Infertility is super overwhelming. Correction: probably the most overwhelming experience you’ve ever had in your entire life. At least that’s how it felt—and often still feels—to me when I realized getting pregnant was not going to be all rainbows and butterflies and ClearBlue commercials.
Throughout my fertility journey, I’ve been fortunate enough to have access to amazing resources. Incredible doctors, the best acupuncturists, and friends and family I can lean on. But if you’re a member of this club, you know that doesn’t always cut it. All you have are questions, and when those questions get answered, the answers just raise new questions. I’ve learned that infertility is a never-ending cycle of Google-rabbit-hole-research, not feeling satisfied with answers, asking a doctor and/or a few friends, deciding an answer is as good as you’ll get, and repeating the process all over again.
Thankfully, after trying for 2.5 years at this point, I’ve uncovered some pretty good answers that are worth sharing. Here are five of my biggest questions I wish I had the answers to at the beginning of my fertility journey:
1. How common is infertility?
According to RESOLVE, The National Infertility Association, one in eight American couples will face some sort of challenge getting pregnant. I now know that infertility is super common, but if someone told me this years ago, I would have been shocked.
It’s not surprising that I—like most other women—believed getting pregnant was easier than placing an Amazon Prime order. Standard grade school sex ed tends to focus on pregnancy and STD prevention (in many states, abstinence!), all we see on social media are happy pregnancy announcements, and couples usually don’t share pregnancies until after the 12-week mark (so any miscarriage or complications often go unmentioned). Needless to say, when you’re having trouble getting pregnant, you feel super alone.
The thing is, you’re not. Infertility is all around you, you just have to know where to look. Say hi to that person in the clinic waiting room, join that support group, have coffee with that friend-of-a-friend who is dealing with fertility challenges, too. There’s long been a stigma around infertility, but if we muster up the courage to open up, the more support we’ll have.
2. How much will treatment cost?
Ahhhh…the good ol’ days, pre-ttc (that’s “trying to conceive”), when our money actually felt like ours without having to worry about the cost of IVF, fertility medication, or treatment overall. Such an innocent time that I remember fondly. Right now is a different story.
Fertility treatment costs vary according to different providers and different states. But according to Jaime Knopman, M.D., a reproductive endocrinologist at CCRM New York, fertility treatment costs might run as follows:
- IUI: around $400 per insemination
- IVF: $8,000 – $30,000
- Egg donation: $500 – $30,000
- Sperm donation: around $700
- Embryo donation: typically free
- Gestational surrogacy: $100,000+
So…yeah. Treatment is not cheap. In fact, it’s so expensive that 86% of those getting fertility treatment have forgone or would forgo treatment recommended by their doctor due to cost. These estimated costs, of course, depend on tons of factors, and this is a very boiled-down overview, but it may be helpful for guiding your course of action as needed.
Thankfully, there are tons of ways to save on treatment if you are willing to put a little bit of time and elbow grease into the effort. At CoFertility, saving people money on fertility treatment is a top priority of ours, so we put together the most comprehensive database of fertility grants that exists online. In it, you’ll also find opportunities for donated/free services, discounted services, and discounted medication. Cha-ching.
3. Why is this happening to me?
This is a frustrating one that, quite frankly, I still don’t feel like I have the answer to yet. Unfortunately, my diagnosis is still mostly unexplained infertility, which is probably the most frustrating non-diagnosis one could have.
Even if you do have an official diagnosis, the key point to reiterate to yourself is that your infertility is not your fault. You didn’t do anything to cause your or your partner’s infertility. For the most part, it’s just really bad luck. Remind yourself that—even though it’s good to let yourself fully feel all the emotions you’re feeling—you’re strong and you got this.
4. How can I get through this?
Figuring out how to cope is very personal and completely depends on what works for you. And it’s easier said than done. At CoFertility, we learned that 21% of people undergoing fertility treatments are sacrificing self-care—due to finances but also, we imagine, due to time.
When you’re already spending what feels like all your spare time and money on fertility treatment, your own well-being can feel like the bottom of the priority totem pole.
But there are a few easy ways to take care of yourself that definitely make a difference in the ability to power through.
- Meditation: Even for just 5 minutes a day, meditation has helped me immensely. Let’s face it—when you’re struggling with infertility, your mind is going a mile a minute about your treatment, balancing that with work and life, and keeping it all straight. Meditation helps force you to take a quick break from the craziness, breathe, and stay calm and clear-headed. There are some great guided meditation apps out there; I personally love Headspace and Mindful IVF.
- Acupuncture: Acupuncture has been life-changing for me. I was previously pretty skeptical about its effect and results, but after one session I’ve become hooked and now go religiously every week. It’s helped me with so many things—from making my post-IVF retrieval bloating and pain virtually disappear, to helping period cramps subside, to relieving back pain. But best of all, it calms my mind. Many clinics (including Yinova) offer extended or weekend hours so you can balance appointments with your work/treatment schedule.
- Therapy: There are so many professionals whose job is to make you feel supported and heard. Take advantage of their availability. When it feels like everyone else says the wrong thing (“just relax,” anyone?), a good therapist is here to actually help you.
5. What’s actually covered?
I’ve had to learn the hard way just how incredibly complicated our health insurance system really is. Even though I like to consider myself a smart, well-educated person, navigating what should be covered feels like putting together a puzzle, blindfolded. Actually obtainingthat coverage is another story—with hours upon hours spent on the phone with insurance, getting bounced around to different representatives. It’s enough to make anyone’s head spin.
Thankfully, some states have fertility treatment insurance coverage mandated by law, so it’s important to review your state’s mandate (if there is one) and brush up on the specifics. It’s also worth setting up an hour with your company’s HR director or benefits coordinator to discuss what, if anything, is covered by your company’s health plan. If you’re not satisfied with what they offer—and let’s face it, chances are, you probably won’t be—it can also be a good time to make a case for better fertility coverage. There are a few fertility insurance providers (like Progyny and Carrot) who can come and talk to your HR department and further educate them on the need for this coverage.
The experience of infertility is not linear. It is filled with peaks and valleys, highs and lows. One constant, however, is the presence of questions. And when you have questions, don’t hesitate to speak up about them—talk to your doctor, your friends, or check us out at CoFertility.
Here’s to a journey that’s also filled with answers.