When you make the monumental decision to have a baby, you want your pregnancy to go ahead as planned.
But one in six Australian couples has fertility issues, according to the Fertility Society of Australia (FSA), which points out that infertility is shared equally between men and women.
The good news is that scientific advances are helping to improve the success of fertility treatments.
Sometimes it is simply addressed by making lifestyle changes but often it involves medical procedures such as IVF. Since its first success in Australia in 1980 IVF has helped over 215,000 babies to be born – in 2016-17 it was a record 15,198.
But often couples haven’t put money aside for fertility treatments as they don’t anticipate any issues.
One of the problems is that women and men put off having children to develop their careers. In fact, the average age of women having IVF treatment in 2016 was 36, with one in every four IVF cycles performed on women 40 years or over.
The success rate depends a great deal on the age of the mother, says the FSA, and this has risen for women over 40 by 30% over the past five years from 10% to 13%.
Australia is one of the few countries that has substantial government funding in the form of Medicare rebates to help make fertility treatments more affordable.
But what sort of out-of-pocket costs are you looking at for IVF?
IVF out-of-pocket expenses
It varies depending on your own circumstances and how many IVF cycles you need before you either fall pregnant or abandon the idea. Or if you opt for a frozen embryo transfer or insemination, there are additional costs.
Health insurer Bupa says the typical cost for one IVF cycle is $8000 to $10,000 with Medicare covering around 48%. It estimates the out-of-pocket costs will be $3200 to $4200. If you have four IVF cycles, you will be looking at $12,800 to $16,800.
One IVF operator, IVF Australia, estimates out-of-pocket costs to be $5042 per IVF cycle plus $2313 after the rebate for a frozen embryo transfer or $2046 for an insemination.
As with any service, it is worth shopping around as it is a highly competitive market worth around $550 million in revenue, according to market researcher IBISWorld. As companies vie for market share, couples can benefit from the competition.
But there may be other important factors – depending on your circumstances – that you need to consider apart from price.
For example, there are some low-cost IVF services such as Primary Health Care, which bulk-bills most of the Medicare-eligible expenses such as GP consultations, blood tests, fertility tests, radiology scans, fertility specialists, nurse consultations, egg and sperm collection, cycle fees, embryo transfers and pregnancy tests.
But it doesn’t cover day surgery fees and some medications or couple counselling or child protection orders.
Best way to pay for IVF
Ratings house Finder says the main way to fund IVF is a personal loan, although you can use a credit card.
There are a number of IVF loan providers and Finder recommends that you watch out for hidden fees and charges when you apply.
Go through the fine print to look for a list of fees and charges you might have to pay. These can include application fees, loan disbursement fees, early exit fees and late fees.
Some IVF loans could charge high interest rates, resulting in you paying much more over the course of your loan. If you have a poor credit history, expect to pay a higher than average rate.
Some unsecured personal loan providers such as a bank, credit union or standalone lender may not lend for fertility treatments, so check this before you apply, says Finder. It says you can usually borrow between $3000 and $50,000 depending on what you can afford to repay, and interest rates vary between 8% and 20%pa.
A credit card can be good if you don’t know how much money you’ll need to borrow or if you want to take advantage of interest-free periods. Make sure you have the means to repay the card debt.