In our “Money Mic” series, we hand over the podium to someone with a strong opinion on a financial topic. These are their views, not ours, but we welcome your responses.
Today, Jennifer Gerson Uffalussy explains why she and her husband chose to undergo IVF treatment in an attempt to have a child, and what she’s learned about the financial costs of infertility treatment.
Money is emotional and sensitive, so please respect that this is just one woman’s story.
When I found out that I was a carrier for the single-gene genetic disorder Tay-Sachs, a degenerative neurological condition that is fatal for children born with it, there was absolutely nothing to worry about…unless my husband was also a carrier.
The odds of that in my case, I had been told, were “one in a million,” so I wasn’t terribly concerned.
So my heart skipped a beat when I saw I had a missed call on my cell phone from my reproductive endocrinologist two weeks after my husband had finally gotten tested.
“You can imagine my surprise,” she began, “when Matt’s test results came across my desk this morning … and he’s a Tay-Sachs carrier.”
That’s when I found out I would be one of more than 85,000 women in the U.S. annually who undergo in-vitro fertilization, or IVF, as a way to create a family. Utilizing IVF and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis or PGD, the team of doctors and embryologists at our infertility practice would be able to create embryos, and then biopsy those embryos to ensure that only those not affected by Tay-Sachs were among those selected to create a pregnancy.
As I began researching IVF, I also dove into the financial details of the treatment.
Unraveling the seemingly foreign language of clinical terminology and insurance verbiage can be a heavy added stress on a patient struggling with infertility; I offer the below as an introduction to anyone also beginning this process. Here are four things I learned in our journey thus far.
1. How Much IVF Actually Costs
My husband and I were back at our reproductive endocrinologist’s office a week after that first phone call, to learn more about the process … and its costs.
On average, nationally, a “fresh” IVF cycle costs $12,000, before medications, which typically run another $3,000 to $5,000. In a “fresh” IVF cycle, eggs are harvested transvaginally after a closely monitored period of ovulation-inducing medications and then “mixed” with fresh sperm. One or two of the best-looking of the resulting embryos are then transferred to the uterus via a thin catheter.
The PGD step of the process meant we were looking at another $3,000 to $6,000. Altogether, conservatively speaking, about $20,000 … for each attempt to have a healthy child utilizing a procedure that is successful (most optimistically) about 40% of the time, depending upon factors such as maternal age and the specific medical circumstances of the parents.
One of the most complex aspects of an infertility diagnosis is that for a patient to have her best chances for conception with IVF, she needs to act as quickly (to ensure that her eggs are as young and thus as viable as possible) as she can upon diagnosis. This biological urgency doesn’t exactly complement the equally pragmatic need to invest in the time to budget and save for treatment.
For some individuals undergoing IVF, if a fresh cycle doesn’t result in a pregnancy, and the remaining embryos from this fresh cycle can subsequently be used during a “frozen” cycle. “Frozen” cycles, often abbreviated as FET or Frozen Embryo Transfer, are much more economical, as they use “frozen” (technically, vitrified) embryos stored for future use. FET averages anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000 per cycle and annual storage fees for frozen embryos are typically an additional few hundred for each year.