Fertility Care is Broken - We Need a Better way Forward

Fertility Care is Broken - We Need a Better way Forward

Before I decided to have children, the entire concept of fertility treatments was foreign to me. Sure, I’d heard the term IVF thrown around, and I had a vague idea of what it involved. 

But it wasn’t until I experienced infertility while trying for my second child that I realized just how incredibly overwhelming, complex and challenging fertility care truly was. 

I know I am luckier than most that I was able to have my first child, now a mischievous 3-year-old, easily and without much medical intervention. But when my husband and I started trying for another child 18 months after our son was born, we found this road a lot bumpier. 

Secondary infertility 

What my husband and I were experiencing is called ‘secondary infertility’, which is the inability to conceive a baby despite having at least one child. It’s as common as primary infertility and affects nearly 1 in 8 couples. 

I knew my maternal age had a lot to do with it. I was almost 36 when we started trying to conceive baby number two, which pushed me over the threshold of 35 into Geriatric Pregnancy territory (now more thoughtfully referred to as Advanced Maternal Age).

After speaking to many friends and contacts, I started to realize just how prevalent both primary and secondary infertility was amongst women my age and how many couples and individuals it’s affected in different ways. 

So after months of negative pregnancy tests, tears, frustration, emotional stress and feelings of hopelessness, we were referred to a fertility clinic by our family doctor. 

Our fertility diagnosis

I was not prepared for what the next nine months had in store for us: numerous clinic visits, doctor’s appointments, bloodwork, sonograms, ultrasounds, information sessions over Zoom, and endless amounts of paperwork. And we did all of this during COVID, which made the experience infinitely less personal and more stressful. 

Every month, I hoped we’d be able to get pregnant naturally, but every month, I only got one line on that white stick. The medical tests that came back revealed that my husband had some health conditions, which was making it more difficult for us to conceive. 

Our only option was IVF. 

The overwhelming reality of fertility financing 

I knew IVF wasn’t cheap. But throughout this process, I hadn’t really had a chance to wrap my head around the actual numbers. To be honest, our clinic wasn’t super transparent with cost estimates. And there are a lot of them. 

Procedure costs

First off, there’s the cost of the IVF cycle. This cost is fairly standard at around CAD$10,000. However, I’m lucky enough to live in Ontario, Canada, one of the only provinces in the country that offers government funding for IVF treatments. 

Unfortunately, the waitlist for government-funded IVF at my clinic was 18 months. Other clinics I called had even longer wait lists, some up to 4 years. If you’re already considered a ‘geriatric mom’, you probably can’t wait years to start your treatment, so you’ll likely have to pay for this expense out of pocket. Luckily, we eventually found a clinic with no wait list for government-funded IVF. But we were still on the hook for the other costs.  

Drug costs 

Drugs are a separate cost and not covered by government funding. Fertility drugs can cost upwards of $5,000 and as much as $7,000. My husband’s health insurance only covered a small portion of the drugs. Many employer health benefit plans avoid covering fertility drugs due to their high cost. 

Additional IVF expenses 

And don’t forget all the other costs associated with fertility treatment: PGT embryo testing (costing $2,000 $3,000 or more), cryopreservation (freezing eggs, sperm or embryos) or surgical fertility treatments like laparoscopy. 

The costs just seem to mount and mount. The ability to pay for them felt out of reach. And my husband and I felt alone - like there was no one there to help us through the most stressful and often confusing part of this whole process. 

A lack of fertility support

Our clinic provided all the necessary information, scheduled appointments and made sure we’d signed all our documents, but they didn’t really offer any type of additional support throughout the process. 

The truth is, for the average person or couple, seeking out fertility care is overwhelming. Preparing yourself mentally, physically and emotionally to go through the procedure is a lot - not to mention the toll it takes on your relationship.

And one area where care felt especially lacking was when it came to finances. Asking questions required booking an appointment sometimes months away or waiting for email responses which often never materialized. 

We were sent a sample invoice of ‘predicted costs’ and told when payments were due. There was a link to a shady-looking website offering financing (at rates almost as high as a credit card), and that was basically it. 

While the Canadian (and US) government is making incremental steps to improve access to funding for fertility treatments, it’s still not enough financial support for most individuals and couples. And many employers either can’t or won’t cover the expense of fertility treatments for their employees. 

With inflation skyrocketing, the cost of living rising, and job insecurity at an all-time high, most people don’t have $20,000+ in cash just sitting around in their bank account waiting to be spent on fertility treatment. 

What’s left is either borrowing money from friends and families (which isn’t always possible) or taking our predatory high-interest loans from lenders who take advantage of individuals and couples desperate to conceive.

Hope for a better fertility experience

As I start my first round of fertility treatment this month, it’s clear that fertility care in Canada is broken and that clinics, employers and the government can do more to support women and couples trying to conceive. 

From providing more clarity around costs to better financing options and more support and guidance throughout their journey, those experiencing infertility deserve a more human and thoughtful approach to their fertility care.

Learn More from Hera Fertility

If you have any questions regarding fertility care, reach out and chat with a Hera Fertility advisor. Our team is invested in your future and committed to helping you learn more about fertility treatments and reach your goals.

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