In recent years, the world of medicine has opened many doors and expanded treatment options for those facing infertility. According to the American Pregnancy Association, approximately 6.1 million American couples struggle to conceive. So it’s fair to say that you’re not alone in the pursuit of seeking fertility treatments. When working to address your specific needs it’s important to consider your overall health, doctor’s recommendations, and the costs associated with each of your options.
The first step into the world of fertility treatments is often best taken with crackers and a full glass of water in the morning. That’s right, prescribed medication. Advancements in fertility drugs have been exceedingly helpful in targeting varying conception challenges. There are two main types of fertility medications used to cheer on your ovaries. The first type is Clomiphene (Clomid), an oral medication that encourages ovulation by increasing your levels of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) in your brain. Clomid fertility treatments are typically a good fit for women who have irregular ovulation cycles, cannot ovulate on their own, or have other unexplained fertility issues.
Alternatively, Clomid treatments can also be prescribed to men who have a low sperm count or are infertile. On average, Clomid medications cost about $100 per ovulation cycle (every 30 days), depending on the brand and prescribed dosage. Most encouragingly, Clomid treatments can increase your chance of ovulating by 80% within the first three months.
According to Healthline, common side effects for men taking Clomid include tenderness of the pectoral muscles, irritability, acne, and potential acceleration of prostate cancer growth (if cancer is already present).
The second most popular type of fertility drug is known as Gonadotropins. Gonadotropins can be injectable follicle stimulating hormones and or luteinizing hormones, which encourage ovulation by directly stimulating your ovaries. Fortunately, a family member or friend can help administer scheduled injections of Gonadotropin drugs, limiting your doctor’s visits to frequent blood tests, exams, and ultrasounds. Gonadotropins are ideal for women who do not have pituitary glands or lack their own natural Gonadotropins.
This treatment is also suitable for men facing infertility caused by hormonal imbalances, or poor sperm quality. Gonadotropins can cost between $150 and $6000, depending on how many treatments are necessary. If these injectable treatments are able to jump start ovulation, about 50% of women are able to conceive.
According to WebMD, common side effects include tenderness, infection, blood blisters, swelling, or bruising at the injection site. Gonadotropins can also put you at risk for a condition called Ovarian Hyperstimulation.
Cervical Cap Insemination
Cervical cap insemination optimizes your chances of becoming pregnant by using a cervical cap to collect semen, which is then placed inside of the vagina and onto the cervix. The cap stays in place for up to six hours, giving the sperm a chance to stay protected while penetrating the cervix and fertilizing the egg.
The Stork OTC is the only FDA cleared over the counter conception device, designed to assist you in conceiving during your fertile window. These handy devices were once only to be accessible by prescription, but recently gained major accessibility points when it became available online, and at Walgreens, CVS, and Target.
Costing only $59.99, the Stork OTC is an excellent tool for couples facing common fertility challenges such as low sperm count, low sperm motility, or an acidic vaginal pH environment. The best thing about the Stork OTC device, is that the technique of cervical cap insemination boasts a 20% success rate, as well as little to no side effects.
Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)
Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) is a type of artificial insemination procedure used to treat infertility. While more antiquated forms of artificial insemination involved placing sperm into the vagina, IUI is thought to be more effective because processed sperm is placed directly inside of your uterus during ovulation, after one or more egg(s) are released by your ovary. If effective, the sperm will swim into the fallopian tube and fertilize the egg, ideally resulting in a normal pregnancy.
According to Attain Fertility, women have approximately a 10 to 20 % chance of becoming pregnant after only one IUI cycle; within 3 to 6 IUI cycles, the likelihood of pregnancy can reach up to 80%. IUI is a relatively affordable process, with costs ranging from $700 to $2,000 per cycle (including semen processing).
Common side effects include hot flashes, mood swings, depression, nausea, headaches, visual disturbances, swollen or painful ovaries (signaling Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome), pelvic discomfort, breast tenderness, or bloating (also early symptoms of pregnancy). It’s also important to note that certain side effects of IUI will depend on which medications you’re taking to promote ovulation or fertility.
In vitro fertilization (IVF)
In vitro fertilization (IVF) is one of the heavy hitters in the world of fertility treatments options. IVF is a complicated series of procedures, taking about two weeks per cycle, used to treat a variety of infertility or genetic problems. During IVF treatments, mature eggs are extracted from your ovaries and fertilized by sperm in a lab, before being inserted into your uterus, post-fertilization. Sperm used in the IVF process can be from your partner or a sperm donor. The cost of IVF treatments averages at about $14,000 (using your own eggs), which can be a hindrance for many women seeking treatment.
If a donor’s eggs are necessary for the procedure, the potential cost can be as high as $38,000. However, this treatment can deliver high success rates with about 40% of women under age 35 becoming pregnant, women age 35 to 40 clocking in at 21% to 31%, and women age 41 and older at about 5% to 11%.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, common side effects may include mild spotting (clear or blood-tinged fluid), mild cramping, mild bloating, constipation, and breast tenderness.
Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI)
Used to augment the fertilization phase of IVF, Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) is when a single sperm is injected into a mature egg. ICSI is generally a good fit for men with severe cases of male-factor infertility. ICSI procedures add a cost of approximately, $1,500 to each IVF cycle. Aside from a typical recommendation of abstaining from strenuous activity for up to one week after the procedure, there are no real side effects to ICSI procedures.
