Add It Up
With all the talk about how expensive it is to have a kid ($241,080 for the average U.S. family), many women don’t realize how much simply getting pregnant in the first place can affect your bottom line.
“We think this is supposed to be the cheap and easy part, but that isn’t always the case,” says Jean M. Twenge, PhD, author of The Impatient Woman’s Guide to Getting Pregnant. “Even if you’re trying the old-fashioned way, you should be on prenatal vitamins. As the months go by, you may decide to invest in ovulation predictors or fertility monitors. And if you still have trouble, it can get very expensive very quickly.”
If you’re hoping to start a family in the near future, you may want to start setting aside money now. Here’s the real financial toll of getting knocked up.
Getting Your Body Baby-Ready
The first step: popping prenatal vitamins (or a supplement with at least 400 mg of folic acid) to ensure you have adequate levels of folic acid, which is a B vitamin that protects against neural-tube defects that can develop in the very early stages of pregnancy.
Switching from a regular multivitamin to a prenatal also ensures you won’t OD on vitamin A, too much of which can be harmful to unborn babies. “In addition, many women take other supplements such as fish oil, DHEA, or OvaBoost to increase their odds of a healthy pregnancy,” says Twenge. Prenatal vitamins vary in cost from about $10 to $35 a month; double that price tag if you’re adding supplements to the mix.
Lots of new-mom hopefuls also revamp their diet, opting for more nutritious foods … along with a steeper grocery bill. According to a Harvard School of Public Health study, it costs about $1.50 more each day to eat well, compared to gobbling processed crap. And if you go organic, the toll on your wallet is even higher. “Eating organically can be twice as expensive as [eating] conventionally grown foods,” says Twenge.
On the bright side, cutting out booze should help balance those extra charges.
Tracking Your Fertility
From Excel spreadsheets to Google calendar alerts, baby-making can feel like a second job — sans paycheck. Some women start charting their cycles as soon as they want to conceive; others wait and see. Either way, fertility monitoring is another cost to consider.
There are a variety of options at all different price points: Fertility apps that record your period and identify peak days range from free to $15. A top-of-the-line ovulation kit, which detects ovulation by measuring your hormone levels with urine tests, will run you around $150 to $200, plus $35 to $40 for a month’s worth of sticks (though you can find cheaper options for less than $1 per strip).
Taking your basal body temperature is another strategy: Using a special sensitive thermometer (about $10), you can calculate minute changes in your temp that will clue you in to when you’re ovulating. On top of all that, pregnancy tests are around $10 each, and some eager moms-to-be take them often.
If you’ve been actively trying for at least six months, it may be time to see a fertility specialist, so prepare yourself for sticker shock. Expect to shell out about $250 for the initial doctor’s visit, according to Twenge, plus several hundred more for a baseline ultrasound and fertility tests.
Often, the MD will start treatment by prescribing a drug like clomiphene, a pill that helps you produce hormones that can jump-start ovulation. It’s about $50 a month, and most women need at least a few cycles. If that’s unsuccessful, the next step may be injectable hormones, called gonadotropins, which can trigger ovulation. You’ll have to pay a few thousand dollars per treatment, including doctor’s appointments and tests.
For a few hundred dollars, you can give your partner’s swimmers an extra leg up. Sperm have a better chance of fertilizing an egg if they’re inserted directly into your cervix or uterus via insemination, or IUI.
It’s a few hundred dollars if you’re using your significant other’s sperm, and about $900 if you go with a donor, according to Sherman Silber, MD, director of the Infertility Center of St. Louis at St. Luke’s Hospital and author of How to Get Pregnant. “If you use donor sperm, you also have to factor in the cost of counseling to help the parent come to terms with the fact that the child isn’t biologically theirs,” adds Dr. Silber. He estimates you’ll need about five to ten therapy sessions.
IVF is the mack daddy of fertility treatments, and it’s got the price point to go with it. Conventional in vitro fertilization can cost — wait for it — $20,000 for a single cycle. (Sorry, that’s not a typo.) “The drugs alone are $6,000,” says Dr. Silber. “The rest of the price is for ultrasounds, evaluating your hormone levels, the operating room, anesthesia, and handling your eggs in the lab.”
But that’s not all: If you need a donor egg, you’ll be hit with extra fees of up to $5,000, or even $10,000. “The donor receives up to $5,000, depending on their age or whether they have a history of successful pregnancies,” explains Dr. Silber. “And the agency charges between $2,000 and $5,000.”
Plus, if you’re faced with a plummeting sperm count, doctors will have to inject the sperm directly into the egg, or remove it from the testicles using a needle. Sometimes this procedure is included in the overall cost of IVF; sometimes it can cost an extra five grand.
In Vitro Lite
Luckily, there’s a new alternative on the scene that’s more affordable and effective: Mini IVF boasts three times the pregnancy rates of the old-school method and is a comparative steal at just $8,500. How were they able to slash the price so drastically?
“We’ve learned how to get a smaller number of quality eggs through modest stimulation, using cheaper, more efficient drugs and fewer staff,” says Dr. Silber. “Think of it like this: If you were sitting under an apple tree and wanted to eat a few apples, you could a) chop down the whole tree and pick the best-looking fruits or b) shake the tree a little until the ripest apples naturally fell off.”
The challenge is finding a hospital that has ample experience performing this cutting-edge technique.