In 2012, shortly after their wedding day, Jake Anderson and Deborah Bialis hoped to start a family. Because Deborah had a history of ovarian cysts, the couple decided to pursue in vitro fertilization (IVF).
“We pursued IVF because if one of my cysts ruptured, it could damage my chances of becoming a biological mother,” says Bialis.
Like many couples facing fertility challenges, Jake and Deborah sought the advice of a fertility doctor and were told that they were excellent candidates for IVF and embryo freezing. But when the first cycle was cancelled due to a medical oversight, the couple became understandably discouraged.
“We decided to go to another clinic and our new doctor reassured us that we had an excellent chance of having a baby via IVF,” Bialis explains. “We felt hopeful, again.”
But, Deborah and Jake were shocked when their second round of IVF didn’t produce any embryos.
“We were in a crisis,” Anderson tells Babble.
As young and healthy adults, they never imagined that getting pregnant would be so difficult. But after two rounds of unsuccessful IVF, they were heartbroken and, like so many couples who struggle with infertility, worried that their dreams of parenthood might never come to fruition. After months of treatment, the couple wasn’t any closer to having a baby.
“Our fertility was crashing before our eyes and it was devastating,” says Anderson.
In the meantime, the cost of medical tests, hormone injections, blood draws, and fertility treatments were mounting, and before they knew it, the couple had $75,000 of medical bills to pay.
Deborah and Jake were filled with grief, because they never imagined they would face infertility. They were also confused because their doctors had given them so many mixed messages.
“We realized that there’s a broad range of opinions and different types of medical care when it comes to treating infertility,” says Anderson. “Much of the information that clinics provide, such as IVF success rates are reported by the doctors, but we saw a need for information that’s patient-driven.”
Their personal experience inspired them to create FertilityIQ, a website where infertile couples, families, and women can find comprehensive information about fertility doctors, IVF clinics, and medical procedures such as genetic testing and egg-freezing. Similar to Consumer Reports, patients provide reviews of their doctors and fertility clinics as a way to share information with others.
FertilityIQ launched a little over a year ago. And this month, in honor of Infertility Awareness Month (and to celebrate their son’s first birthday), Jake and Deborah are giving away a free cycle of IVF to another couple in need.
“After years of infertility, we were finally blessed with a baby, and we want to help make someone else’s dreams come true, too,” says Bialis. “We hope that our gift will lighten the financial burden that IVF brings.”
Many women who struggle with infertility believe that biology and science are the two most important puzzle pieces that lead to successful IVF conceptions. But Anderson says that insurance coverage plays a significant role, too.
“It is more expensive to be infertile in America than in any other developed nation,” he says.
Research shows that the average cost of an IVF cycle is $23,000, and that most women will need more than one cycle to become pregnant. Unfortunately, very few insurance plans cover the cost of these treatments, and only 15 states mandate that insurance companies offer fertility benefits to their subscribers.
In fact, new research released just last week and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) states that the cost of IVF often prevents women from pursuing a second round of treatment. Because of this, women with IVF insurance coverage are almost 10 percent more likely to conceive than women without these health benefits.
Who knew there was such a hefty price tag attached to an infertile woman’s chances of becoming a mother?
“These stressors can really wreck a family,” says Anderson. “Not only is infertility a financial burden, but it’s also emotionally taxing.”
By offering their IVF grant, Deborah and Jake hope to help at least one family bring new life into the world.
The couple will offer one family (grantee) $10,000 to use towards an IVF cycle at a clinic of their choice. The grantee can also give the cycle to another friend or family member in need. To be considered for the grant, the potential winner needs to leave a review of their fertility doctor on the FertilityIQ website by April 27. All reviews are anonymous, and patients who have already written reviews are automatically entered into the drawing.
“We’re asking for more doctor reviews because this information really helps the fertility patients who use our site,” explains Anderson, who notes that this past year, FertilityIQ helped over 100,000 patients find the right fertility doctor. The couple hopes that this number only continues to grow, so that more families can benefit from this information in the future.
“Even in the depths of a family’s struggles to have a baby, members of the FertilityIQ community go out of their way to help each other,” Anderson adds. “This simple act of kindness is priceless.”
It certainly is.