‘An investment with no guarantees’: Can I afford IVF?

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One less income and one more family member is a stressful prospect for many couples, especially if they have to navigate the unpredictability of infertility.

In Australia, one in six couples will seek fertility assistance to conceive a baby.

In Australia, one in six couples will seek fertility assistance to conceive a baby.Credit: iStock

Dr Violet Kieu, consultant gynaecologist specialising in fertility, reproductive endocrinology, and fertility preservation at Melbourne IVF, says the first step she always takes with her patients is education.

“I educate and empower my patients to understand their fertility because we know that your lifestyle choices affect fertility. This includes diet and exercise, alcohol and smoking and endocrine disruptors which can have a negative impact on hormonal health,” says Kieu.

Out-of-pocket expenses

Medicare rebates are available for fertility treatment, but the upfront costs are still profound; expect to pay $1500 for each round of intrauterine insemination (IUI) and $5500 for each round of in vitro fertilisation (IVF).

While Medicare rebates do exist for fertility treatments, for those with social infertility – such as single parents or same-sex couples – rebates can only be accessed after two rounds of failed intrauterine insemination (IUI) or a previous medical infertility diagnosis.

Success rates are variable with age, and range from 33 per cent per frozen embryo transfer leading to a live birth for patients under 34 years, to 18.4 per cent per frozen embryo transfer leading to a live birth for patients over 43 years.

It’s a financial investment with no guarantees, and it is very reliant on your reproductive timeline; time can’t be wasted. It’s for this reason that many couples opt for private clinics with costs as opposed to publicly funded clinics with long waiting lists.

Private health insurance can also help with the costs associated with hospital expenses not covered by Medicare, like specialist hospital day surgery and anaesthetist fees. An increasing number of clinics are also accepting Zip payments; embryo transfer now, pay later.

It’s also important to consider just how time-sensitive your treatments will be. There’s little to no flexibility regarding when you’ll need to be at the clinic for specific tests and procedures, so your monthly schedule, including work commitments, needs to rotate around your fertility calendar. There’s no leniency here because you’re following your body, not the clock.

Private pregnancy care costs

Once you have successfully conceived, you’ll start thinking about your chosen model of pregnancy care. Understanding your options can feel overwhelming, especially if you’re challenged by first-trimester nausea and fatigue. Most women in Australia opt for public hospital care, which is completely free if you have a Medicare card.

If you prefer the continuity of care with a private obstetrician, you’ll need to increase your health insurance to cover obstetrics and then ride out the 12-month waiting period, even if your baby arrives beforehand.

“The health insurers are quite hard and fast with their rules. If your baby is born two days before the 12-month waiting period ends, they won’t cover you,” says Michael Elphinstone, practice manager at Frankston Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

The first conversation he has with patients often involves their insurance policy.

“Many people are unaware of the out-of-pocket expenses associated with private hospital care. There are about 90 different health funds in Australia and each one has a slightly different arrangement and rebate level,” he says.

“You might be covered for part of your obstetric care and some will be rebated via your health fund but then the hospital will ask for an excess, which will be dependent on the level of care required during your stay. Your anaesthetist, if you need one, will ask for an excess too.”

Antenatal and postnatal care with a private midwife is claimable through Medicare but home birth is not; expect to pay upwards of $3000 for the birth alone and roughly $6000 for your entire pregnancy, birth and postpartum care.

Sophie Walker has a Masters in Public Health, is a mum to three boys, and is the creator of Australian Birth Stories, a podcast that helps prepare mothers for the realities of childbirth.

  • Advice given in this article is general in nature and is not intended to influence readers’ decisions about investing or financial products. They should always seek their own professional advice that takes into account their own personal circumstances before making any financial decisions.

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