For some of us falling pregnant is free but for others $100,000 is just what it’s going to take.
As the average age of women having children continues to rise, so too is the amount of money that people are prepared to spend on fertility treatments, which are part of a $23 billion global industry, according to 2018 data by market research company Grand View Research.
“We generally tell people to expect to budget for at least two in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) cycles, which are about $10,500 each, so that’s about $20,100 in total upfront, and you would generally get back about $9000 in total through Medicare,” says Monash IVF general manager Queensland Tom Sexton.
He added that he has seen some people spend significantly more and undergo ten IVF cycles, which would be roughly $10,500 per cycle or $100,000 in total upfront costs before Medicare and private health insurance rebates are taken into account.
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Meghan and Andrew Brazier spent three years trying to fall pregnant before successfully having twins and a third daughter.
“We hadn’t budgeted for IVF but because we had been trying to get pregnant for so long, we already had the top coverage of private health insurance with HCF and we were both working full-time on good salaries. So cost at that point wasn’t really an issue and we were prepared to spend whatever we could to have a baby.”
Success stories of course can and do vary with some people managing to fall pregnant within the first IVF treatment, while for others it can take much longer or possibly won’t happen at all.
“Usually somewhere between the age of 38 to 40 is where a woman’s fertility really starts to decline,” says Mr Sexton, adding that a person’s age and health are really important contributors to success and determining how much you could spend.
“We don’t treat a woman beyond 46 years with her own eggs and or 53 with donor eggs,” he says.
“We try to encourage people who want to have children at some point but may be worried about the timing or finding a partner, to freeze their eggs when they are younger rather than wait until later in life when they may have a problem conceiving.
“For instance if you’re 45 years of age but you froze your eggs at 38 years of age, the your chances of pregnancy relate to your eggs at 38 and this will increase your chance of success.”
The average age of women having IVF treatment in 2016 was 36, with one in every four IVF cycles performed on women 40 years or over, according to a UNSW report that was funded by the Fertility Society of Australia (FSA).
One in six Australian couples has fertility issues, according to the Fertility Society of Australia (FSA).
Mr Sexton says the number of treatments required at roughly $10,000 upfront through places like Monash IVF depends on the number of eggs that can be successfully cultivated.
For that amount of money, people can expect to be covered for meetings with an IVF specialist, fertility drug treatments (but these may also cost more), the collection of eggs, and mixing them with sperm to create embryos which are then either freshly implanted or frozen for another menstrual cycle.
If there are a lot of eggs that are fit for implantation, some can be frozen for use in another cycle, which can reduce the cost per cycle to about $2,000 - $3,000, and then that is reduced further with the help of Medicare and possibly private health insurance.
“With HCF we had about $5,000 in out of pocket costs to conceive our twin girls but with our third daughter we used frozen embryos that were implanted,” says Meghan.
“At the time of our second daughter we didn’t have private health coverage but when we did the math we realized that we weren’t likely to be in a better financial position after paying private health insurance excess and monthly premiums over the six month waiting period.
“So we decided to go through Medicare and I was surprised how much they covered particularly the second time around with a frozen embryo transfer.”
While Australia is one of a growing number of countries that offer subsidised support through a government medical system, some other countries are attracting IVF customers in other ways.
In Spain and eastern European countries such as the Ukraine, some companies offer people the ability to pay one off fees like $20,000 for IVF and they can basically try for as many cycles as many times as they like.
Countries with a growing middle class such as Indonesia, Vietnam, India and Bangladesh are also increasingly offering fertility treatments in response to demand.
But Mr Sexton cautions that people travelling overseas need to do their homework first.
“What we offer in Australia is the skills, labs, services and quality control, that is the big difference.
“People also need to consider the time it may take them to travel overseas for treatments, time off work and all those other factors are important when weighing up the cost.
How much a person will spend, depends on many factors, such as their mental, emotional and physical wellbeing and of course their budget.
Meghan’s three tips for people considering using IVF
Firstly, do your research on the different private health insurance companies and find out your options for coverage and cost.
Find out your options from Medicare and what you might be eligible for.
Be prepared to wait out the minimum time periods for coverage on your private health insurance because it will save you money.
Invest in your own health. If you have to wait or it’s taking a long time to successfully fall pregnant, take that time to get your body in the ideal health position so that you can make the most of your spend.
“I focused on my health for three years by cleaning out my home of toxic chemicals and getting my body as healthy as I could through organic eating, consuming less processed foods and exercising.”
Meghan’s focus on cleaner living influenced her decision to now work for Beautycounter, which has a focus on safer and cleaner products.
“I believe that when I did IVF my eggs were in really good shape because of my lifestyle changes. So many chemicals in our every day lives can affect our fertility. We can’t control everything in our environment but we can control what we eat, what’s in our home and what we put on our bodies. It’s really important.”
Bianca Hartge-Hazelman writes on women’s money matters for financy.com.au and is the author of the economic benchmark, the Financy Women’s Index.
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