The true cost of infertility is much higher than you may imagine. Forget, for a moment, the costs involved in actual fertility treatments, especially IVF. Those can be astronomical on their own. I’m talking about the true cost- both emotionally and physically- of dealing with long-term infertility. From lost wages due missing work for tests and treatments to therapy bills for treating depression, the true cost of infertility is more than just the amount of money spent on a particular treatment.
A closer look at the big picture
To understand the true cost of infertility, we need to take a look at just how wide-spread the problem really is. In Canada, approximately 15% of women in Ontario have difficulty conceiving, according to Conceivable Dreams. The national average is between 11% and 15%. This is slightly higher than the US average of about 10.5%. That is millions of women unable to start a family. Typically, doctors do not consider you infertile until you’ve tried unsuccessfully for 12 straight months, unless you have a preexisting medical condition. The statistics increase when you factor in women who spent a reasonable six months trying- the point at which many couples realize that something is preventing them from realizing their dream.
The Emotional Cost of Infertility
Before we start talking dollar signs, I think it’s important to recognize the deep emotional cost of infertility. Know that I speak from experience, as it took me six years to conceive my son. Emotionally, it’s devastating. When you know deep in your heart that you were meant to be a mother, but your body refuses to cooperate, it can send you into a tailspin of despair.
Each month brings a new round of devastation. Imagine being forced into the grief cycle every single month of your life. You try and you hope. After waiting what seems like a reasonable amount of time, you pull out that magical stick that can change your world: the pregnancy test. It’s negative, but you think “maybe it’s too early.” You try again the next day, and the next, hoping to see two lines or a plus sign appear. You get out the magnifying glass for a closer look. Maybe it’s a faint line! The line, sadly, never comes, though. At the end of that month, you grieve for what never was. You scream, you cry, you get angry, you accept. Then you start the cycle again.
Whether you’re trying on your own or using assisted reproductive technology such as IVF, when the cycle fails, it’s painful. Michelle, a 41-year-old Canadian, knows all too well how difficult it is. We talked to her about experience with IVF. Michelle tried conceiving for two years before realizing that she needed help. After that moment, she decided to speak with a fertility clinic. “A friend of ours gave us the information,” Michelle says, “ We were concerned about age. We got a referral for a successful doctor. He thought IVF would be great. “
Michelle went through the extensive testing required of potential IVF patients. She was tested to determine if her tubes were blocked. Her husband was also tested and found that while he had good sperm counts, the mortality rate was problematic.
After all the proper tests were completed, Michelle began her IVF journey. The first round was not successful. The second round was, but unfortunately, did not carry to term. “At the second ultrasound, when we were supposed to get discharged from the fertility clinic, there was no heartbeat,” Michelle explains.
Imagine, for a moment, the pain of finally thinking you’re going to see your dreams come true, only to have them taken from you at the last moment. That is what the true cost of infertility brings emotionally. Michelle is taking a break, but she is going to try one more time. We wish her the very best of luck!
The Financial Cost of Infertility
While the emotional cost of infertility is heartbreaking, the financial costs can be downright bankrupting. Dealing with all the testing and procedures requires time off from work. Michelle explained to us that she had to use her sick days. After collection, she had to rest for 24 hours. Luckily, Michelle worked from home full time and her boss was really understanding of her situation. Still, time away from the job meant loss of productivity for both Michelle and her boss.
Imagine that on a grand scale. Millions of women have difficulty conceiving. Millions of families are losing wages during the time spent undergoing testing and procedures. This means millions of hours of lost productivity. It affects more than just one person; it affects the country as a whole.
Then, of course, there are the costs of infertility treatments themselves. IVF is the most expensive treatment, yet it is also one of the most successful. Average costs range from $10,000-$13,000 per treatment cycle. Collecting more than one egg at a time can help lower those costs, but it’s still an expense that many can’t afford without assistance.
Publicly funded IVF not only helps those who are desperate to become parents recognize their dreams; it’s a financially sound move for the country as a whole. While calculating the exact cost of a loss of productivity is difficult, as it depends on the person’s role in the company, two lost days per month can cost a company thousands of dollars in revenue each month.
Within just six months, it’s feasible to estimate that the losses generated from missed days at work can far outweigh the costs of IVF. Lost wages are a problem for the worker, the company and the country as a whole. The less money a company makes, the more people they have to let go. That means more people living on lower incomes, which in turn can affect the economy of the entire community before branching out to the entire world. Think that’s being a bit dramatic? Look at what happened to the world when the US economy toppled. We haven’t even touched the amount of money that will need to be spent providing therapy for the extreme depression resulting from the emotional fallout of infertility!
Publicly Funded IVF Makes Sense
Publicly funded IVF just makes sense from a financial point of view, yet many areas still don’t realize this. Conceivable Dreams, a patient advocacy group based in Ontario, is trying to get the word out to lawmakers about the benefits of publically funded IVF. Help them in their mission by following them on Twitter and Facebook and sharing their messages. Even if you don’t live in Canada, calling attention to their messages can help benefit everyone. Perhaps if publicly funded IVF become the norm in Canada, other nations will recognize the benefits and follow suit.
Disclosure: I am a valued member of the Conceivable Dreams blog team and as such have been compensated. My opinion is my own.
Background Photo Credit: MorgueFile.com