The costs of fertility treatments to create a miracle

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Time for kids fertilityA  STORY OF A COUPLES STRUGGLE


Fertility treatment centers across Canada are visited every day from couples who are struggling to conceive.

Each week I find that someone is coming to the blog looking for answers on the costs of fertility treatments, ovulation tests, what infertility is, fertility calendars, fertility calculators and so on.

The reality is there are not always any real answers and the doctors will put you through a series of tests and medications that will cost you out-of-pocket if you don’t have the benefits coverage to pay.

Many couples will go into debt or use their life savings for an ounce of hope and stop at nothing from re-mortgaging their homes, borrowing money or using credit cards to fund fertility treatments.

Sadly, not every treatment has a happy ending and costs can mount up month after month, year after year.

If both your fallopian tubes are blocked In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) is not covered under OHIP but the province of Ontario will cover a portion of the costs of IVF but when they say a portion it’s a small portion.

Update: Oct 1, 2015

If you are under the age of 43 treatment for IVF in Ontario is now covered as featured in The Star.

After years of pressure, Ontario has agreed to help infertile women under 43 get pregnant by paying for in vitro fertilization — but patients will still have to cover the cost of expensive drugs.

Costs can run you upwards of $12,000-$14,000  including medications depending on where you go.

A full-price list of costs from the fertility clinic at The London Health Science Centre will give you an idea of what types of expenses you will be looking at. Something is better than nothing though.

If you’ve been a long time reader of Canadian Budget Binder then today’s guest writer Jen P is no stranger to you. Jen and her husband came to me almost 2 years ago now asking for help with their budget.

I worked hard with Jen for hours on end, days on end but we finally worked out a budget that worked for them. Oddly enough she did most of the work. Sometimes we believe we can’t achieve something until we get in and do it ourselves.

Thankfully the budget was put in place because over the past year they have had their ups and downs with conception and Jen is here to share her story of tears, hope, miracles and inspire you to believe and never give up. What is meant to be, will be.

Hi Mr.CBB and Fans,

As you already know from the introduction above my name is Jen and I hope that if I can inspire any of you who read this today that miracles do happen and when they don’t we must find ways to cope with our emotions.

I was married in my early 20’s and during that time I was adamant that I didn’t want children. I was divorced in my late 20’s and then met my current husband.

Within one week of my 30th birthday I suddenly realized that I was now with the right man and I wanted to have a family. I made an appointment with my family doctor and got a referral to a genetic counsellor.

I have a family history of spina bifida so I wanted to make sure it wouldn’t be a great concern for us and a prescription for high dose folic acid prenatal vitamins. I started tracking my cycle with and ovulation calendar/calculator.

We tried to conceive for almost a year when I thought that I should seek out help (and I was tired of month after month of disappointment) and looked for answers.

My family doctor referred me to an OB-GYN. She tracked my cycle for a few months and when I still hadn’t conceived she referred me to a fertility clinic that she also worked for.


Fertility clinic


I went to the fertility clinic where they explained that they had to complete a month of several tests and cycle monitoring.

This consisted of:

  • On day one of my cycle I had to call the clinic.  At this time they book:
  • A full bladder ultrasound and a transvaginal ultrasound for either day 2, 3, 4 or 5 of my cycle.
  • 3D ultrasound between days 20 to 25 of your cycle
  • A Saline Sonohysterogram test that investigates the inside of your uterus to look for any abnormalities done between day 5 to day 11 of your cycle (I found this test extremely painful- way more so than being in labour)
  • A Hysterosalpingogram (HSG) test done in a hospital where a colourless dye is injected through your cervix and uterus.  It investigates your fallopian tubes and your uterus (I also found this test very painful).
  • Cycle monitoring – involves serial ultrasounds to assess the endometrium (lining of the uterus) and to determine how the follicles (eggs) in your ovaries are developing.  Blood work is also required to help them determine when you are most likely to ovulate.  After each ultrasound you see a doctor and are advised when to come back for follow-up ultrasounds.  This is usually done daily between day 10 to 16 of your cycle.


Cost of fertility


They also do female blood work testing hormones (including a $85 fee for a test that looks at basically whether you have enough eggs left to try to conceive) at the beginning of your cycle and infectious screening blood work (testing for Hepatitis B and C, as well as HIV). Cultures for Gonorrhea and Chlamydia are also done.

The male patient must have the infectious screening blood work and a semen analysis to make sure that everything is ok on his end something that most people put out of their minds. They always seem to think it’s the woman but in many cases it’s the man. Don’t rule it out on your own.

We were diagnosed with “unknown infertility” (basically all of my tests came out fine and all of my husband’s tests came out fine). My doctor said she would like to perform laparoscopic surgery on my uterus to see if they could find any problems and remove a polyp they found during the Saline Sonohysterogram test.

