Going Into Debt for Fertility Treatments

How Deep Should You Go and How to Prevent Getting in Too Deep

A couple worrying about how they will pay for IVF
Seb Oliver / Cultura / Getty Images

Infertility is expensive. The average couple who seeks help at a fertility clinic spends $5,000 in out-of-pocket expenses, and for those seeking IVF, the average climbs to $20,000.

How much debt should you take on? Is there any way to avoid or at least reduce debts from infertility? Before you begin treatment, there are a number of things to consider including your situation, your limits, and other payment options that might be available.

Find Out What It Will Cost

For those whose fertility challenges require injectable medications—whether it's intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF)—the question of going into debt to pay for testing and treatment is less of an “if” and more of a “how much.” Sometimes surgical treatments can lead to high debts as well if insurance doesn’t cover the costs.

Just walking into a fertility clinic can get expensive. Consultations and fertility testing can be costly before any actual treatment begins. Financial infertility (when you can’t get the treatment you need due to a lack of funds) is common.

It can be helpful to find out more about how much you can expect to pay for different fertility treatments. The type of treatment you pursue will have an effect on your overall costs.

  • The average cost for a single IVF cycle is $12,000.
  • Medications may cost between $1,500 and $3,000 per cycle.
  • There may also be additional expenses associated with monitory your IVF cycle.

If you are successful, you should also consider the cost of the pregnancy, including prenatal treatment and delivery. Also, don't forget to account for any travel expenses you might incur in order to get to and from the fertility clinic.

Before you decide if you can afford treatment, call your clinic and ask for a quote. Be sure to ask what is included in the cost and what other expenses you might incur.

Be Realistic About Your Finances

As you plan for the costs of fertility treatment, you might find yourself asking questions about what it's worth to you. Can you put a price on the opportunity to have a child? How much is having a baby worth? These are the wrong questions.

While such questions are common, they aren't helpful. The opportunity to have a child is clearly priceless. However, the fact is that we don’t live in a priceless world. Money does matter and there are things you should consider before you push your budget to the limits:

  • Heavy debts can lead to strain on your relationship
  • High debt can also place stress on your own moods,
  • Stress and debt can trickle down to stress on your future child
  • Treatment and financial decisions you make today can make future opportunities unaffordable and unavailable.

For example, multiple IVF cycles may close the door on adoption, which can also be costly. Or spending too much on IUI cycles (perhaps because they seem less inexpensive) may push IVF out of your financial limits.

When strong emotions get mixed in with making financial decisions, it can be extremely hard to make smart long term decisions. The worst time to decide whether you’ll do another cycle is in the shadow of a negative pregnancy test or a failed treatment cycle.

Set a Debt Limit

The best course of action is to make a decision sooner than later. Decide what your debt limit will by at any one time. Then, make a commitment to stick to your decision no matter what.

This is not the same as deciding how much you’ll spend on fertility treatments over time. (Though you can also set a limit on this.) You may be able to pay for some of your treatments without borrowing money, or you may be able to pay off some debts quickly.

Your debt limit should not be your credit card limits, and should not be what you can borrow after exhausting all your loan possibilities.

These are the questions to consider when deciding on a debt limit:

Can You Pay It Back?

Can you really pay your debts off, even if you succeed? Remember to account for the additional cost of getting pregnant and having a baby. Some things you need to consider in your plan:

  • You may need to go on bed rest or cut back on work, which will be less income.
  • Your situation might change if you are unable to go back to work right away.
  • You might need to cut back or save more if you plan to stay home with your baby for a limited or extended time.

Be sure you consider a change in your future financial reality before figuring out if you can pay off the loans.

Being able to make the minimum payment is not the same as being able to pay off the full debt. Minimum payments are frequently so low that you’ll be paying your debt for years and losing thousands of dollars in interest.

Can You Pay for Other Treatments?

If treatment doesn’t work, how much do you need for Plan B? Or Plan C? Plan B may mean moving onto more advanced fertility treatments, or it may mean adoption. It can also mean deciding to live childfree. Your Plan B options need to be carefully considered when setting a debt limit.

For example, let’s say you’re just trying IUI now. If IVF is a possibility in the future, you don’t want to put on so much debt trying IUI that you make IVF out of reach.

What Will Happen If You Overspend?

What are the possible negative consequences for going past your debt limit? Make a list, and keep it handy. Consider this an anti-panic pill for when you feel the urge to break your self-chosen goal.

What might be the negative consequences?

  • You may not be able to afford to adopt.
  • You may not be able to give your future child the opportunities and life you’re imagining.
  • You may need to sell your house, or move to a less expensive neighborhood.
  • You may need to keep working when you have the baby, which can be heartbreaking if you wanted to be a stay-at-home parent for a limited or extended time.
  • Worst case scenario, you may need to file for bankruptcy.

These are just examples, of course. Your list may look different. Your financial situation and existing debts will have an impact on the type of consequences you might face.

Deciding Against Debt

You may decide to avoid debt completely. This may mean making a decision to save up for treatment expenses, and only spend what you have. There are pros and cons to this approach.

Advantages

The pros are that it’ll be easier to live frugally when you don’t have a baby to care for, and you’ll actually spend less overall on the treatment. When you’re paying off debts, you’re also paying the interest that builds. You’ll avoid that burden.

Disadvantages

The cons of this approach are you’ll need to wait before you can start treatment. Time matters with fertility, but everyone is working with a different clock.

For example, if you’re in your twenties and facing male infertility, you probably have time to save up funds first. If you already know you're going to need an egg donor, you also may be under less time pressure to start treatment.

If you're 35 or older and dealing with female infertility, however, your time may be more limited. Talk to your doctor. Ask for her honest assessments of how long you can delay.

You also have the option to not seek treatment at all. There’s no requirement to exhaust your funds to pay for IVF.

Deciding not to spend money on fertility treatment—which comes with no guarantees—is a completely legitimate choice. Your loved ones should respect that choice.

Others Ways to Pay

If you are against the idea of going into fertility debt, there may be ways to get funds that don't require you to pay them back. There are things that you can do to help lower the costs of fertility treatments. Grants, scholarships, and crowdfunding are options.

Infertility Grants

There are a limited number of grants and scholarships for infertility. You may need to meet a set number of guidelines to apply. That can include your location, your age, and your financial need (as determined by the organization.) Sometimes, the grants or scholarships require you to share your story with the media in exchange for financial assistance.

Something else to keep in mind is that just applying to these grants and scholarships can cost money. Application fees can be very high. This is partly how they raise the money to give out grants.

Crowdfunding

Another way to get cash is crowdfunding. Crowdfunding is when you ask for financial help from your friends, family, and other social connections. You've likely been asked to contribute to a crowdfunding campaign at least once.

Some get the idea that crowdfunding is an easy way to get money, but that's not true. Most people aren't successful in raising what they need.

Only those with good marketing and storytelling skills, in addition to having a large social network, will succeed. Still, it might be something worth considering.

A Word From Verywell

When you're trying to have a baby, making decisions on how much you're willing to pay can be emotionally difficult. How do you put a price on having a family? The important thing to remember is that's not what you're trying to do. You're trying to make smart decisions that will benefit you—and any potential children you have—in the longterm.

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