For many couples who are having difficulty conceiving, fertility assistance through a specialised clinic becomes their only chance of having a baby. This is rarely a simple option and, for some, the cost can make this an unrealistic choice.
Although the drive to have a baby can be almost overwhelming, if you are considering using IVF to help with conception it is very important that you do careful research first. No fertility programme or clinic can offer a 100% guarantee of success.
What’s IVF going to cost me?
Most open medical aids in South Africa, will not cover any infertility procedures, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF). Some will pay for part of the cost, but that still leaves you to pay for the rest in cash and who can afford that?
Medical aids argue that being infertile is not a life-threatening medical condition, like heart disease. However, they do pay for the treatment of diseases that can affect or cause fertility, like surgical procedures to unblock fallopian tubes; to remove cysts from your womb or to treat endometriosis – these are covered by most. Sometimes, this is all you need to solve your problem, but for some couples it isn’t.
Some restricted medical aids do pay for fertility treatments up to a certain amount and depending on the plan.
Like many other medical procedures and treatments, the cost of having IVF varies considerably between individual practitioners and centres. There is no consistent fee between every fertility clinic – each set their own fee structure for services provided.
If you are considering having IVF treatments, it would be wise for you to arrange with your medical aid on what they will and won’t cover. Pathology, radiology, hospital and ancillary costs are also important considerations when undergoing fertility treatment, so that you are not faced with a large unexpected bill for services you cannot claim at the end of your treatment. In addition, ensure that childbirth is covered in your medical aid. After all, the whole point of embarking on IVF is to have your own baby at the end of it!
Where can I find out how much it will cost?
In the interests of transparency, fertility clinics need to state their fees for services very early in the consultation process. Some provide written quotes if the treatment plan is clear, but this isn’t always the case.
Although most clinics have very well-designed and comprehensive internet sites, cost explanations are frequently prefaced by very positive statements regarding the quality of the services they provide, as well as their conception success rate. The information can also be confusing, especially to parents who may not understand all of the medical technology or treatment descriptions.
Most practices have nurse co-ordinators and reception staff that are experts in explaining how different treatment components are charged and what percentage of rebates apply. Most clinics have payment/ fee structures, which match specific times in the treatment programme. For example, pre-payments before the cycles begin, at the time of collecting medication to stimulate ovarian follicles, and when the embryo is transferred.
Most couples tend not to do individual research into fertility clinics unless they are particularly interested or they are aiming to minimise cost as much as possible. There is some financial competition amongst different clinics, so shop around to satisfy yourself that you are getting good value for money.
Generally, a couple’s GP will refer them to a particular fertility clinic that the GP practice has had dealings with in the past. Remember, you need to be an active participant in your own care, so don’t be afraid to request a referral to a clinic that you may prefer and which may better suit your individual budget.
Why is it so expensive?
Most fertility clinics provide a range of services, which are ultimately designed to assist in successful conception. These are unique and require significant expertise with medical, nursing, scientific and pathology staff as well as equipment.
Understandably, not all couples will require the full suite of services offered, or need to pay for services their individual situation does not warrant.
Typical services are:
Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) with either the partner’s sperm or donor sperm
In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF)
Intra Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection, also referred to as ICSI
Hatching of Embryos
Culture of Blastocyst
Storage of frozen embryos and then transfer
Storage of semen and freezing of sperm tissue
Biopsy of Embryo and diagnosis of genetic conditions
Surgical treatment for gynaecological conditions that are impacting on fertility
N.B. The following chart is only an approximate indication of cost. Each fertility clinic outlines its own fee structure and this can vary significantly. Ask for brochures, pamphlets and hard copies of information to take away from your initial consultation. It can be very difficult to remember specific costing without some reminders.
|Around R 2000
|IUI or AI:
|Between R 4000-6000 per cycle
|Between R 30 000-40 000 per cycle
|Up to R 46 000
Points to Remember
Before you embark on any fertility treatment, speak with your medical aid about your individual cover. Don’t assume you are insured for extras.
If you are not a member of a medical scheme, either join, or start saving. The costs can really add up.
Do your research into what services different clinics provide, what’s included in their standard charges and what’s separate.
Speak with your friends or others who have undergone fertility treatments. Often the best source of support and insight comes from those who’ve had first-hand experience.