They performed the surgery and removed a polyp and I went home to recover I had a horrible reaction to the pain medication they gave me so my recovery was a little more difficult. I was in a lot of pain.

It felt like the worst cramps a woman could ever have and I vomited the whole drive home. Up to this point everything had been free (or covered under the provincial health plan).

The doctor suggested that the following month I try a cycle of Serophene AKA Clomid (a drug) and IUI (intrauterine insemination AKA artificial insemination – cost $350).

What is IUI/Artificial Insemination?

IUI/Artificial Insemination is where they have the male provide a semen sample early in the morning. It is then sent to the lab where they “wash” it, getting rid of any “defective” sperm.

They analyze what is left to make sure it is a good count with good motility. Later in the morning the female patient is inseminated in an examination room with a syringe with a tube at the end.

I felt like I wanted to try using the drug but hold off on the IUI. It was at this point that we had to pay a $300/year cycle monitoring fee that covers your ultrasounds, blood work, doctors, etc.

We just put in on our credit card and figured we’d pay that off with our credit line. The drug they prescribed was covered under my drug benefit plan at work.

So that month we decided upon using Serophene and just having regular intercourse. I went through the daily cycle monitoring and one afternoon they called and said that my hormone levels had spiked and it was time to have intercourse for the next 3 days.

We obliged and then played the waiting game.


Our miracle


ultra sound Jen

One Saturday night we went to a stag and doe for my cousin. I had a beer and some munchies and it didn’t taste that great so I left it and went on with the night while my hubby drank the night away.

I woke up around 7am and for some reason I felt compelled to do a pregnancy test (even though the fertility clinic does them for free they said I couldn’t have the test for 5 more days and I had purchased a double pack of “First Response” tests previously).

I did the test, put it on my nightstand and rolled back over to go back to sleep. I tossed and turned so I decided to check the test. It was positive! I couldn’t believe it. I rechecked the instructions to confirm. I woke my poor extremely hung over hubby up to tell him.

Obviously he didn’t react very well. We got up and drove to the fertility clinic to confirm with a blood test. They told me they’d call me in the afternoon with the results.

I couldn’t contain myself. I received the most disappointing call in the afternoon…their machine for doing blood work had broken down and I wouldn’t get my results until the next morning.

I went to a baby shower that afternoon and on my way home I picked up another pregnancy test (this one was digital with a $20 price tag but I just didn’t care at the time).

Money is no object I guess when you’re dealing with finding out you are pregnant. I know many women who have used all sorts of tests just to make sure that they weren’t seeing things or other tests were accurate.

That pregnancy test came out positive as well!

The next morning we were thrilled to receive confirmation from the clinic that I was indeed pregnant! A few days later I was in Dollarama and noticed they sold pregnancy tests. I got a little chuckle out of it and decided I try one to see how accurate they were, knowing that I was already pregnant.

Shockingly it came out positive as well and we knew it was time to get the baby budget in order or any budget for that matter. We were thrilled to conceive that very first month after the surgery. There were no more costs involved. They monitored my pregnancy until I could find a local OB-GYN.

Adam when born

Fast forward three years later…

We wanted to expand our family and started trying to conceive once again. We were feeling a little more positive this time as so many people said getting pregnant the second time around was always easier.

My naturopath referred me to a fertility doctor at another clinic she works at that specializes in thyroid conditions (which I have) to see if that was posing a problem.

He checked me out and said all looked well and he felt I’d have no trouble getting pregnant but he prescribed me a drug (Letrozole – that is known as a breast cancer drug) that could help out a little.

We tried a few months on our own and when that didn’t work I started the medication he prescribed. It had awful side effects. I had aches and pains, I was emotional, quick-tempered and just not myself.

I hated it and after 4 months of using that medication I asked that doctor to refer me back to the fertility clinic I previously used as it was a much shorter drive.

We once again went through a month of horrible tests and cycle monitoring. This time we were diagnosed with “second degree unknown infertility” (the same as before but a second time).

This time my doctor didn’t suggest surgery but did suggest IUI and Serophene again. We once again opted to use Serophene which is covered under my drug plan and hold off on the IUI.

We had to pay the $300/year cycle monitoring fee again at this time (which we once again paid for with our credit card, but this time it was just to get the rewards points.

We had the money in our savings account to pay for it. We were also told that it’s tax-deductible so we’ll try claiming it this time around).

We were unsuccessful at conceiving that month and we decided that we would try a few more months the same way. After a few more disappointing months we decided that we weren’t getting any younger so we opted for the cycle of IUI and Serophene.

This was no different from what I was used to with regular cycle monitoring however when I got to a certain point in my cycle (near ovulation).

They told me I’d have to pay $85 and go see a nurse to receive an injection pen that I would have to use that night on myself to trigger ovulation since my egg and lining had reached the size that is ideal.

