Since the 1970s, in vitro fertilization (IVF) has helped people overcome difficulties with conceiving a child. The process typically involves removing eggs from the ovary, freezing them, fertilizing them in the laboratory, and then placing the resulting embryo in the uterus. According to a 2020 Fertility Clinics & Infertility Services Industry report, approximately 330,000 IVF procedures are performed each year in the U.S.
To help prospective parents realize their dreams, IVF financing options are available. They include IVF loans, IVF grants, medical credit cards, personal loans and personal lines of credit.
The cost of IVF
Using IVF to conceive can be a significant financial commitment. The average patient paid more than $22,000 per IVF cycle, found the FertilityIQ database, and another $3,000 for the required fertility drugs and testing.
But that’s not all. Some patients go through multiple IVF treatments, so three cycles can easily add up to $75,000. Complicated medical situations require more extensive — and expensive — treatments. For example, intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI-IVF) may be recommended for male infertility or after several failed IVF attempts, adding another $1,400 to $2,000 to the bill. A sperm donor can cost $3,000, and an egg donor might be $25,000 to $30,000 per IVF cycle.
There are approximately 480 fertility clinics in the U.S., and they vary widely by price. However, some clinics are making IVF treatment more affordable, thus enabling a wider range of hopeful parents to take advantage of the technology.
Just don’t expect health insurance to pay for all, or even some, of the costs. As of August 2020, 19 states have passed fertility insurance coverage legislation, but only 13 — Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Utah — have IVF coverage laws in place. Even when insurance does cover IVF procedures, the policy may have restrictions, such as payout, health and age limitations. You’ll also need to meet your insurance deductible and pay the co-pays, as well as everything else the policy doesn’t cover.
Depending on your health insurance plan, you may have a health savings account (HSA) or a flexible spending account (FSA), which are both tax-advantaged accounts that allow you to save specifically for medical costs. Before committing to a new financing product, it’s worthwhile to first review the details of any existing HSA or FSA, to see whether those funds can help defray the cost of fertility treatments.
Either with or without insurance, IVF costs can be steep. For this reason, many people seek financing options.
Option 1: IVF loan
An IVF loan, sometimes referred to as a fertility loan, is a lump sum of money that’s intended to cover at least part of your fertility treatments. It's a limited-use loan that's specifically for the expenses involved with the treatments that you and your medical provider decide are most effective for conception. As it’s an installment loan, the monthly payments stay the same, and it must be repaid within a set number of months or years. Interest is often fixed, so the annual percentage rate (APR) remains constant. On the other hand, if it’s a variable APR, the rate will change according to the index on which it’s based.
IVF loans are offered by financial institutions and online lenders that specialize in medical loans, as well as medical providers that work in conjunction with a financing company. Terms and conditions of the IVF loan will vary by lender; qualification may depend on your income, expenses and credit history, including credit report and credit scores.
Pros of an IVF loan:
- It offers a large lump-sum of money available to you at the beginning of the process.
- The loan gives borrowers the ability to pay for IVF costs over several years, making the payments affordable.
Cons of an IVF loan:
- There's potentially a higher interest rate than for other types of loans (depending on credit rating).
- Some loans include additional application and document preparation fees.
- Financing fees, which can add up over time for large loans: a 10-year loan for $50,000 with a 25% APR could cost $86,495 in interest, assuming monthly payments of $1,137, according to this APR calculator.
Option 2: IVF grant
IVF grants are also available. Non-profit organizations, charities and trusts offer these financial gifts to qualified applicants. They’re typically provided to people who have low-income status or health conditions that impact their fertility.
To apply, review the diverse span of IVF grantors, and read through the qualifying factors for each. Some, for instance, are faith-based, so eligibility depends on proof of religion; with others, you have to reside in certain states. There may also be health requirements or expectations that you can financially support the child.
Prepare for the applications, too, as they are often lengthy and require substantial documentation, such as:
- A personal statement of why you need the money
- An overview of your complete financial picture
- Copies of your insurance documents
- Medical history information, especially that which is specific to your conception issues
- Psychiatric history information
- A statement from your physician
- Employment and education information
- Permission to run a criminal background check
Apply prudently, since most charge an application fee. And be aware that if you do win the grant, you may have to wait for the funds to arrive, because the money is often awarded semi-annually.
Pros of IVF grants:
- These are gifts rather than loans, so the money doesn’t have to be repaid.
- They can help with special situations, such as health or income issues.
