This article first appeared on Forbes.com.
The tiny shoes, the adorable onesies, the pastel-colored nursery – these are the images that usually come to mind when you get pregnant.
But what if your road to pregnancy is filled with infertility treatments, adoption forms and other issues? Suddenly the only images that come to mind are massive bills and complicated loan forms.
While a baby can be life’s greatest gift, it can also come with a hefty price tag. How big of a price tag? Read below to find out.
One Woman’s Story
That’s how it’s been for Kate Henderson, currently 24 weeks pregnant with her second child. While her insurance policy covered all but $7,000 of the IVF costs for her first child, the policy she has now doesn’t cover infertility treatments.
Unfortunately, Henderson and her husband didn’t realize this until they’d already started the process of having their second child. To pay for the process, they took out $20,000 in loans – $15,000 from a personal loan at 10% interest and the rest on a credit card.
Her story isn’t unique. Couples unable to have a baby the old-fashioned way face this choice every day. So if you want to get pregnant, how much does it cost?
A Baby’s Price Tag
One round of IVF costs around $11,500 per session, and it usually takes around three sessions for women under 35 to get pregnant, and between three to six for women over 35. That means couples are paying about $30,000 or more if they use IVF to conceive.
Some insurance plans cover IVF, but this is something you need to verify beforehand or, like Henderson, you might end up with an expensive surprise.
Many people advocate for adoption instead of pursuing costly fertility treatments. What these people fail to realize is that adoption can be as expensive as a few rounds of IVF.
Adopting from the foster system may be relatively affordable (less than $1,000), but private adoption in the US can cost up to $30,000, according to the Independent Adoption Center.
International adoptions are often less expensive, ranging from $11,000 to $23,000 depending on where you adopt from.
There are two types of surrogacy – traditional and gestational. Traditional surrogacy involves using the sperm from one of the parents and the egg of the surrogate. Gestational surrogacy uses the egg from the mother and sperm from the father; the surrogate simply carries the baby to term.
Surrogacy is one of the most expensive options for couples looking to have a child. The average costs range between $80,000 and $120,000, making the process a last resort for many infertile couples.
The actual act of giving birth can cost, on average, $9,600 for a vaginal birth and $15,800 for a C-section.
Unfortunately, maternal care and giving birth may not be covered if you have an individual insurance plan that was grandfathered in. You may also find yourself paying for these costs personally if you have a high-deductible policy.
Egg freezing has become more of a mainstream option for single women hoping to plan ahead for pregnancy. Unfortunately, the cost remains high.
According to the University of Southern California Fertility center, retrieving the eggs initially costs about $10,000 with an additional $500 in annual storage costs. Thawing the eggs costs another $5,000.
How People Can Plan Ahead
If you’re struggling with infertility, you have at least one advantage in the process: you can plan ahead for pregnancy. You can set aside money tax-free that you can use for your treatments if you have an insurance plan that comes with a Health Savings Plan or Flex Spending Plan.
An HSA has no expiration date, so if you don’t end up using all the money for infertility treatments, you can use it for other medical, dental or vision expenses. An FSA doesn’t allow you to roll money over to the next year, so you have to do the math to make sure you don’t lose money or pay too much out of pocket to taxes.
You can set up an HSA or FSA through your insurance plan. Talk to your HR department about setting one up and setting up automatic transfers from your paycheck.
Before you start the treatments, you should also see what kind of insurance plan you have, what they cover and what your other options are. It may be worthwhile to change your insurance policy before trying to get pregnant. Unless you have a special circumstance, you’ll have to wait until open enrollment in the fall to change your policy.
Some infertility doctors may also allow you to pay in installments. They may even be willing to negotiate if you ask. Women like Henderson who don’t have the cash for fertility treatments may also be able to take out a personal loan from a bank or put the treatments on a credit card.
But no matter how much you plan ahead, Henderson says “you’ll never really be ready.”
“The cost of infertility is scary,” she said. “You have to know that this is what you want and confidently make the lifestyle changes necessary to make it happen.”