In 2009, there were 4,247,694 babies born in the U.S. -- that's almost the same as the total population of Ireland (which estimates its population at more than 4.5 million) [sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Central Intelligence Agency]. That's quite a lot of babies, but what's hidden behind that statistic are the millions of individual pregnancy stories. Stories of surprise, stories of hope and more often than many of think, stories of heartbreak.
Infertility is an inability to conceive or to successfully carry a pregnancy to term after one year of trying (or just six months of trying if the would-be mom is 35 or older). Although 85 percent of couples who experience trouble conceiving will go on to have a healthy child or children, infertility affects an estimated 10 to 15 percent of American couples [source: Mayo Clinic].
Infertility has many causes, with reasons ranging from health conditions such as obesity or polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) to lifestyle choices such as substance abuse. One of the most common causes of infertility is age. It's also gender-blind: It's estimated that infertility is diagnosed due to female causes about 40 percent of the time, and about 40 percent for male-related issues. Of the remaining 20 percent of infertility diagnoses, 10 percent arise from fertility issues with both the male and female, and 10 percent are unexplainable or unknown [source: Shady Grove Fertility].
Making the decision to get pregnant can bring a heavy dose of stress into your life, and adding fertility treatments only magnifies it. Fertility treatments, just like our own natural fertility, carry risks. Let's look at some numbers. For example, women under the age of 35 have a 30 to 35 percent chance of having a baby during just one cycle of in vitro fertilization (note that this is not how many women get pregnant but rather how many women deliver live, healthy babies). That rate drops to 25 percent for women ages 35 to 37, 15 to 20 percent for women ages 38 to 40, and just 6 to 10 percent for women over the age of 40 [source: American Pregnancy Association].
There's no easy solution, and coping with infertility may feel isolating for many people. One way to break that isolation and stress is to find others who are also going through the same thing.
Infertility Support Groups
One thing's for sure: If you have a problem, you're never alone. You just need to find others who are on that similar journey.
Infertility isn't an uncommon problem, and support groups are available around the country. There is a variety of groups: groups for women, for men, for couples and for people with a specific diagnosis. For example, a woman with endometriosis who's trying to conceive may want to find a group of women with the same concerns. Couples who are trying to conceive through a specific type of assisted reproductive technology, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) or with an egg or sperm donor can share their experiences as well as seek or offer advice with others in a group specific to their needs.
Support groups aren't only for sharing the up and down emotions that often come along with infertility, though. These groups can also help as a resource. Considering a certain test or procedure? It's unlikely you're the first to ever do so -- speak up and your support group peers may have advice to offer, even if it's just a reminder to take a few pain relievers beforehand.
For those who don't live near a relevant support group, or who prefer their support online, there are many online sites, groups and message board communities dedicated to fertility. No matter how big or small, virtual or at your local coffee shop, the people you meet in your infertility support group often become lifelong friends.
Infertility is not only an emotional burden, but a financial one, as well. Next, let's look at the financial support available for infertility treatments.
Financial Help for Infertility
The cost of infertility treatments can be sizable, depending on what tests and procedures you decide to pursue, whether you have health insurance and whether that health insurance will cover some or all of the bill. Many major fertility centers offer financial counseling services for their patients, ranging from help deciphering health insurance benefits to explaining options outside of the benefits package. Let's look first at health insurance benefits.
When it comes to insurance, it's really a hit or miss coverage situation. Many major health insurance plans offer coverage for your initial consultation and workup, including diagnostic testing, but when it comes to the fertility care itself -- whether it's medications or assisted reproductive technologies (ART) -- health insurance coverage can significantly differ from plan to plan. Some cover nothing, while some may go as far as offering out-of-network benefits. Some plans may cover your medications, diagnostic testing and treatments. It's important to look carefully at your benefit offerings or speak to a customer service representative for your health insurance provider to be sure you fully understand what is and isn't covered before you begin.
Some fertility centers offer shared risk programs, also known as baby guarantee programs. These programs are usually available for couples interested in in vitro fertilization (IVF), and they allow qualifying patients to secure fixed-cost pricing for a certain number of treatment cycles. Just how expensive are infertility treatments? At the Washington Fertility Center outside of Washington, D.C., for example, one cycle of IVF costs roughly $8,000. The center also has a three-for-two option, at nearly $16,000, and a baby guarantee or your money back program for just under $20,000 (which includes up to as many as six fresh embryo transfers or unlimited frozen embryo transfers). These costs don't cover diagnostic testing, medications, anesthesiology services or any additional lab services.
Alternative to health insurance, or in addition to it if yours doesn't cover everything, are loans. Some couples choose to use their credit cards or, if they're homeowners, home equity (either a home equity loan or line of credit) to cover treatment costs. Fertility loans (or infertility loans as they're sometimes called) that are unsecured lines of credit are another option, as are grants and scholarships.
For more information about infertility support, move on to the next page.
- American Pregnancy Association. "In Vitro Fertilization: IVF." May 2007. (April 25, 2011)http://www.americanpregnancy.org/infertility/ivf.html
- Attain Fertility. "Covering the Cost of Fertility Treatment." 2011. (April 25, 2011)http://attainfertility.com/topic/finance
- Carollo, Kim. "Secondary Infertility: When You Can't Have Another Child." ABC News. July 15, 2010. (April 25, 2011)http://abcnews.go.com/Health/secondary-infertility-leads-women-obsessive-desire-child/story?id=11162784
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Births and Natality." Oct. 5, 2010. (April 25, 2011)http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/births.htm
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Infertility FAQ's." Dec. 28, 2009. (April 25, 2011)http://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/Infertility/index.htm
- Central Intelligence Agency. "The World Factbook: Ireland" 2011. (April 25, 2011)https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ei.html
- Conceive. "Fertility Support Groups & Events." (April 25, 2011)http://www.conceiveonline.com/fertility-resources/fertility-support-groups-events/
- Fertility Authority. 2011 (April 25, 2011)http://www.fertilityauthority.com/
- Mayo Clinic. "Infertility." June 27, 2009. (April 25, 2011)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/infertility/DS00310
- RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association. 2011. (April 25, 2011)http://www.resolve.org/
- Shady Grove Fertility. 2009. (April 25, 2011)http://www.shadygrovefertility.com/
- U.S. National Library of Medicine. "Infertility." March 21, 2010. (April 25, 2011)http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002173/
- Washington Fertility Center. 2011. (April 25, 2011)http://www.washingtonfertility.com/