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Navigating the Real Cost of In Vitro Fertilization

Struggles with fertility can be mentally and emotionally draining. Finding the right clinic is only a fraction of the struggle, but one of the most essential in meeting your fertility goals. A quick internet search for ‘average cost of IVF’ will provide you with a variety of answers—many not altogether helpful. While in vitro fertilization is the most well-known fertility treatment, it is also one of the most expensive, and may or may not fit into your overall goals.

When you are just starting out on your fertility journey, it’s difficult to see the big picture, especially when there is so much new information to digest. You may be unwittingly comparing short-term costs to long-term costs or looking at lump fees that do not include services with the best patient outcomes. Working with a clinic that you trust is essential in making the smartest decisions for your fertility journey.

One of the most important aspects that you need to consider when comparing the costs of IVF between clinics is the differences between published base costs and all the fees that you might actually incur during the course of your treatment.

Unfortunately, there are many clinics that will present a lower cost to bring patients in and exclude or reduce very important fees that you will be incurring for medications and other associated fees. This may cause patients to spend much more than they originally anticipated per cycle of treatment.

Another potential consequence that can result from clinics driving low prices to bring in more patients is that the clinic will use less effective medications to keep your bills lower. This may save a patient money on that particular treatment cycle, but it will increase the likelihood that the treatment is not effective, causing the patient to have to go through additional cycles of in vitro treatment, ultimately costing much more money in the long run−not to mention added stress and lost time. 

Asking the Right Questions

Many clinics are not entirely upfront about the cost of treatments and use a host of different tactics to gain new clients. Therefore, it is crucial to know what questions to ask when considering a clinic for your fertility needs.

In your initial consultation, be sure to ask if the price mentioned is a base fee or an inclusive cost of everything related to the treatment. Often, clinics will provide you with a base fee for their services, which does not include finer points, like lab and medication costs. For example, diagnostic testing alone can range from hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollars, depending on the type of testing necessary for the patient.

Another way a fertility clinic may present a lower cost to clients on their initial consultation is by either reducing medication costs or excluding those costs altogether in their lump fee. While a reduction in the cost of medication can appear to be a consumer advantage, this often means that the medication being offered has a reduction in efficacy. In other words, that medication may not work as well and in order to produce the results of other higher quality medications, would require more cycles. More cycles may benefit the clinic financially in the long run, but not your wallet.

Additionally, in many states, insurance coverage for such testing is mandated, but diagnostic testing and fertility treatments are not typically covered fully in the State of California. This means that clinics in California need to be especially upfront and work with you to form payment plans, since fertility treatments are mostly considered out-of-pocket expenses. Some insurance companies require a diagnosis of infertility before covering costs and some may only cover medications. It is important to check exactly what is covered by your insurance policy in order to formulate your financial plan. Make sure you do your due diligence beforehand, so you do not have any unpleasant surprises later. During your initial consultation with a fertility clinic, do not accept a lump fee. Instead, request a financial breakdown of the services your fertility journey will or may entail.

Choosing the Right Treatment

Although fertility treatments can be expensive, you do have options. Not all people require the most expensive treatments. It is best to work with your physician to determine which course of action is right for you. Additionally, you may want to think about forming a more flexible plan, as you may need to adjust your fertility strategy depending on your body’s response to treatment. Ask the clinic for options regarding your fertility, as there may be several viable options besides in vitro fertilization.

Generally speaking, artificial insemination can cost a couple thousand dollars per treatment cycle, whereas in vitro fertilization costs between ten and twenty thousand dollars per treatment cycle. Why the steep difference in pricing? In vitro fertilization costs cover your doctor’s fees, the cost of the lab and surgical centers, embryonic testing, and anesthesia. If your clinic states that IVF costs less than this sum, they are probably omitting some fees, but will most likely charge you for them later.

Adoption is similar in price to in vitro fertilization, costing interested parents tens of thousands of dollars. The most expensive form of fertility treatments, however, is a surrogate or gestational carrier, which can cost over a hundred thousand dollars per pregnancy.

It is essential to full understand all of your fertility choices before making the decision, alongside your physician, about which is best for you.

Artificial Insemination

Artificial insemination, also referred to as intrauterine insemination, puts sperm inside a woman’s uterus in order to facilitate a pregnancy. By concentrating the number of sperm that are placed inside a woman’s uterus and placing them throughout the cervix during ovulation, the chances of pregnancy increase greatly. Artificial insemination is an outpatient procedure, and feels similar to a routine gynecological visit. The patient lies on the table, places her legs into stirrups, and a speculum is placed into the patient’s vagina. The donor’s sperm is placed onto a catheter, or long tube, which is passed through the cervix and into the uterus, where the sperm is deposited. Medications for pain are not necessary. You can expect this to feel much like a PAP exam. After the procedure, the patient will be asked to lie back on the table and relax for a period of time, after which she may resume normal activities. Artificial insemination is a viable option for those with unexplained infertility, LGBTQIA+ couples or single parents, various sexual dysfunctions, male infertility factors, or cervical issues.

