Couples who are finding it hard to get pregnant can often feel isolated while they’re going through this difficult experience. But struggling with fertility is actually quite common.
Between 10$ and 15% of couples trying to have children in the US experience infertility problems, according to the Mayo Clinic. More than 12% of American women between the ages of 15 and 49 have gotten medical treatment for infertility issues, according to the last National Survey of Family Growth. And more than 55,000 American women per year give birth thanks to assisted reproductive technology.
One of the most common and effective treatments for fertility problems is in vitro fertilization (IVF). This involves removing an egg from a woman’s ovaries, fertilizing it with sperm in a lab, and then implanting the embryo in her uterus. Women under the age of 35 have a nearly 50% chance of having a baby through IVF, while women over the age of 42 have about a 3.9% chance.
The procedure is expensive—the average cost of one IVF cycle in the U.S. is between $12,000 and $17,000. That number can depend on the city or state you live in, the treatment center you use, how many medications you take, and other factors. In many states, insurance doesn’t cover IVF at all. So, on top of the emotional toll of fertility struggles, the high cost of treatment can sometimes be a financial burden as well.
Options for Financing IVF
For many would-be parents, that hefty price tag is worth it for the chance to have children. But how can people afford to pay for treatment? Here are a few ideas for IVF financing.
1. Tapping into Your Health Insurance
Your first step should probably be to check whether your health insurance will cover IVF. There are 15 states that require insurance companies to cover infertility treatment: Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, and West Virginia. However, not all of these states include IVF in the requirement. Another two states—California and Texas—require insurers to offer coverage for infertility treatment, and in California this doesn’t include IVF.
You can contact your insurer to find out your specific benefits. If you have the option and if the timing works out with your enrollment period, you might consider switching your insurance plan to one that covers IVF. But in most states, where insurance companies don’t have to pay for IVF, so in those locations, you may be responsible for covering all expenses yourself.
2. Using Your Health Savings Account or Flexible Spending Account
A health savings account (HSA) allows you to put away money for medical expenses. Typically, you get an HSA in tandem with a qualifying high-deductible health plan. If you have funds in your HSA, you can use them to pay for IVF and related medical expenses. As long as you paid for the expenses after you opened the HSA, you can reimburse yourself for them at any time—it doesn’t have to be in the year that you incurred the costs.
If your employer offers a flexible spending account (FSA), you can also use those funds to pay for IVF. You don’t need a qualifying health plan to have and use this account. However, you do have to use all your FSA funds in the year they’re doled out or lose them.
Bear in mind that there are annual limits on how much money you can contribute to either kind of account. For 2022, the individual cap on HSA contributions is $3,650 and the family cap is $7,300. Health flexible spending account limits were at $2,750 in 2021. At the time this article was updated, the IRS had not announced what, if any, changes it plans to make for 2022.
3. Budgeting and Saving
If you’re planning to pay for IVF out-of-pocket and you don’t just have that kind of cash lying around, the most basic financial move is to save up, the way you would for any major expense. That likely means making a budget. You can start by tallying up your monthly expenses and take-home income. If you have enough financial leeway to save cash every month, you could set up an automatic paycheck withdrawal amount that could go directly into a savings account dedicated to your IVF fund.
If you don’t have enough left over after your expenses to save for IVF, one option is to work on cutting your spending. Can you take in a roommate or boarder to reduce housing costs? Could you spend time doing more free or low-cost activities with your friends instead of going out to bars or shows? What about giving up that gym membership in favor of YouTube fitness videos or running outdoors?
Another option is to increase your income. Perhaps you or your partner could ask for a raise at work or look for a better-paying job. Or you might take on a side hustle, such as driving for a ride-sharing service or renting your place out on Airbnb.
4. Borrowing From a Loved One
If you have a friend or relative who is financially comfortable, you might consider asking them for a loan. There may be people in your life who would be happy to support you in such an important and personal investment. But approach this option carefully to avoid damaging relationships. You may want to make it clear that the person you’re asking can say no with no hard feelings. If they agree, it’s a good idea to set out the terms of the loan clearly, including whether you’ll pay interest and your repayment schedule. Then, of course, you should be sure to honor the agreement.
5. Getting a Medical or Fertility Loan
Some IVF providers work with companies that offer financing for medical treatments. You can also search for IVF-specific loans and financing programs online. Take note of any origination fees or penalties for repaying the loan early.
These options can be convenient, but it never hurts to shop around before borrowing, since both loans and financing programs can come with higher interest rates than you might expect.
Some fertility treatment providers may also offer IVF payment plans that let you break the cost down over a number of months.
6. Applying for a Grant
A number of nonprofit organizations offer grants and scholarships to those who cannot afford to pay for IVF. Bear in mind that there’s no guarantee that you’ll receive a grant. That said, groups that provide assistance nationally include the AGC Scholarship Foundation, BabyQuest Foundation, the Tinina Q. Cade Foundation, the Family Formation Charitable Trust, the Footsteps for Fertility Foundation, among others.
Other groups may offer support to individuals and families who live in specific regions. You might also want to look at this list of infertility financing resources from Resolve .
7. Taking Out a Home Equity Line of Credit
If you own a home, you may be able to take out a revolving line of credit against the equity that you’ve built up. The advantage is that home equity lines of credit (HELOC) often have lower interest rates than credit cards or other types of loans. As of September 1, 2021, the average rate for a R30,000 HELOC was 4.10% (but this rate will change daily).
The amount you can borrow and the terms depend on the equity in your home, as well as your credit history, debt-to-income ratio, and other factors.
The downside of a HELOC is that if you have trouble making payments, your home is on the line. It’s up to you to pay the entire balance off within a certain time period, or else, typically, a sky-high interest rate kicks in.
8. Borrowing From Your Retirement Account
This is a path that financial advisors generally would not recommend. That’s because nest eggs usually stay untouched for decades in order to have enough time to grow for retirement. The more funds you leave in, and the earlier you invest, the more time your retirement savings has to grow or to recover from losses.
However, you may have the option of borrowing up to $50,000 or half of the amount vested in your 401(k)—whichever is smaller. If you take this path, you are basically lending the money to yourself at market interest rates for up to five years. However, if you leave your job for any reason during the time you’re paying off the loan, there may be penalties for early withdrawal if you don’t pay the loan off in time. Keep in mind that you will be repaying the loan with after-tax dollars, and they’ll be taxed again when you take the money out in retirement.
You may also qualify to actually withdraw money from your 401(k) to pay for out-of-pocket medical expenses, if your plan allows what’s called a hardship withdrawal . You’ll have to pay taxes and a 10% penalty on the amount you take out. If you have a Roth IRA, you can withdraw your contributions (but not earnings) at any time without penalties or taxes.
9. Taking Out a Personal Loan
Compared to using high-interest credit cards or money in your retirement accounts, a personal loan might be a better option for many people. A personal loan can be used for almost any expense, including IVF, and it often (but not always!) comes with a much lower interest rate than credit cards.
Unlike a HELOC, unsecured personal loans don’t require you to put up any assets as collateral. With SoFi, for example, you can borrow from $5,000 up to $100,000 without paying any fees or prepayment penalties. If you qualify, you then have a fixed rate with a fixed monthly payment for the term of the loan, so you know exactly what to expect.
IVF might be one of the most meaningful investments you’ll ever make, but it’s undeniably expensive. You can look to your insurance, health savings accounts, cash savings, or a loved one. If that’s not enough, an unsecured personal loan may be a smart way to finance treatment and help make your dreams a reality. See if you might be eligible for one of SoFi’s personal loans with no fees to help you cover the costs.
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