Real Talk: Fertility treatments

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Life doesn’t always go as planned.

For many Canadians that are attempting to start or add to their family, the assumption is that when the time is right, and you’re ready, pregnancy will come naturally. But for some people, it isn’t that simple.

For Holly*, her struggle to conceive was shocking. “After a smooth pregnancy with my first child, dealing with infertility was completely unexpected and frustrating,” she says. “After six months of trying, the stress started to set in. After a year, I was referred to a fertility specialist.”

Infertility isn’t always a topic that’s talked about openly, but it can be incredibly difficult for those who are going through it. It’s something that more Canadian families are dealing with than you might think. Approximately 16 per cent of Canadian couples—or one-in-six—are struggling with infertility, and more people than ever before are turning to fertility treatments for help.

According to the Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society, the number of fertility clinics in Canada have doubled over the last 15 years. With more clinics available across the country, and no shortage of information online, couples that are hoping to conceive have medical options, resources and support. But for those that decide to pursue fertility treatments, there can also be significant costs to consider.

A single round of in-vitro fertilization (IVF)—where a woman’s eggs are removed and fertilized with sperm in a lab before being implanted back into the uterus—can cost upwards of $10,000. That includes the procedure itself and the drugs needed to stimulate the development of multiple eggs. It’s a process that can be both emotionally and physical grueling—and it’s one with no guaranteed results.

“We were fortunate to be in a position where we could afford the treatments,” explains Holly. “Our first treatment cycle was an IVF cycle. We learned there were different options available to us, with the less invasive options having a lower success rate. We decided to go with IVF because we could financially manage it and we wanted the best success rate possible. We’re now on our second cycle of IVF, using frozen embryos from our first round.”

Having to undergo multiple rounds of fertility treatments is not unusual—and can come with major financial implications. Jennifer Englehart, Financial Services Representative at OMISTA Credit Union suggests having a conversation with a financial expert as soon as you’re starting the process.

“Once you’ve identified your monetary goal, a financial expert can help get you set up to reach it,” says Jennifer. The first step to saving for a major expense is to look at your cash flow and current financial situation. For something like fertility treatments, that become a priority expense, it’s helpful to sit down and look for savings in your monthly budget. This means consolidating high-interest debt like credit cards and lines of credit. We can reduce payments and interest costs, and by going through your monthly statements, we can help identify any unnecessary expenses. Many people spend $100 a month on things like coffee without realizing it—that’s money that you can be saving instead.”

Often simple steps can make a big difference—even when saving for a life-impacting expense like fertility treatments. Once you’ve consolidated your debt and streamlined monthly payments, Jennifer suggests opening an account specifically for fertility treatment saving and setting up automatic contributions.

Understanding that time is often of the essence when it comes to pursuing fertility treatments, and a long-term savings strategy won’t work for everyone, there are loan options to consider too.

“For a short-term savings plan, you can always look at different financing options like a line of credit, or a personal loan,” says Jennifer. “It can be tempting for this kind of important purchase, but avoid putting it on a credit card. By sitting down with an expert, they can look at the whole financial picture and find a solution—or mix of solutions—that work.”

It’s important to note that asking for help doesn’t have to extend to just your finances. Holly explains that researching your treatment options can be overwhelming. In addition to speaking with a fertility expert, it helps to talk to people that have been through it.

“One of the biggest things I’ve found when learning about infertility is that there are so many acronyms—it’s like learning a whole new language. Through Fertility Matters Canada, I was able to connect with women in my area who have gone through the process. Everyone has their own background and cause of infertility, but it’s a helpful and supportive place to ask questions.”

For more information about infertility, visit the Government of Canada website. A list of fertility clinics across Canada can be found through the Infertility Network.

*Name has been changed for privacy.