Trying to calculate the real cost of in vitro fertilization (IVF) can be a head-spinning exercise — fees, coverage, and regulations for all fertility treatments vary significantly from state to state, but that’s especially true of IVF, the most costly of mainstream procedures and the one least often covered by insurance. So how much does IVF cost? That elusive price tag is governed a dizzying array of factors that range from insurance coverage to state of residency to individual clinic protocols. And by individual circumstances — the more invasive and involved the procedure is, the more expensive it is, generally. Though IVF has become far more commonplace in recent years, it is nonetheless a complex medical procedure performed by experts and specialists. The corresponding price tag may or may not be covered by insurance — and that coverage is in a state of flux in many places, where state governments are now requiring some employers to offer IVF coverage to their employees. The bottom line: It’s essential to do your own research and to comparison-shop your options.
“In vitro fertilization is when the eggs are removed from the ovaries and fertilized in an embryology lab. The embryos created are cultured to a multi-cell stage called a blastocyst, which is transferred back into the uterus,” explains Tiffanny Jones, MD, a reproductive endocrinologist and fertility expert at Dallas IVF. The eggs can be fertilized with the partner’s sperm or a donor’s and returned to the patient’s uterus or a surrogate’s.
Understanding IVF Cost
- IVF is medicine: It’s a medical procedure or procedures conducted by highly trained doctors. Like any specialized treatment, it can be expensive.
- It adds up: Multistep, complex treatments generally cost more; each procedure adds a discrete cost to the total.
- It takes time and commitment: IVF is a multi-week procedure, requiring daily injections and frequent monitoring.
- It may not work: It’s an advanced treatment, but it’s no guarantee. Patients who have been struggling to conceive for years may pay an emotional price if the outcome is not a success.
However it’s accomplished, IVF has costs associated with each step of the process. For instance, collecting eggs to be fertilized requires injectable medications. Those drugs alone can cost $4,000 to $8,000 per cycle. Once harvested, eggs may be fertilized with conventional insemination where eggs and sperm are placed in the same receptacle and allowed to do their thing. However, if the conventional method doesn’t work, doctors may choose intracellular sperm insemination, or ICSI, where a single sperm is placed directly into a mature egg for fertilization. That can run from $1,000 to $2,000. There is also a technique called “assisted hatching,” where the outer shell of an embryo is either chemically or mechanically broken to allow the embryo to “hatch” more easily. This is commonly done on eggs from older women or on embryos that were created from frozen eggs. This procedure also carries its own cost of around $450.
There are also office visits and ultrasound appointments to consider, possibly many, each carrying a price largely dependent on the provider. Additionally, some prospective parents may opt for genetic testing, which can be conducted before implantation and render amniocentesis unnecessary. This screening can range from $1,500 to $5,000 or possibly more, depending on the number of embryos and type of test.
IVF can get expensive quickly and can easily exceed $15,000.
“There are some mandated states where infertility must be covered. As of now, I believe there are only 15 states and not all of them offer full coverage for IVF,” says Jones. “Initial screening tests are covered by most insurances. Companies like Google and Facebook even cover freezing eggs to use for later. I have seen some couples get everything paid for, including genetic testing.”
Money is a big consideration, but not the only one. IVF is a serious time commitment that can dictate a patient’s schedule for several weeks.
“IVF takes about 2 weeks: 10 to 12 days of injectables, then five days to grow the embryo and transfer it into the uterus,” explains Jones. “A women usually gets a blood test and an ultrasound every other day during the 10 to 12 days of injectables. They have to be willing to take injections two to three times per day. Timing of medications is very important, so if they go out of town, they must remember all of their medications. It can be very difficult to get the medications; most pharmacies do not carry them.”
But this investment of time and money isn’t the only cost. IVF is incredibly advanced, but it’s not a sure thing. And this long process can take an emotional toll.