Home > IVF & Fertility > Pregnancy > Money, Money, Money – The Thing About IVF No One Wants To Talk About…

Trying to have a baby is exhausting in all sorts of ways, aside from the obvious! But when the obvious doesn’t work, and simply having sex just isn’t cutting it, then the two biggest social taboos come together in a perfect storm: fertility and money!

If you are having to consider fertility treatment, money is definitely something you need to consider, and it’s really important for us to all talk about. It’s a dirty word, and I know that it’s the last thing that most friends, family or indeed society wants to discuss.

I’ll start. My name is Keeley and we have spent over £100,000 on bringing our miracle baby home. It’s a lot right?! But if I don’t talk about it, then how can I expect others to, or how can we expect to try and make a little bit of change, or indeed make others who have also poured their life savings, loans, or gifts into trying to have a baby, feel less ashamed or alone.

I decided who best to talk to about this curious phenomena, than the brilliant Alexandre Holder. Not only is Alex the author of ‘Open UP. The Power of Talking about Money’, which seeks to destigmatise the way we talk, think and feel about money in a warm, friendly and funny way, but she has also had to undergo fertility treatment for secondary infertility. Pretty qualified to me! Chatting to Alex, it’s clear that this is a topic that is heartbreakingly unexplored, and yet for many is so vital in their quest to make their families. Money, it’s so bloody hard to talk about! As Alex says “ you are always scared of the conversation around money, and when it really matters you aren’t going to be able to talk about it. And when else does it really matter than in an IVF clinic and you’ve got a budget”. So let’s talk. There is a need to talk about money in the context of fertility, not only so that there isn’t a naivety attached to the process from the outset, but also so that others can learn to budget, and in fact save money through the process. So that the invaluable lessons we learn from our peers becomes ingrained in how we share information.

The reality of the postcode lottery for NHS funded treatment is real.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) fertility guidelines makes recommendations about who should have access to IVF treatment on the NHS in England and Wales.But individual NHS clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) make the final decision about who can have NHS-funded IVF in their local area, and their criteria may be stricter than those recommended by NICE.*
Although NICE recommends that 3 cycles of IVF should be offered on the NHS, some CCGs only offer 1 cycle, or only offer NHS-funded IVF in exceptional circumstances… and the primary factor for these decisions at the moment are based on age, unless you are requiring IVF for other health related matters.

So even if you do qualify for some funding, it may be that you require more cycles of treatment than available, and this is when you may need to turn to the private clinics. Remember the stats, on average there is a 1 in 4 chance of success for IVF, so really that’s 4 rounds, if you are even that lucky. Or indeed you may decide to head down that route from the start. When Alex knew that they would need to turn to IVF to try and conceive their second child, she took this on board by “knowing how much you have to spend to be the right side of the stats”. I mean it makes sense right?! Despite the fact that in her words, it “feels like something you shouldn’t have to spend money on. I really believe that treatment should be limitless on the NHS, just like it is on any other form of state funded healthcare”. So the more we share the more we make that work for us.

The added emotional layer to all of this, is that you may have engaged in treatment, and started laying out money, and still have to admit “a dream hasn’t worked”, which in this age of need for constant fulfillment and instant gratification, is a very bitter pill to swallow. I have swallowed it, many many times.

Treatment in private clinics, varies from clinic to clinic, but can cost up to £5000 or more per round. This often excludes some consultations, tests and medication, so you can see how costs start to mount up, and how important it is to have these conversations up front with your clinic so you are fully aware of the commitment. Quotes are really important, price lists are really important, and so is the language that clinics use to import all of this information. Clinics really need to consider how they talk about money. It should be transparent, not a fumbled grab for a photocopied price list in the desk drawer. You should be able to discuss your budget with your consultant in order for them to best advise you how to spend that money. It’s not an endless pot! In fact, does “ waiting” itself become more expensive by trying treatments that may be less intrusive, but in fact hold less success. @ivftheduff put this brilliantly in one of her posts that Alex quoted to me “If your clinic starts recommending/ pushing.. add ons, ask them… Am I better off spending it on one round of IVF treatment with add on(s), or is it more sensible for me to pay for (potentially) multiple rounds of regular treatments (ie without the add ons)”!! I mean I never asked it, and I would love to see a clinic’s face for anyone that has, because you SHOULD!

For those that can afford it, obviously this is brilliant, but don’t make the mistake that just because some may have some sort of privilege to do this, that that privilege isn’t wrapped up in a lot of emotional pain. As the brilliantly astute Matt Haig says “Sure, privilege can help you get help… but pain is pain”. Equally hiding that privilege doesn’t make money less divisive, and privilege comes in many forms, not just monetary. I didn’t have the “privilege” of conceiving my child with my own eggs, or indeed being able to just have sex to have kids… you see it works in all sorts of ways.

It isn’t just the actual treatment where money goes either, there’s a whole myriad of other things you start dipping into your pocket for. Organic Salmon, flaxseed, acupuncture, counselling… the list goes on.
I also feel like there is an element of shame/ guilt associated in acknowledging how much an individual spends on fertility, for fear that it says something about them, when actually it says more about the way the funding system is set up and how that in itself breeds inequality. When actually, as Alex explains, “talking about money means letting go of shame” and by not talking about it, “makes it something bigger than it needs to be”.“ By talking about money people think it’s them asking for help (or money), when in fact it’s just to share so that the conversation is being had!”

Infertility is already something that takes an enormous amount out of you, physically and emotionally, but by being armed with all the tools we possibly can, we can potentially mitigate how much it takes out of us financially… and in doing so, there might be something left over for a treat to yourself (*insert own gift here*), because by this point, my god do you deserve it!

* https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/ivf/availability/ *https://www.hfea.gov.uk

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