Cons of IVF grants:
- Qualification can be difficult and is not guaranteed.
- The grant may not be enough for the entire spectrum of costs. For example, a grant may only cover one round of IVF but not subsequent treatments, should they be necessary.
Option 3: Medical credit card
Medical credit cards are another option, and many healthcare providers offer them to their patients. These payment tools usually have 0% APRs for anywhere between six and 24 months. The interest is deferred, meaning the amount you borrow will be free of any financing charges as long as you pay off the balance within the introductory timeframe. As opposed to a regular credit card, medical credit cards can only be used for qualifying medical expenses.
Qualification depends on your credit rating, and the majority of issuers expect good-to-very-good credit scores.
Medical credit cards can be a sound adjunct to your fertility planning needs. It probably won’t be sufficient for everything because the credit limits can be low, but it can help cover some essential costs. It’s a sensible option if you can handle the payments and pay the bill in full before the real APR kicks in, which can be 20% or higher.
Pros of a medical credit card:
- It typically has low initial monthly payments.
- The card offers potential for interest-free financing.
Cons of a medical credit card:
- Missing a payment can trigger the real APR to go into effect, so you have to manage the account carefully.
- Not all medical credit cards can be used for IVF financing.
Option 4: Personal loan
A personal loan from a credit union or online lender can also be used for your family planning costs.
The main difference between personal loans and IVF loans is that the money from a personal loan can be used for a wide variety of expenses, and not just those associated with fertility treatments. As with all loans (as opposed to personal lines of credit), you would receive a lump sum of money all at once. The payments stay constant, and the loan term is typically between 12 and 60 months. Interest is included in the payments, and the APR may be fixed or variable.
Credit unions, banks, and online lenders offer personal loans. In general, credit unions offer preferable rates because they’re nonprofit financial institutions. However, some credit unions are small, so they may not have the same technology as larger banks. For this reason, it may take extra time for a personal loan to be approved. Online lenders may have higher APRs, though the process tends to be fast and streamlined.
Pros of a personal loan:
- Flexible use of funds, beyond your IVF financing needs.
- Depending on the size of the loan, it can cover all or most of the costs associated with IVF
- Borrowers can determine how much the loan will cost by plugging the numbers into a loan calculator.
Cons of a personal loan:
- If the interest rate is high and the repayment term is long, the loan will be expensive.
- It may come with origination fees (to cover the cost of processing the loan) and prepayment fees if you want to pay the loan off early.
Option 5: Personal line of credit
Another — and uniquely beneficial — way to cover the costs of IVF is a personal line of credit. Here’s how a personal line of credit works: With this option, you have access to a set amount of funds, and can draw from the line as needed. With a personal line of credit, you have a set amount of money from which you can borrow for a specific period of time (the draw period). You can take out the amount you need when you need it. Only the borrowed sum is subject to interest, so the unused portion is free of any financing fees.
Once the amount you draw is paid back, that amount is available for you to borrow from again during the draw period. If your draw period comes to an end and you still have a balance on the account, you will enter what’s known as the repayment period; during this time, you’ll be given a set time frame to pay off what’s left Because IVF is typically a long series of treatments with various associated costs, the flexible nature of a personal line of credit can be ideal. It can cover both anticipated and unanticipated expenses of the treatments.
Pros of personal lines of credit:
- Like a personal loan, flexible use of funds, beyond your IVF financing needs.
- Interest accrues only on the amount you borrow, never on the unused portion. This is unlike a personal loan, where you receive a lump sum at the beginning and start paying interest on it immediately.
- Payments are based on the balance, and may be interest-only during the draw period, which frees up borrower liquidity.
- During the draw period, if you pay off the amount you borrowed, you may be able to borrow up to the limit again without going through another loan approval process.
Cons of personal lines of credit:
- Because the balance changes with activity, it can be challenging to forecast interest charges if the interest rate is variable.
- When the draw period ends, the borrower enters the repayment period, during which time the payments may increase, so you will have to plan ahead.
Terms and conditions as well as qualification requirements for this financing option will vary by lender, so it’s important to do your research to find the best personal line of credit for your needs.
To help you evaluate whether a personal line of credit is the right choice for your family planning aspirations, calculate your rate with First Republic's Personal Line of Credit here.
While the high costs of IVF can at first be intimidating, don’t let them deter you from your dreams. Review each of your financing options in detail. When you’re ready, you can make the decision that will ensure you’re on the best path to parenthood.