life, love, and maybe babies

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Show Me the Money: The True Cost of Inertility By Someone Who Lived It

A few weeks ago, my husband and I hit a milestone. With the magic of automated checking account withdrawal, we made the final payment on our IVF loan.

Exactly 11 months to the day after our son was born.

Yes, that's right. We finished paying for the conception of our son 21 months after he was actually conceived.

Can I be honest with you? There are a litany of books/blogs/opinions out there that do a frankly sh*t job of preparing potential parents for the real cost of infertility.

Folks, it is real, legit money. And it is insanity.

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Many articles I have read cover fertility costs by keeping it real. Real vague. For example, if you Google "fertility cost", this is the first thing that pops up:

The average cost of in vitro fertilization in the U.S. is currently about $11,000 to$12,000. General infertility treatments such as ovarian stimulation plus intrauterine insemination, IUI are significantly less expensive than in vitro fertilization. However they are also significantly less effective.

If I had read this when I was starting treatments, I would have though, "Well hell, that's not too bad. I mean, yeah, it's some money, but that's totally doable!"

Unfortunately, that dollar amount is insanely misleading. It's like telling a pregnant woman, "Childbirth can be mildly uncomfortable. Check with your doctor to see if Ibuprofen can help you manage the pain."

I mean, c'mon. Let's get real here.

*Warning: the remainder of this post can be triggering. Protect your heart if you aren't in a place to hear about the yuckies of fertility*

It's true that in vitro on its own might cost $11,000-$12,000. But friends, there are so many steps to go through before you're even thinking about knocking on the IVF door. Let's check them off, shall we? 

Before you get to IVF you must experience (and pay for) the following:
  •  Unprotected sex for at least a year. That means a year of ovulation kits, pregnancy tests, extra vitamins that you find on Google, and random book purchases explaining why you aren't getting pregnant.
  • Visit an infertility specialist once you hit the year mark. A consultation may be covered by insurance, but then you have to actually have the baseline tests done on you and your spouse. Get ready to shell out a few hundred for that.
  • Next steps after baseline tests usually involve some sort of medication. Clomid, Letrozole, Femara. These bad boys aren't available at the Cheapo Depot (that store doesn't actually exist -but maybe it should). Many times insurance doesn't want to help pay.
  • Take steps to increase your chances for a baby. Maybe it's a special diet (cha-ching), maybe it's weight loss (hello, gym membership). Maybe it's to stop drinking alcohol and caffeine, which doesn't cost money, but might cost you some of your sanity.
  • After ovulation drugs and specialty diets don't work, you're onto more tests. Saline Hysterosonograms, HSG, Uterine Biopsy (OMG, pray you don't have this one). These can be hundreds of dollars each. And don't count on your insurance for them. They'll probably laugh at you.
  • If it's determined you have endometriosis, or you have cysts, there's a chance you might need surgery in order to move onto the next step. I didn't experience this, so I can't give you cost info or insurance coverage, but just know the possibility is there.
  • IUI is likely next. Here's where you're into 4-digit costs, depending on what drugs you're taking. Not to mention the ultrasounds/sonograms to keep an eye on those developing follicles.
  • Only one IUI? Not so fast, kiddo. Your doc will probably want you to do a few rounds, explaining that this is a lesser cost than moving straight onto IVF. So there go a few thousand more.
  • Ovulation medications, surgeries and IUI's are a no go. Now it's on to IVF. And now you can look at shelling out $10,000-$12,000. But really more like $15,000.

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In an effort to be fully transparent, I will share that when it was all said and done, grand totals to conceive and keep our little bundle of joy viable for nine months, landed somewhere between the $20,000-$22,000 mark. Insurance ended covered around $2,000 of it.

And that was only one round of IVF.

Which made me feel like I was doing this.

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I'm not sharing this to dissuade you from starting fertility treatments. And I'm not trying to scare you. Becoming a mom this way wasn't pleasant, but it was totally worth it. I simply want to help prepare you.

I hope you are fortunate and get pregnant early on. But if like many of us, you find yourself two years in without a pregnancy, it is vitally important to sit down with your partner and decide how much you are willing to spend to move forward. 

Infertility is a gamble, and just like at the poker table, you have to know ahead of time the dollar amount that will mean it's time to walk away.

I am one of the lucky ones. My husband and I have good jobs and a little savings. We have lovely and supportive parents who helped us with the costs of hotels when we were in Colorado. We got pregnant after one round of IVF. But we also had to get a loan from the bank. A big loan. And the payments started before the positive pregnancy test. Talk about unsettling. Writing a check every month to pay off a loan that might not even result in a baby. It's the worst.

I hope every one of you gets your bundle of love. I send good baby juju to each and every one of you. I don't want anyone to ever give up. But sometimes reality is just a big, fat, bee-otch. I want your eyes to be fully open going into that reality.

Be good to yourself, be good to your partner, and keep fighting for the baby you want and deserve. Just don't end up in Chapter 11 trying to do it.

XOXO, my beautiful friends.

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