Nearly one out of every eight couples in the U.S. are affected by infertility. For National Infertility Awareness Week, “GMA” is spotlighting infertility stories to help demystify and destigmatize all paths to parenthood.
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Fundraising, grants, loans and credit card debt are now terms just as commonly associated with infertility as the words baby and pregnancy.
The average cost of one in vitro fertilization, or IVF, cycle in the United States is $12,400, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, a non-profit organization founded by fertility experts in the 1940s.
Add to that the reality that most pregnancies require more than one IVF cycle, plus ancillary expenses including medication, doctors appointments, genetic testing and embryo storage, and then subtract the fact that insurance coverage for infertility treatments is limited, and you have what often becomes a cost-prohibitive, or financially crippling, scenario for women trying to get pregnant.
Still, more than 7 million women, nearly 12%, have used infertility services in their lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As a result of the rising costs and rising frequency of fertility treatments, a whole separate industry has sprouted to just financially help people have children. Here is a look at some of the resources now available.
Grants and scholarships
Certain hospitals, foundations and even states, such as New York, now offer grants and scholarships to help cover the cost of infertility treatments.
Some require you to live in certain states and to meet certain requirements, and some charge fees for applying. Make sure to carefully vet the grant or scholarship-giving institution before you share any information online.
The Kevin J. Lederer Life Foundation in Chicago is one foundation that offers grants to cover the medical costs of IVF treatments.
The Baby Quest Foundation offers around 10 grants for every 300 to 400 applications it receives, according to Pamela Hirsch, who founded the charity in 2011 after watching her daughter go through unsuccessful IVF treatments before turning to surrogacy to have her two children.
"Infertility becomes an issue of class because it's only available to those people who can afford it," she said. "There so many different types of issues that we try to address and it's frustrating that we don't have the funds to help more people than we do."
Baby Quest gives scholarships that fill the gap, so if an IVF treatment costs $10,000 and a grant recipient can only contribute $2,000, the foundation will give them $8,000. Other grants and scholarships give certain amounts of money and have different requirements, so applicants must do their research first.
"All we can do is offer an opportunity to remove that financial burden to allow them to pursue IVF or surrogacy," Hirsch said.
FertilityIQ, an online resource started by a couple searching for a fertility doctor, offers a state-by-state guide to available grants and charities, mostly for IVF.
The National Infertility Association, aka RESOLVE, national patient advocacy organization founded by a woman, offers a list online of grant and scholarship opportunities.
Fertility Within Reach, a national non-profit organization, also offers an online guide for everything from infertility treatment grants to adoption grants, fertility medication grants and programs for veterans and current members of the military.
Another non-profit, Fertility for Colored Girls (FFCG), offers an annual Gift of Hope Award of up to $10,000 to help with costs associated with infertility treatment or domestic adoption. The non-profit was founded by a Chicago minister who saw a need for more infertility awareness and support for African-American women.
Employers and insurers
More than 400 U.S. companies offer benefits for fertility treatments, according to data collected by Fertility IQ, a fertility information website. Even with some employers adding such benefits, the majority of IVF patients treated last year paid for all or some of their treatment out-of-pocket, according to Fertility IQ.
Fertility-focused organizations have begun to offer tips for employees who want to ask their employers for IVF benefits.
ABC News Chief Business Correspondent Rebecca Jarvis, who became pregnant thanks to the help of infertility treatments, also shared these three tips for women.
1. Call your insurance provider: [Call] whatever insurance you're getting through your company and ask them what fertility benefits they offer. Typically it's the insurance providers themselves that can explain which benefits you're eligible for. Also, ask insurance provider about different plans – sometimes it's different coverage depending on which plan you're on, and it might make sense to switch.
2. Look at your partner's insurance: In some cases that's going to be a bigger benefit than the one you're getting from your company.
3. Negotiate: "When you're going out and talking to these various fertility providers, negotiate. Caution against just making choice on cheapest option. If they're not the strongest provider, you could be setting yourself up for multiple rounds of treatment which becomes more expensive.
Only a handful of states require insurance providers to cover infertility treatments. The American Society of Reproductive Medicine maintains an online database of state-specific insurance requirements so you can know your rights in your state.
Some fertility clinics offer their own discounted treatment packages and financing, and there are independent companies that offer financing and loans to cover the cost of treatments.
RESOLVE offers a comprehensive online guide to infertility financing programs.
A quick search on GoFundMe, the crowdfunding platform, shows dozens and dozens of couples and individuals asking for financial help with their IVF journey. The website even has a page titled "Get help with IVF fundraising."
One couple profiled by ABC News, LaTanya and James Braxton, of Antioch, Tennessee, turned to GoFundMe after they realized the loan they took out to cover the cost of their IVF treatment didn't account for the high cost of medicine that comes with an IVF cycle.
"We decided to be creative in exploring the different ways we could cover the difference and GoFundMe was one of the best opportunities we have," James said.
LaTanya added about their initial decision to take out a loan, "People get loans for cars. People get loans for houses. You know, for us, we're getting a loan for something we really want and that's to start our family."
The Braxtons posted a video on their GoFundMe page explaining their decision to go this route. Using social media in addition to GoFundMe was a way for the couple to keep family and friends up to date on their IVF journey in a personable and relatable way.
The couple's GoFundMe page currently shows they have raised $10,685 of their $16,350 goal.
After experiencing a miscarriage with twins after their first round of IVF, the Braxtons still have nine frozen embryos and intend to try IVF again when LaTanya's body is ready.
Read more about the Braxtons' journey and two other families on their own unique IVF journeys HERE.