I paid the $85 and went home only to receive a call that afternoon from the clinic that I did not need to use that injection that night and to put it away perhaps for another cycle (I was a little angry at that suggestion seeming as it didn’t offer a very positive outcome).

A few days later I had to go in for the IUI (which took only a few minutes) and pay $350 (paid for on credit as well for the rewards points but had the savings).

Then the waiting began. That cycle ended up being extremely disappointing to me. Not only was I not pregnant, I felt like I literally threw away $350. That was very emotional for me.

During this time I had also been regularly seeing my naturopath for acupuncture related to back pain. She also specializes in fertility so she began doing acupuncture for fertility and kept track of my results from tests at the clinic. A naturopath is also something that is covered by my benefit plan.


Preparing for surgery


I decided I’d speak to my doctor about the possibility of surgery again to see if it would help like it did last time. My doctor thought it would be a great idea to do exploratory surgery. I booked my surgery for November (we were in September at that time) and in the meantime kept trying.

November came and it was time for surgery. My sick time at work had been reduced this year so I only booked off 3 days for the surgery and recovery (plus I had Saturday and Sunday in there).

I was pretty nervous and hungry waiting for my surgery as I wasn’t allowed to eat. An emergency ended up taking over our operating room so my surgery ended up being delayed almost 8 hours!

What a nightmare.

My surgery went well and they found nothing wrong with me so we venture on. The following month the doctor once again suggested going with IUI and Serophene.

Because it was December and such an expensive month already with Christmas we decided to wait until January as Ken had lots of overtime pay coming to him.

I put a lot of hope into December’s cycle as I got pregnant following surgery last time. I went through the cycle and once again was very disappointed.

I found out on New Year’s Eve that I wasn’t pregnant (the clinic had called to tell me my test was negative). I was devastated. I had a pretty awful evening filled with tears.

I met with my doctor a few days later and we decided to try a new medication. This would be an injectable medication (Gonal F) that I would administer myself daily for 5-10 days (it is injected into the stomach every night before bed).

Price tag on this fertility medication: $998.

Thank goodness it was covered by my works benefits plan. On day 9 of my cycle I received a very disappointing call that my body was ovulating on its own and it was way too early.

They (in a roundabout way) told me to not waste my money on IUI this month, especially when I told them that Ken told me he only wanted to pay for one IUI….no more after that.

So we had to try getting pregnant with no fertility meds and that meant doing it the good old-fashioned way in January 2014. Once again, it was a very disappointing month. We decided to try it all over again in February with some minor changes to the fertility cycle.

February had to have been one of the hardest months yet. Starting on day 3 of my cycle I had to inject myself in the stomach with the medication until ovulation.

Ovulation was being delayed this cycle by another injection I had to give it to myself daily into the stomach but this time in the morning. When my egg and lining reached the size they find optimal I was given yet another medication to inject into my stomach to trigger ovulation.

The side effects of these medications at this point had really begun to take a toll on me and our relationship. All of the medications I had taken for the last year had similar side effects but they seemed to be getting worse.

At this point I had gained 17lbs and was incredibly bloated. Nothing fit. I was buying new clothes weekly so I could be more comfortable at work.

After a heart to heart with Ken he in a roundabout way told me that if I stayed on these drugs I wouldn’t get pregnant because we’d be divorced before then.

These drugs changed my personality. They made me extremely emotional and I felt like I had bi-polar disorder. The “big day” came and I did another round of IUI with another price tag of $350.

The cost of the medications and IUI this fertility cycle cost over $2000. Thank goodness for my benefits covering all but the $350 for IUI (which will be claimed on my taxes as a medical expense).

I was sure, that with this much intervention and everything working in my favour that this would be the month. The month I conceived. Unfortunately I was wrong.

I had been more devastated this month than any other month in the last year since we started trying (February had marked one year of trying).

Jen ken and AdamI thought about quitting but I paid for a year of cycle monitoring at the clinic which would take me to June.

I decided that I would quit the fertility drugs but keep monitoring my cycle at the clinic and try naturally to conceive.

I also decided that I needed a distraction from everything so I rejoined Weight Watchers to lose the 17lbs I had gained in the last year.

Budgeting made a difference this time around as we actually had savings in the bank to pay for our treatment outright.

If you remember back almost 2 years ago now we started to budget with Mr.CBB.

I’m so thankful that we did because it’s helped us throughout the savings process for our fertility treatments.

What a difference it made in so many ways. It was great to not have to stress about where the money was going to come from this time around.

It just meant using some savings and having to pass on some home improvements we had wanted to do this summer (new deck furniture and an awning or something.

In the meantime we will continue to try to conceive until June and see where it takes us. For all of you couples out there don’t give up because you never know when a miracle might happen.

I tuck my little miracle into bed every night and he wakes me up every morning to say he loves me and I love him.

-Jen P

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