Inducing Ovulation (Superovulation)

Inducing ovulation, also referred to as superovulation, helps women ovulate who may not ovulate every cycle. Superovulation uses medicine to induce ovulation and may release more than one egg at a time. The chances of pregnancy are increased, as well as the chance for a multiple gestational pregnancy (i.e. twins or triplets), since more than one egg can be released. Superovulation can be combined with other treatments and regular intercourse, depending on the client’s individual fertility needs. In fact, superovulation is usually part of in vitro fertilization treatments. Medications can either be taken orally or injected, on a case-by-case basis. The most commonly prescribed medications are clomiphene citrate and letrozole, taken orally, as well as follicle stimulating hormone and human menopausal gonadotropin injections. Typically, these medications would be taken at home over a period of 10-14 days, until ovulation is reached.

In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)

In IVF, an egg and a sperm are combined in a laboratory in order to facilitate fertilization. If the egg does become successfully fertilized, it is transferred back into the woman’s uterus for implantation. IVF has four steps: ovarian stimulation, egg and sperm retrieval, fertilization, and embryo transfer. Ovarian stimulation involves the female injecting hormones daily in order to ensure multiple eggs ovulate during the month. This requires multiple visits to the clinic where the hormonal levels of the woman and the maturity of the eggs are monitored. The process typically takes 10 days to two weeks.

When the follicles are ready for egg retrieval, a time-sensitive injection of human chorionic gonadotropin is administered, which determines when the eggs will be removed. The second step, egg retrieval, involves an ultrasound probe being inserted into the vagina to identify viable follicle cysts, which are then punctured with a small needle and drained to collect the eggs. In order to retrieve the sperm, the donor provides a sample the same morning as the egg retrieval. The sperm is then separated from the rest of the semen fluid. In both cases, the egg and sperm can be frozen in advance.

In IVF, fertilization between multiple sperm and eggs occurs in a culture dish, and then are re-checked to see how many have successfully fertilized. If more than one has successfully fertilized, it can be frozen for future use. The last step, embryonic transfer, occurs five to six days after fertilization. A catheter with a syringe containing the embryos attached is placed into the uterine lining. If this is successful, the embryo will implant in the uterine lining approximately one week after the procedure. After the procedure takes place, it is advisable to limit activity for a few days before pregnancy test. One complete cycle of IVF takes approximately two to three weeks, but multiple cycles may be necessary for a successful pregnancy to occur. IVF is the most successful form of fertility treatment and can be used for a variety of reasons, including women over the age of forty, repeated miscarriages, prior failed treatments, endometriosis, surrogacy, LGBTQIA+ couples, and many more.

What Costs to Anticipate for Fertility Treatments 

When you pursue fertility treatments to help you conceive or grow your family, the first costs you will incur are for diagnostic testing, which can generally cost hundreds to thousands of dollars. Some diagnostic tests may be covered by insurance, depending on your state. Typically, diagnostic tests for fertility problems are not covered in California, but some states require insurance companies to cover certain tests by law.

Depending on the type of treatment that you and your doctor determine is most appropriate for you, the costs can range from hundreds or thousands to even tens of thousands of dollars. Many patients who are familiar will the high costs associated with adoption are surprised to learn that the costs of fertility treatments can be comparable, though the outcome may not be comparable to individuals seeking the experience of carry a pregnancy to term or having a biological child.

Artificial insemination typically costs a few thousand dollars per treatment cycle, whereas IVF can cost as much as $10,000-$20,000 per treatment cycle. These IVF costs include medical professional fees, medications, IVF lab, surgery center, embryo genetic testing, anesthesia costs. Some clinics misrepresent the total cost a patient can realistically expect to pay by excluding some of these fees from their initial base cost.

The most expensive option is surrogacy/gestational carrier, which usually costs more than one-hundred thousand dollars per pregnancy.

Choosing a Clinic with Transparent Pricing 

Although fertility issues can be emotionally taxing, there are multiple options to aid you in your journey. At OC fertility, we believe in providing high quality, compassionate, transparent care. We stand behind our mission to maintain direct and open communication to ensure that you receive the best outcomes.

Before you commit to any treatment with us, we will make sure that you understand all of the costs involved and provide you with any financial breakdowns necessary. Our goal is to prepare you for your challenging, yet rewarding, fertility journey, and we are committed to state-of-the-art technology and integrative, patient-centered care.

Please schedule a consultation with us to determine if OC fertility is the right choice for you. We would be happy to help you meet your fertility needs.

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