Infertility treatment is expensive. An average cycle of in vitro fertilization (IVF) can easily cost $15,000 and often costs more. Most people must pay for their fertility treatment “out of pocket” since it is often not covered by health insurance. Saving money is a major factor in the increased popularity of Natural Cycle IVF and Minimal Stimulation IVF. We talked about both options on the Creating a Family show this week. It was absolutely fascinating.
Does it Work?
The $64 Million question with either natural cycle or mini-stimulation IVF is do they work. What is the pregnancy or live birth rate for these “milder” forms of IVF, and is it comparable to traditional IVF? Great question without a great answer.
On the Creating a Family show, Dr. Frank Yelian, with Life IVF Center in California, quoted impressive pregnancy rates, but they were not in the same format as used by the Society of Assisted Reproductive Technology so that made for a difficult apples-to-apples comparison.
The National Institute of Health published a study analyzing all randomized controlled trials comparing either natural cycle IVF or minimal stimulation IVF with standard IVF. They found no evidence of a statistically significant difference in live birth rates between natural cycle/mini-stim cycle and standard IVF cycles. However, they pointed out that there were significant flaws in the research to date. They concluded:
Further evidence from well conducted large trials is awaited on natural cycle IVF treatment. Future trials should compare natural cycle IVF [and minimal stimulation IVF] with standard IVF. Outcomes should include cumulative live birth and pregnancy rates, the number of treatment cycles necessary to reach live birth, treatment costs and adverse effects.
Does Natural Cycle or Minimal Stimulation IVF Cost Less?
Yes, Mini-IVF and Natural IVF cost less, primarily because less of the injectable gonadotropins are used. There are also fewer visits to the infertility clinic required, and some clinics are able to do the egg retrieval under local anesthesia, which doesn’t require the services of an anesthesiologist. Minimal Stimulation IVF could cost less than 50% to 60% of the cost of a full stimulation cycle. Natural Cycle IVF would cost even less. But this cost savings is only relevant if pregnancy and live birth rates are comparable. It is also important to count how many cycles it took to achieve a pregnancy.
Our other guest on the Creating a Family show was Dr. Joe Massey of the Servy Massey Fertility Institute. He has a different approach to lowering the cost of fertility treatment. The average cost of a traditional IVF cycle at his clinic is between $9-10,000, including fertility medications. When I asked him how he did was able to charge so much less while maintaining comparable pregnancy/live birth rates, he replied “Simple – we charge less.”
Have you considered either minimal stimulation IVF or natural cycle IVF?Image credit: JapanDave