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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
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
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.
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.