The treatment for the disease of infertility is most often not covered by health insurance in the US, and an increasing number of people are facing the question of how far they are willing to go into debt to have a baby. In a recent online conversation, Lisa* described a common dilemma facing many of the 6.1 million American women with infertility.

I did all the right things: got my education and a graduate degree, dated my boyfriend for a while to make sure he was the right one, got a good job, saved money and bought a house, and then tried to start our family. We didn’t wait too long because we knew about the biological clock. I was 32 when we started trying and 33 when I went to a [fertility] clinic for the first time, and 34 when we did our first IVF cycle…that failed, and just turned 35 when we did our second cycle…that failed. We aren’t poor; we own a house and both work good jobs, although not super high paying. We paid for most of the first cycle out of savings. We took out a home equity loan to cover the 2nd cycle. We have now spent $38K and have no baby. The next cycle will be more expensive because they want to do more tests and procedures because we have 2 failed tries. How far should we go into debt to make this happen??

Sadly (and frustratingly) Lisa, and most other of the 6.1 million infertile women in the US do not have health insurance that covers the treatment of this disease. Many fertility clinics have payment plans, loan options, and some have a money back guarantee for those who qualify, but many patients still face the issue of going into debt to have a baby. How are people affording infertility treatment?

How Much Does IVF Really Cost

The numbers you see can be confusing. Infertility clinics often quote the cost for just the IVF medical procedure, but an IVF cycle also includes medication and other associated costs, such as tests and additional appointments for consultation.

Also, increasingly infertility specialists recommend advanced procedures such as intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) and embryonic genetic testing, which further add to the cost. It is safe to say that while your cost may vary depending on where you live and how much medication is required, you will likely pay over $20,000 per IVF cycle.

Keep in mind that research suggests that patients should plan on three cycles of IVF to achieve success.

How Are People Paying for Infertility Treatment?

Only about 20% of people going through infertility treatment have insurance that will cover IVF. Creating a Family did a poll within our extensive online community on how people pay for fertility treatment. The top four ways were as follows:

  1. Saving money
  2. Health Insurance
  3. Clinic Discount Programs/Bundled Packages/Money Back Policies
  4. Loans (home equity, family, 401K, credit cards)

Note that these methods are not mutually exclusive; in fact, most people used more than one of these means to pay for treatment.

Of particular concern are those patients who are taking out loans to cover the cost of fertility treatment. According to a report by a financing group, more than half of all IVF candidates use credit cards to pay for treatment, followed by personal loans or 401(k) withdrawals.

How Much Debt is Too Much

Each patient will have to decide for themselves how much debt is too much, but when making this decision, it’s essential to consider a few things.

  1. You will likely need more than one IVF cycle to achieve success.
  2. The stress of debt can impact your emotions and stress your marriage.

Although you are likely feeling the pressure of time and the urgency to create your family, before you take on too much debt, it is necessary to slow down enough to consider all your options.

Listen carefully to your infertility specialist (reproductive endocrinologist) about your chances of success. Talk with her about your concerns over affording infertility treatment.

Consider ways to supercharge the amount you can save to reduce how much you will need to borrow. Our online community has shared inspiring stories of saving by cutting out vacations and restaurant meals, taking on a side job for a year, volunteering for overtime, etc. Perhaps join an in-person or online money management/saving community, such as Dave Ramsey or YNAB for inspiration and motivation.

How far into debt are you willing to go to try to have a baby? How far did you go?

*Story used with permission but the name has been changed.
Image credit: Damian Gadal