In an ideal world, life provides exactly what we want when we want it. But quite often, as we all know, that's not how things work out. Life doesn't always go according to plan, and that may be especially true of any plans we make to have children.
For a variety of reasons, an increasing number of women are choosing to build families on their own, without a partner. Single women are pursuing motherhood on their own terms-and in some cases, going through the IVF process to do so.
Given that the average cost of each IVF cycle in the United States is anywhere from $12,000 to $17,000, according to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital, undergoing IVF as a dual income household is daunting enough. And often, it can take multiple IVF cycles to successfully become pregnant.
Shouldering this outsized financial burden on a single income can be intimidating and even downright discouraging. The good news is there are options available to help pay for IVF and fulfill the desire to become a mom even as a single woman. Here's a closer look at some of the options available to make the IVF process more affordable.
Grants from non-profits
When David Bross and his wife began infertility treatment in 2013, the financial resources available to help those who might need assistance were limited at best.
"There were very few if any non-profits that provided financial support," Bross tells Parents. "That was something we wanted to change."
In 2016, one year after successfully conceiving twins through IVF themselves, the Cincinnati couple founded Parental Hope, a 100 percent volunteer organization that provides about 70 IVF grants per year that cover the full cost of the process, excluding medications. Importantly, the grants provided by Parental Hope are not limited to couples, they're open to anyone who applies.
The application process for funding opens in June and the submission deadline is September 1. In order to qualify for financial support, you must have an infertility diagnosis and meet the definition of infertility provided by the American Society of Reproductive Medicine. This could include unexplained infertility or recurring miscarriages, says Bross.
There's a very detailed application process to qualify for funding from Parental Hope, which includes undergoing a medical evaluation and also submitting a video essay explaining your desire to go through IVF.
"The video isn't something that has to be professionally produced. It can be done on your iPhone. It just helps us identify those who really, truly want and need help," explains Bross. "We feel that if you're willing to go through the application and complete a video, it says a lot about you as an individual."
The point of Bross' story, beyond the notable funding available through Parental Hope, is that his organization is just one example of the many non-profits that have sprung up in recent years to support those going through IVF. While it may be harder to find options to support solo parents, they are out there.
"When Parental Hope was started in 2016, there were less than 10 non-profits that provided financial support. Now, there are over 50, if not more," explains Bross. "Each is unique in how they give out grants and what the grants cover. For example, Parental Hope's grants cover the full cost of IVF at the Institute for Reproductive Health in Cincinnati, Ohio, whereas other non-profits may give out a $5,000 cash grant to be used anywhere."
California-based Baby Quest in as another option Bross points to for financial support. Baby Quest Foundation provides assistance through fertility grants to those who cannot afford the high costs of IVF, as well as gestational surrogacy, egg and sperm donation, and embryo donation. The organization has awarded about $2.3 million in grants to date.
The best advice Bross says he can give if you're a solo parent looking for funding? Do your research regarding the grants and foundations out there-and don't be afraid to apply. "The only way you know whether you'll qualify is if you apply," he says. "Take the time to do so."
An increasing number of insurance companies cover the costs of IVF these days. And finding out whether yours does should really be a first stop, Suzie Devine, a former IVF nurse and founder of the women's health company Binto, tells Parents.
"It's a pretty straightforward path. If you're already working with a clinic, they usually have a financial services coordinator whose job it is to check with your insurance for you. Or if you have a clinic in mind that you'd like to work with, they can run your insurance for you ahead of time," says Devine.
Bross echoes Devine's suggestion, noting that he and his wife had no idea IVF was covered by their policy when they embarked on their own IVF process. "My wife happened to be going through her insurance renewal and noticed it," he explains. "We were shocked."
Devine also suggests looking into secondary insurance that's specifically designed to provide fertility benefits, such as Progyny, which is typically offered through employers. Check with your workplace human resource department to find out if this or a similar type of insurance is available.
Another point about insurance coverage: Devine notes that some insurance companies may not cover the cost of the IVF process, but they may pick up the costs of IVF medications, which is not insubstantial.
"Medication can run $5,000 to $10,000 per cycle," notes Devine. "You may not have coverage for the IVF cycles, but you might be covered for the medication."
Check the pharmacy benefits associated with your insurance policy to find out if this is the case. Some medication manufacturers may even offer special programs designed to help more people afford costs, adds Dr. Erika Munch of San Antonio-based Texas Fertility Center.
"Ask about prescription discount programs offered by pharmacies and pharmaceutical companies, which may provide financial savings in the form of coupons to apply to medication purchases," Munch tells Parents.
Shared risk programs
Perhaps a lesser-known option, Devine points out that some IVF clinics have begun offering what's known as "shared risk programs." What exactly does this mean?
"The clinic and the patient share the risk," explains Devine. "This is typically when you're working with an egg donor. If you fail to walk away with a baby, you get your money back."
This type of financial arrangement has become more common as the competition grows among IVF clinics, explains Devine. Offering such a deal is a way to attract more patients.
"Shady Grove Fertility is one of the big clinics up and down the east coast that offers this," says Devine. The clinic, which has locations everywhere from Maryland to Pennsylvania, Washington D.C. and Georgia, offers a 100 percent refund option through which your deposit is returned if you do not end up with a baby.
If other avenues fail to provide the financial resources needed, fertility loans are yet another option to help fund IVF as a single woman. There's a diverse marketplace specializing in this type of loan. Some of the well-known names include Arc Fertility and Lending USA, says Devine.
Some clinics, such as RISE Fertility in Newport Beach, California, also offer financing plans of their own. In the case of RISE, the financing is not a bad deal and includes 0 percent interest and terms of 12, 18, and 24 months with fixed monthly payments.
"RISE Fertility has integrated an in-house, proprietary fintech platform into the patient journey that allows patients to seamlessly customize their payment plan to fit their budget regardless of the type of treatment required," RISE co-founder and physician Sanaz Ghazal tells Parents. "This allows patients to solve for the challenge of affordability in real-time rather than be subject to navigating this challenge with a separate third party outside of the clinic."
This option is slightly more of a long shot, but if you happen to be looking for a job, screen potential employers based on the benefits they offer, suggests Bross. It's not unheard of for employers to offer IVF benefits in order to lure top talent. You may even negotiate for such benefits once you're offered a position.
"More and more employers are realizing this is becoming more mainstream and are starting to offer IVF benefits to attract employees," says Bross.
You could also let your current employer know you want them to provide such benefits if they don't already.
"Infertility is more common than most people know," says Munch, of Texas Fertility Center. "If you work for a company that offers health insurance plans to their employees, let your HR department know that you're interested in a plan that offers fertility treatment coverage. The more they know those services are needed, the more likely they are to offer plans to their employees which cover these services."
"There are a lot of people on GoFundMe doing this, says Devine. "You have to be open to putting your plans out there, which is not for everybody. But being open with family and friends is a great way to get support. It's a really big financial and emotional burden, especially if you're single."
Where to start
Undergoing IVF as a single woman can be intimidating, and not just financially but emotionally as well. Devine, who in addition to being an IVF nurse, is going through the IVF process herself, says developing a support network is almost as essential as finding the funding.
"Find a support community, whether it's friends, or other women who have gone through it," she advises. "The fertility tribe is an amazing community and there's a lot of online support."
You might even start your journey at Fertility IQ, suggests Devine. An online platform, FertilityIQ not only helps users locate IVF doctors but also includes more than 30 courses and 200 detailed online lessons about IVF taught by experts.
The key point to remember, however, is that there are more resources and options available today than ever before to help patients pay for fertility treatment.