt Is the Secret Word

"More than 70 percent of respondents incurred debt from fertility treatments—and nearly 50 percent incurred more than $10,000 in debt," the survey found. Another 70 percent put other financial goals on hold—like travel and home buying—to pursue fertility treatment.

Put so starkly, the last four years of my life make sense. Although we did travel—mostly locally, due to the timing of the treatments—everything else in our lives got put on hold, including looking for new apartments, considering new cities to live in, buying a car and other "real-life" decisions.

Mind you, 21 percent said insurance covered nothing—and only 5 percent said it covered everything. The majority paid more than 50 percent out of pocket. (That's us. We got meds covered and only $10,000 worth of IVF—less than half of what we laid out.)

Risking Your Job

If all the debt's not enough, just wait, there's more: More than a third of survey respondents reported their employers to be less than "supportive" of women's health issues—getting time off was the most prevalent issue with those that felt their employers were not supportive.

As a full-time freelancer, I didn't have this particular issue of asking a boss for time off. Besides, my first clinic had 7 a.m.–2 p.m. monitoring hours. But still, spending two hours at the doctor, not to mention travel twice a week, definitely cramped my work life. At other clinics I went to, with only 7 a.m.–9 a.m. monitoring, the line snaked around the block beginning at 6 a.m. Add to that having to explain (or not explain) to a boss why you're going to be late to work twice a week, and probably miss two days a month (retrieval and transfer) and it can't be helpful to your job. Which is meant to pay for everything insurance won't cover. For the baby.

RELATED: The Danger of Giving Infertility the Hollywood Treatment

Know Before You Go

Look, I don't mean to depress you. Many people do find ways to fund their fertility journeys— helpful parents, crowd-funding campaigns, buying fertility drugs secondhand, flying abroad for cheaper treatments. But in the case your long-lost rich uncle doesn't suddenly kick the bucket, it's helpful to know your financial options before you begin. That way you can make the best decisions from the start.

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