The Price of Parenthood

CURE, Summer 2010, Volume 9, Issue 2

Fertility treatments for cancer patients aren't cheap, but they are less expensive in the long run.

Fertility treatments don’t come cheaply, and at first exposure you’re likely to get sticker shock—and maybe even understand why insurance companies aren’t eager to cover the costs. But Kutluk Oktay, MD, of the Institute for Fertility Preservation in New York, argues that this is simply cost-effective preventive medicine. “I wish that everything else was so straightforward,” he says.

If a woman suffers from premature ovarian failure following cancer therapy and then wants to get pregnant, Oktay argues the cost of a child—biological or through adoption—could run as much as 5 to 10 times higher than for an in vitro fertilization (IVF) egg collection cycle. Here’s his math: Fertility drugs for two weeks, plus the egg collection, can cost around $10,000. But if the would-be mother does not have functioning ovaries, recruiting an egg donor can run in the $30,000 to $40,000 range. If she’s lost her uterus, it can cost another $20,000 to $30,000 for a surrogate. And the most recent survey by Adoptive Families magazine puts the average cost of adoption between $25,000 and $30,000.

The mainstay of fertility clinics is IVF, in which a woman’s eggs are harvested, fertilized outside the womb, and then implanted in the uterus. An IVF cycle generally includes a several-week course of drugs to stimulate egg production; harvesting of those eggs (anywhere from none to more than a dozen); storage of the eggs, or fertilization and storage of the resulting embryo; and implantation. Costs in your area may vary, and one IVF cycle may not be enough.

Prices for fertility procedures are not easily compared. Price data is not systematically collected or published, and though procedures are fairly standard, they get mixed and matched in a variety of ways that make comparison difficult. Here are some average costs, according to the nonprofit Fertile Hope.

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In vitro fertilization: $10,000 per cycle (medications are additional and can range from $2,500 to $5,000)

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 Egg freezing: $8,000 per cycle (medications are additional and can range from $2,500 to $5,000)

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 Ovarian tissue freezing (ovarian tissue is surgically removed, frozen, and stored for future use): $12,000 (transplanting the tissue back into the body can cost an additional $10,000 to $15,000)

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Ovarian transposition (ovaries are surgically moved out of radiation field): Cost unknown (often covered by insurance because it’s done at the same time as other surgical procedures)

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 Donor embryos: $2,000 to $7,000 (costs to achieve pregnancy are additional)

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 Donor eggs: $14,000 to $40,000 (includes costs of donated eggs, treatments, and medications)

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Traditional or gestational surrogacy: $10,000 to $100,000

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 Sperm banking: $1,500 (includes three donations and five years of storage)

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 Testicular sperm extraction (testicular tissue is biopsied and examined for sperm cells, which are removed and either used immediately or frozen for future use): $6,000 to $16,000

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 Donor sperm: $3,000 to $5,000

Fertile Hope offers an online tool at www.fertilehope.org/tool-bar/options-calculator.cfm to help patients find the right option for them.