When we make that momentous decision to try for a baby, we generally hope that we'll be seeing those two lines on the home pregnancy test pretty soon after.
For a growing number of us though, it doesn't happen that quickly; months of disappointment will see some of us call in the big guns — the fertility specialists.
On top of the standard worries that come along with IVF (will it cause havoc on my marriage, my body, my mind?) there's the undeniable financial pressure because, regardless of rebates and competitive pricing from one clinic to the next, IVF doesn't come cheap.
While it's important to stress that IVF isn't a one-size-fits-all treatment (for example, one patient may require different drugs and dosage thereof throughout treatment which will have a direct effect on cost), we've consulted with some of the country's leading specialists to bring you a basic idea of how much a round of IVF could set you back in the bank balance stakes.
For some, ovulation isn't a problem and IVF treatment will work around the body's natural cycle. But often — if the body doesn't ovulate naturally, or if a doctor suggests a higher number of eggs will increase the chances of success — a woman will go through ovulation induction.
Usually injected into the flesh of the stomach (you can do this yourself at home, or ask the nurse at the clinic or a pharmacy to do it for you), these stimulants offer a rush of hormones and trick the body into producing eggs, often more than the body's usual single egg, and sometimes up to 12 eggs will be grown and deemed good enough quality for retrieval.
Some women will need to inject once a day, while others will inject up to three times a day, usually for a period of about a week. IVF Australia charges $700 for a cycle of ovulation induction, and this price does not include the medications.
THE IVF CYCLE
In addition to the retrieval of eggs, in-lab fertilisation and then implanting of the embryo back into the uterus, Genea Clinic includes all ultrasounds and blood tests, as well as lab costs and specialist fees for any required day surgery in their IVF costing.
The first round is charged at a cycle cost of $9,430, of which $4,292 is out-of-pocket expense. For any subsequent cycles within the same calendar year, out-of-pocket costs are calculated at $3,737.
THE ICSI CYCLE
Ordinarily, once an egg (or number of eggs) is retrieved, the sperm sample is prepared and the two are placed together in a petri dish, essentially letting nature take its course, albeit under the lights of the laboratory.
However, in some cases, where the sperm mortality rate is high for example, the little swimmers can need an extra helping hand. This is where ICSI (Intracytoplasmic sperm injection) comes in. It's IVF, but with an extra step.
Through ICSI, a single sperm is manually injected directly into the egg, thereby increasing the chances of fertilisation. IVF Australia charges $10,020 for the first cycle of ICSI, with an out-of-pocket amount of $4,768. For any subsequent ICSI cycles in the same calendar year, the out-of-pocket fee is $4,212.
THE FROZEN EMBRYO
While logistically, you only need to produce one egg in order to be successful at falling pregnant through IVF, a higher yield brings with it the chance of higher success rates. That is, to result in a pregnancy, an egg needs to survive retrieval, and then must survive any testing, fertilisation and implantation. It's for this reason that some doctors and patients will opt to implant more than one embryo at a time — and why the rate of twins is quite high through IVF treatment.
Although, if a couple has a high yield of healthy eggs, and a high number of these are successfully fertilised, they may choose to save some of the resulting embryos for a later IVF attempt. And because using an already-existing embryo means there is no ovulation stimulation or retrieval required, the costs of this process are lower.
IVF Australia charges $3,540 for a frozen embryo transfer (FET), with an out-of-pocket amount of $2,208, and any subsequent transfers that year costing $2,041 (out of pocket).
If, as outlined above, you produce an abundance of healthy eggs that in turn become healthy embryos, you have the option to "put them on ice" for future use.
Genea Clinics charge a freezing rate of $820, and this includes 12 months of complimentary storage. Following the 12-month period, the rate is $37 per embryo (or egg, or sperm sample), per month. There is no rebate for this service.
SURGICAL SPERM RETRIEVAL
For a number of reasons, the doctor may decide that the chances of keeping sperm healthy and active will be higher if they are surgically harvested (rather than released through ejaculation). IVF Australia charges from $675 to $850, depending on the procedures used.
If you or your partner have a family history of genetic illnesses, or if either of you are past a certain age, your doctor may recommend genetic testing to rule out particular syndromes or the like. Genea Clinics charges from $800, per embryo, for this testing to be carried out.