In the U.S., infertility affects approximately 20% of people who are of reproductive age. Others may need to undergo hormone therapy or egg preservation in order to prepare for a baby. All of this can take a physical and emotional toll on individuals and couples. Fortunately, there are a variety of treatment methods that can help those with infertility achieve their dream of parenthood. In vitro fertilization, or IVF, is one of the most popular options for making that dream a reality.
Before you make the decision to go through IVF, though, it’s important to fully understand the financial implications of your choice, as cost is often considered the greatest barrier to IVF. Learn more about what to expect from IVF and how much it can cost you.
What Is In Vitro Fertilization?
IVF pairs medicine and surgery to help sperm fertilize an egg outside of the body, and then have that egg implanted in the uterus. Initially, a person will take fertility medications for several months so that their ovaries produce mature eggs for fertilization. Typically, only one egg us produced per month. During this time, the person may receive routine ultrasounds or blood tests to keep track of their egg production and hormone levels.
Once the person's ovaries have produced enough mature eggs, an egg retrieval will take place. A doctor will remove the eggs from through a minor surgery (typically taking place in a doctor’s office), so that they can be mixed with sperm cells from a partner or a donor.
Embryos form a few days after insemination—the mixing of the sperm and egg. When embryos form, an embryo transfer will occur and one or more of them will be placed into the uterus. A successful pregnancy will arise if any of the embryos attach to the lining of the womb and starts to grow.
The use of IVF and other Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) has almost doubled over the past decade. Approximately 1.9% of all infants born each year in the U.S. are conceived using ART, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The success rate for procedures like IVF—under the umbrella term Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART), encompassing all fertility treatments in which either eggs or embryos are handled—is promising.
Egg retrieval—when mature eggs are collected from the body via minor surgery—is the second step in the entire IVF cycle. For those 35 years of age or younger, there was a 52% success rate of live birth after intended egg retrieval when using a person's own eggs or embryos in 2018, according to the most recent Fertility Clinic Success Rates Report by the CDC. The odds of success decrease as the individual gets older. Of the 306,197 ART cycles performed across 456 U.S. reporting clinics, there were 81,478 live born infants as a result, according to the report.
The success rate of IVF heavily depends on medical characteristics such as lifelong diseases, age, and ovarian reserve. It’s important to consult with a doctor before deciding if IVF is right for you.
The Costs of IVF
If you’d like to pursue IVF, it’s important to obtain detailed estimates from several clinics so that you can compare costs accurately. The costs associated with IVF will depend on your age, location, clinic, and the cause of your infertility. In most cases, however, fees are often paid for:
- Diagnostic lab tests
- Genetic screening
- Fertility medications
- Embryo storage
- Prenatal care
- Time off from your career or education
- Transportation and accommodations (for treatments far from home)
Penn Medicine estimates that, on average, one IVF cycle in the U.S. will run you anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000, with costs fluctuating based on patient characteristics, the chosen treatment center, and insurance coverage.
While thousands of individuals have had a child through IVF, the procedure does not guarantee pregnancy, so there is still a chance you may not get pregnant after paying for IVF.
Does Insurance Cover IVF?
Even though IVF has made it possible for thousands of people to conceive, fertility services aren’t always covered by insurers. In fact, only 16 states have laws that require insurance companies to cover or offer some type of coverage for infertility.
California and Texas have laws that require insurance companies to offer coverage for infertility treatment, but not to cover it.
How much of the cost of IVF an insurance company will cover often depends on its policies, as well as statewide law where the procedure is taking place. All mandates vary in what they cover, with some states putting a limit on how many IVF cycles you can receive or creating strict eligibility requirements for coverage. Illinois, for example, requires insurance carriers to cover comprehensive diagnosis and treatment of infertility; however, there is a limit on the number of retrievals a person can have. If it’s their first child, four complete retrievals can occur, and if it’s their second attempt, it is capped at two.
If you’re interested in IVF, it’s a good idea to reach out to your insurer to learn more about your particular coverage. In the event your insurance company does cover IVF, your clinic is able to help you with the authorization and referrals you’ll need. Some clinics, including Penn Medicine and CNY Fertility, offer special pricing and payment options for those not covered by insurance.
Mini-IVF vs. Regular IVF
Minimal stimulation in vitro fertilization, or mini-IVF, is a less invasive, more affordable alternative to regular IVF. During mini-IVF, a person combines an oral medication with low doses of injectable hormones to stimulate the ovaries. In regular IVF, the dosage is much higher. This can help them obtain a small amount of eggs and avoid ovulating prematurely, as well as hyperstimulation.
Mini-IVF may be an option for those who don’t want to take too much medication, have a history of hormone-related cancer, have the ability to produce a large number of eggs in a single cycle, or are under 35. Mini-IVF tends to reduce the cost per cycle by up to 30% to 50%, according to New York Reproductive Wellness.
With any infertility treatment it’s important to consult a doctor or clinic to decide on the best option.
How to Pay for IVF
If your insurance policy does not cover IVF, there are other ways you can ease the financial burden of this treatment. Here are some ideas you may want to consider.
- HSA: If you have a high-deductible insurance plan, chances are it comes with a Health Savings Account or HSA. You can use an HSA to save money for medical expenses that insurance doesn’t cover. If you withdraw money to pay for IVF, you’ll be off the hook for taxes.
- FSA: A Flexible Savings Account or FSA is similar to an HSA, except your employer owns the account and you’re eligible for it regardless of whether or not you have insurance. You may save money in your FSA and use it to cover health care costs like IVF tax-free.
- Grants: There are many grants designed to support people struggling with infertility. You can find a list of foundations and nonprofit organizations from the National Infertility Association. You’ll need to meet certain criteria to qualify for them.
- Payment Plans: Many clinics that perform IVF, including Penn Medicine, offer flexible payment plans or special financing options. In some cases, such as Shady Grove Fertility, you may even get your money back if your treatment doesn’t work (after a specified number of cycles).