In vitro fertilization is an assisted reproductive procedure that uses a woman's eggs and a man's sperm to create an embryo outside of the uterus. To prepare for IVF, women are given hormone treatments to control egg production. Many eggs can be retrieved and embryos can be frozen for future use. After manually combining an egg and a sperm in a petri laboratory dish, one or two embryos are transferred back to the uterus. IVF can be used to treat infertility when women have blocked or damaged fallopian tubes, ovulation disorders, genetic disorders or when men have decreased sperm count. Infertility affects both men and women nearly equally and has many causes. But the costs, financially and consequential side effects, are important to keep in mind.
>> Follow Resident Mom Alaina on her emotional IVF journey in this Resident Mom story!
Financial costs: Some insurance companies cover the costs of IVF, but many of them do not. A normal cycle of IVF ranges from $12,000 to $15,000. This is a hard pill to swallow for couples who learn about their complications in conceiving. Taking the finances into account is an important first step, but you don't want to limit any chances of success and for a patient to have the most success with IVF, she needs to act quickly. The biological urgency doesn't marry well with the practical need to invest time to budget for this process. There are options though: Some clinics will offer financial plans through a third party provider, and even if IVF isn't covered by your insurance company, it may cover fertility diagnostic procedures. Also consider the success rates of the IVF clinic: If the prices are cheaper, it might be because their success rates are lower. Currently, only 15 states have laws requiring insurance coverage for infertility treatment.
Subsequent side effects and risks: The main risk associated with IVF is stress: dealing with the ups and downs. Retrieval of the egg early in the process increases the risk of bleeding, infection and damage to bowel or bladder. Normal side effects after the procedure include mild cramping, constipation and breast tenderness. Heavy vaginal bleeding, blood in the urine or fever over 100.5 degrees should be reported to your primary doctor. Although rare, IVF also increases the risk of ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome and multiple pregnany. Dr. Adam Fechner, an infertility specialist, said that multiple pregnancy is a risk that many couples need to consider seriously. "The goal of any fertility treatment is generally one healthy baby," he said. "While many of the patients are ok with the possibility of twins, we do consider that to be a complication of IVF given the increased risk of pregnancy complications like preterm delivery."
Above all else, IVF requires a significant amount of emotional commitment on the part of the couple. A large part of IVF is waiting and feeling uncertain. The important stages of the process place a high amount of stress on the patient's shoulders, and uncertainty of the outcome can be disquieting. If IVF is unsuccessful, emotional distress and psychological problems are found to be common. However, some research has shown that the crisis of infertility may help improve intimacy and communication in the marriage.
No matter what the outcome, for you and your partner it is important to remember that you have been working together throughout the process, and been successful in that endeavor. You have succeeded in doing all that is within your power to have a baby together; reminding yourself of this will help reduce any financial worries.
To learn more about infertility and the process of IVF, go to Resolve, the National Infertility Association.