Nearly 10 years ago, I realized I was ready to become a mom. As a single and unattached woman, I fully understood I would need help from professionals and there would be a cost to get pregnant. Before I even began the process of selecting a sperm donor, I asked my primary care physician what kind of doctor I would need to see for something so, uh, specialized.
I had never heard of Reproductive Endocrinologists (REs) before. I certainly didn’t know that the teaching hospital where my primary doctor was established had an entire department of these doctors just one floor down. By the end of the week, I had my first appointment set up.
When I arrived to check in, I handed the woman at the front desk my health insurance card. She looked at it, a bit surprised, but then made a copy of it and asked me to provide a doctor’s appointment co-pay.
A month later I opened a letter from my insurance company that was a bit difficult to understand. Really it should have simply said, “HA HA HA!! You think insurance covers this?!! NICE TRY!” I realized then that everything involved with my trying to have a baby was going to be out of pocket. My naivety quickly evolved to budgeting and planning.
When I first arrived at the fertility clinic, I checked the box on the form where it asked my marital status, so it was very clear I was a single woman. I didn’t realize until a year into my journey how lucky I was to have been assigned a primary RE who had no problem with my being single.
After almost a year of trying for a baby without medications, my doctor had decided I needed to use fertility drugs to help me conceive. When you take fertility medications, it becomes necessary for doctors to closely monitor how you are responding. This means multiple visits to the clinic per cycle for both blood work and ultrasounds.
During one holiday weekend my primary RE was not available to perform a routine ultrasound, so the clinic’s on-call technician was scheduled to perform it. When I arrived to the fertility clinic, I was informed there was a situation. The on-call tech didn’t feel comfortable performing my ultrasound because I was single. It hadn’t even occurred to me that someone could not only have an opinion about my choice to want to become a mom, but that their opinion could potentially jeopardize my treatment plan.
Luckily for me another tech was in the building and able and willing to perform the needed scan.
I tried to conceive several more times at this fertility clinic before my family relocated to another state. I didn’t think finding a new fertility clinic would be a problem. I made a list of the clinics within driving distance and started calling. I would get to the part of the intake call where they would ask about the fertility history of my husband, and when I explained I was single, everything changed. It took several calls to several different fertility clinics before I finally found one that would accept me as a patient. These clinics weren’t even trying to hide that the reason I was being turned away was because I was single. I later found out from local friends that these same clinics were also turning away same-sex couples.
The turning away of patients based on marital status or sexual orientation had become such an issue that the Ethics Committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine issued a report on it last year to help clinics who might be grappling with morality issues. Their research has debunked many theories that some clinics have cited as their reasons for turning people away, namely that children by single women or gay couples would not have a “normal childhood.”
“As a matter of ethics, this Committee believes that the ethical duty to treat persons with equal respect requires that fertility programs treat single persons and gay and lesbian couples equally to heterosexual couples in determining which services to provide.”
I am thankful, but sad that an Ethics Committee had to spell this out for some clinics. What clinics were doing was creating validation hurdles, extra barriers to parenthood as possibly some agenda to be a deterrent to single women and gay couples. Thankfully I was able to bypass road blocks and continue trying to conceive, but it is still upsetting to think about the challenges and rocky roads that exist for many on the path to parenthood.
These feelings resurfaced after reading Chaunie Brusie’s piece on the cost of her recent hospital birth, “How Much Does a Baby Really Cost.” I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit jealous of her breakdown of what it took to give birth.
Not factored into her tally was any reference to fertility treatments, something 6.7 million women in the United States, if they are lucky, will factor into their baby costs. While it will vary from woman to woman and clinic to clinic and some may have insurance assistance, I wanted to share some of the numbers involved with my cost to get pregnant and have a baby:
- Initial RE doctor visit, genetic testing, girly lab work-ups: $450
- 3 unmedicated IUIs + sperm: $2,000
- 3 medicated IUIs + monitoring + sperm: $2,350
- Exploratory laparoscopy for endometriosis: $12,000
- 1 medicated IUI + monitoring + extra sperm wash + sperm: $900
- 6 medicated (injectables) IUIs + monitoring + sperm: $7,250
- Home insemination + supplies + sperm: $650
- Shared IVF + monitoring + sperm shipping: $3,400
- IVF + monitoring: $3,000
- FET (frozen embryo transfer) + pre-cycle monitoring + monitoring: $912
And that gets me to where Chaunie started counting and where my insurance kicked in. It took over five years for me to achieve motherhood. The process was often depressing and scary, and many times I wondered if I should walk away from my plan. I experienced loss and devastation that is greater than any dollar amount you could tally. I also found a community online of other women and couples who were going through what I was going through, and they helped propel me forward.
The day I got the results of my second Beta HCG test (a blood test indicating proper doubling of the pregnancy hormone) was one of the most triumphant days of my life. It honestly made everything worth it.