Couples using IVF and ICSI fertility treatments have increased odds of becoming pregnant with multiples. The success rates are the same as those of IVF treatments, 40% of women under age 35 became pregnant, 21% to 31% of women age 35 to 40, and 5% to 11% of women age 41 and older became pregnant.
Zygote Intrafallopian Transfer (ZIFT)
Zygote Intrafallopian Transfer, also known as ZIFT, is a fertility treatment very similar to in vitro fertilization. However, the ZIFT procedure is a process by which eggs are fertilized in a lab before being placed inside of your fallopian tubes. This procedure is extremely invasive and is rarely used today due to the growing popularity and impressing success rates of in vitro fertilization. ZIFT may still be a viable option for you if other treatments have been unsuccessful, you’ve had unexplained infertility or problems ovulating, your partner has a low sperm count, and you have at least one healthy fallopian tube. On average, one cycle of ZIFT can cost approximately $15,000 to $20,000. The price of your fertility treatments depends on how much medication is required, as well as your insurance coverage. Success rates for ZIFT vary significantly based on the couple’s age and specific fertility challenges. This option can be an excellent last resort for those wishing to conceive, with an average success rate of about 22%.
Gamete Intrafallopian Transfer (GIFT)
Gamete Intrafallopian Transfer, also known as GIFT, is very similar to its sister surgery ZIFT. However, with GIFT the fertilization takes places after a doctor places both the eggs and the sperm directly inside of one of your fallopian tubes, allowing the sperm to fertilize the egg naturally. GIFT may be a good option for women with endometriosis, or unexplained infertility, ovulation, or cervical problems. GIFT could also be a good fit for couples working with a low sperm count, though it is rarely used, with specialists favoring ICSI. Much like the ZIFT procedure, GIFT procedure costs can range anywhere from $15,000 to $20,000, for one cycle. This depends on how much medication is required, as well as your insurance coverage. Post GIFT procedure, the average pregnancy rate is approximately 37% for women 38 and younger, and 24% for women 39 and older.
Egg and Embryo Donors
Depending on your unique situation, using egg and embryo donations might be a wonderful option for becoming pregnant. Circumstances which lead individuals to use donated eggs or embryos vary dramatically. Whether you’re single and ready for parenthood, or in a partnership where infertility challenges have been otherwise insurmountable, egg or embryo donations could be the antidote. Generally, egg and embryo donations are a great fertility treatment for any combination of the following circumstances:
- women over 40 who are unable to become pregnant with their own eggs
- couples who both have fertility problems
- women who have had repeated miscarriages
- couples who wish to prevent their future children from inheriting genetic illnesses.
Specifically, egg donations are a good option for women who are facing the following infertility challenges:
- early menopause or premature ovarian failure (POF)
- poor egg quality
- a history of genetic disease
- hormonal imbalances
- ovaries that are unresponsive to stimulation
- being a woman over 40
To mitigate risks, egg donors undergo a series of complex applications, tests, and screenings before they are cleared to participate in your fertility treatments. There are no additional side effects to the IVF process when using donated eggs.
However, the respective IVF process is different when using donated eggs. As opposed to having mature eggs extracted from your ovaries before being sent to a lab for the magic to happen, mature eggs are instead extracted from the approved donor’s ovaries. According to the American Pregnancy Association, it is ideal for the recipient’s cycle to be synchronized with the donor’s cycle. This process is generally done through the administration of several hormonal medications.
Depending on your endometrial receptivity, the egg donor’s profile, and the quality of sperm being used, the success rates donated eggs resulting in pregnancy are very high. According to Conceiveabilities, the average total cost of using egg donations for IVF, in the US, can be between $37,000 and $65,000. This estimated cost includes donor and agency compensation, IVF, fertility treatments, medical expenses, and travel as well as legal costs.
In the world of fertility treatments, embryo donations are viewed similarly to adoptions. However, embryo donations tend to be a better fit for individuals wishing to experience pregnancy and the process of giving birth, yet have been unable to conceive on their own for any number of reasons. When considering using a donated embryo, there are many legal and psychological factors to consider. Therefore, it is important to take your time and explore all of your options before deciding on this method to achieve pregnancy.
Much like egg donors, embryo donors undergo intensive and complex screening processes to determine their aptitude as donors. According to The National Fertility Association, fertility clinics begin the process of transferring embryos by first inducing an artificial cycle, within the recipient, using hormonal treatments which suppress the recipient’s menstrual cycle. On day 17 or 19 of the cycle, a small catheter is inserted through the vagina and cervix before it reaches the uterus, where the embryos are deposited.
Common side effects are very similar to general pregnancy symptoms. Risks involved include a narrow chance of infection as a result of the transfer and the possibility of becoming pregnant with multiples (if transferring more than one embryo). Fortunately, there are many families who exist with the help of a donated embryo as the process is often very effective. According to Embryo Adoption Awareness Center (EAAC), the average success rate of embryo transfer is approximately 43% per transferred embryo(s). The EAAC also reports that the estimated total cost of embryo adoption can be between $7,500 and $19,500.
Whether you’re just beginning to explore fertility treatments or you’re a seasoned player in the game, there are a number of options available to you. Perhaps the most important thing you can do, to aid the success of your journey, is to talk with your doctor about which fertility treatment options are right for you.