Maybe the dating-marriage-kids plan didn’t work out as you’d expected — or maybe going solo was part of your plan all along. Whatever the reason, if you’re considering having a baby on your own, you’re in good company. According to the Center for Disease Control, almost 40.6 percent of all births in 2013 were to unmarried women. In 1960, it was only 5 percent. This includes both women whose partners are in the picture in an unmarried capacity and those who decided to do it alone.
There are a lot of nuanced and complicated factors to consider, of course, when deciding whether to conceive on your own, but the cost involved is a big one. The fiscal implications can vary, though, depending on the method of insemination. What is and isn’t covered by health insurance depends on your insurer and where you live. Currently, only 15 states have laws that require insurance companies to offer coverage for fertility treatments, so it’s best to read through your health insurance policy thoroughly. (For more information about infertility insurance coverage, click here.) Here are some common methods and their associated costs:
Free Sperm Donor
This is exactly what it sounds like — an individual (whether it be a friend or a stranger) donating his sperm for your conception. The high costs associated with a sperm bank may be why some women are turning to this lower cost, albeit riskier method. The demand has spawned an online world of free sperm donation websites — all unregulated. Among these sites is knowndonorregistry.com and privatesperm.com.
The donors provide their medical information and physical attributes; but there’s no verification, so proceed at your own risk. The exchange can take place in a sterile cup to be used with a syringe or via natural sexual intercourse. Unlike the sperm bank scenario, recipient and donor always get to meet face to face. Since disease screening is not available, be prepared to ask about it and pay for it yourself.
According to Scott Brown, director of client experience at The California Cryobank, this puts the onus — and the risk — entirely on your shoulders. “Using a free volunteer puts you at legal, physical and medical risk,” Brown says. Legally, he tells us there is very little to no protection at all. "Contracts are often thrown out by the courts if a donor changes his mind." Brown advises that if you do insist on going the free donor route — say, with a friend who has consented — protect yourself by having a licensed physician do the insemination. This way, it can be clear to the courts that he was only meant to be a sperm donor.
Fertility attorney Rose Pondel of the Family Formation Law Center, says that having a written contract is crucial. Although laws differ by state, generally speaking, as long as the agreement contains the following three elements it has a high likelihood of being enforceable. First, you must have a written contract — no verbal agreements. Both parties signing the contract must be represented by an attorney. And the insemination must be performed by a licensed physician. You can find your state's guidelines for parental rights associated with sperm donation at the American Fertility Association.
Sperm banks are facilities that collect and store donor sperm. Screening procedures for these donors and testing of the sperm is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). According to Brown, an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 births yearly result from donor sperm in the United States.
To become a donor, requirements include: three generations of family history, genetic testing, repeated STD (sexually-transmitted disease) screening and even height requirements. The sperm is frozen for six months then tested again since it can take that long for certain STDs, including HIV, to be detected. "We can also detect other illnesses during the screening process. Among them are a high frequency of cancer, mental illness, and early onset heart disease," Brown says.
Approved donors (only 0.9 percent of applicants usually qualify) are then put on a catalog-like website. Search options include criteria such as eye color, religion, blood type, educational background and more. Donors provide essays, short answer questions and sometimes even childhood photos and art projects — all aimed at aiding in the decision-making process.
In most states, if it’s clear the sperm was donated, the donor legally gives up his rights and obligations as a parent. Sperm banks also require donors to sign away certain levels of parental rights, depending on the type of donor they choose to be. An open donor is committed to a minimum of one contact with the child before they turn 18. An anonymous donor is not committed to anything and is therefore less costly.
Sperm is shipped overnight via Fed Ex all over the world. It’s kept in a dry ice container or in a nitrogen tank. Expect to pay $400 to $650 for a vial of sperm, though the exact cost varies depending on the sperm bank and donor type. Add $100 to $200 for shipping.
At the California Cryobank, vials of sperm range in price from $595 to $795 based on the type of insemination and anonymity of the donor. How many vials you’ll need for a successful insemination varies and is typically determined by your physician, but the NW Cryobank in Spokane, Wash., shares that its clients with successful pregnancies use 1.8 vials (on average) per cycle with a range of 1-6 vials per cycle.
Most sperm banks require clients to be at least 18 years old and sign a consent form. Among the various consents, a common one is that the sperm recipient acknowledges that the bank does not guarantee pregnancy. Another common consent form topic is that the sperm bank does not guarantee 100 percent that sperm is STD free.
IntraCervical insemination (ICI) is one of the more common forms of artificial insemination and is typically lower cost. Sperm is placed near the woman’s cervix, where it must then travel up the uterus and into the fallopian tubes to fertilize the egg — mimicking traditional conception. A vial contains non-washed sperm — similar to raw ejaculate — as it may include seminal fluid and imperfect sperm. Imperfect sperm is not removed. The cost of each ICI cycle can vary, but typically ranges from $200 and $350. Note that it may take more than one cycle to successfully conceive.
IntraUterine Insemination (IUI) is typically more expensive than an ICI ($865 on average per cycle, depending on where you live), but fertile sperm is placed directly into a woman’s uterus. These vials contain a washed sample, meaning only specific healthy sperm are selected. Misshapen sperm and seminal fluid are removed. Keep in mind that IUI insemination tends to be more successful than vaginal or ICI insemination because the sperm is inserted directly into the uterus via a catheter.
Additional costs include options like extended donor profiles. These include photos and even personality tests like the Keirsey Report, a personality assessment tool designed to help you understand temperament and behavior. They can each cost anywhere from $25 per profile to $250 for a 90-day subscription.
“Another cost factor to take into consideration is the class of donor you choose," Brown says. As mentioned above an anonymous donor is not committing to anything, therefore that vial is less costly. An open donor is committed to a minimum of one contact with the child once he or she turns 18. That vial comes in at the higher end of the cost range and up to $795 each. Make sure to factor in shipping if you’re not close enough to pick up the vial. That's $200 per vial, Brown says, adding that it takes an average of four inseminations per successful pregnancy. Having the IUI procedures at your doctor’s office can run anywhere from $600 to $800 per cycle.
Donor eggs are the priciest option when it comes to conceiving on your own, but it’s an option if using your own eggs proves impossible or unsuccessful. In this case the donor egg and donor sperm are combined in a laboratory dish — otherwise known as in vitro fertilization (IVF).
The cost of a donor egg with IVF averages $25,000 to $30,000 per cycle and that doesn’t include the cost of donor sperm. Luckily, options do exist for those families who may be eligible for grants or scholarships for IVF.
Once all the above is taken into consideration, keep in mind that the real cost of raising a child comes after birth. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) calculates the average cost of child-rearing to range from $12,800 to $14,970 for households with income between $61,530 and $106,540 (before-tax). The USDA also provides a cost of raising a child calculator. It incorporates factors such as marital status, number of children in family, and region in which you live into its cost calculation.
Ultimately, having a child is a major life choice and can’t be boiled down to dollars and cents. Being a parent changes your life and priorities in many ways — and only you can decide if you’re up for the challenge and the subsequent rewards. But having a good sense of what it will cost financially can help you make sure you’re prepared.