Women and couples are paying thousands of dollars just to start a family. The cost is not just in dollars and cents; it's physical and emotional. Reports show 1 in 6 couples face infertility issues and this number is only rising, according to Dr. Molina Dayal of Sher Institute.
She says as women wait to have children in their 30's, infertility increases. She also says 10 to 15 percent of couples have fertility problems.
"But we are seeing over time that this number is increasing," Dr. Dayal explains.
Sarah and Brandon Fogler got married in their 20’s and waited to have children. When they eventually tried to have kids, they had troubles.
"It's hard going around seeing everybody have children and you're being told that you can't have children and it's really upsetting,” Sarah shares.
A doctor eventually told the couple that Sarah had an ovary condition called PCOS. That is when Sarah and Brandon decided to try in vitro fertilization.
"To inject your wife every night for five years with hormones and shots, it gets to where you can't even find a good place to put a shot anymore because you've given so many shots," Brandon recalls.
"And so you felt huge. You were swollen all through here," Sarah adds, pointing to her stomach.
One cycle of in vitro fertilization treatment can cost between $9,000 and $12,000. And it's another $2,000 to $5,000 for medications.
Still, despite the costs, more and more families are turning to these treatments.
"As women get older, the quantity of eggs declines but the quality does as well. There is a much higher chance of miscarriage as a woman gets older," Dr. Dayal reveals.
As for Beth and Nick Helmold, they, too, turned to multiple rounds of in vitro after being told by a doctor that they were infertile.
"You think you have a timeline for when you are going to start a family and have your first kid and have your second kid and all of the sudden it is out of your hands," Beth exclaims.
"There's a lot that goes into a treatment. Not just financially but emotionally and physically. These couples have been going through quite a bit leading up to the treatment but the treatment itself can be relatively intense," says Dayal.
"I had to have some surgeries to try to increase the chances of success in our in vitro," shares Beth, adding, "When they took out all those eggs at once I was pretty sick. I was on bed rest for about a week. I was passing out every time I stood up."
While both couples paid thousands of dollars out-of-pocket their insurance came through and did cover much of the cost. This is uncommon as many insurance plans will not pay for this type of treatment, although it is increasing.
"People definitely take out second mortgages and people definitely drain their savings," Beth points out.
And, beyond that, the treatment itself can also impact the baby.
"When you look at the regular population that does not require fertility treatment, the chances for these couples of having a baby with a birth defect is about three to four percent which is relatively high. And when couples go through IVF that risk is increased by 1 percent," Dayal explains.
Dr. Dayal says there is a greater than a 50 percent chance fertility treatment will work and one has about a 20 to 25 percent chance if they try to conceive a child naturally.
"I personally consider a successful treatment a live birth. It's wonderful to get someone pregnant but we really want them to go all the way to full term."
Beth and Nick Helmold ended up having two successful cycles and today have two healthy daughters.
But for the Foglers, the treatments didn't work. They stopped their last cycle in 2012 without having a child and have felt devastated.
"And I remember laying in that bed crying, knowing that it was never going to be a nursery," says Sarah with raw emotion in her voice. "When you can't and try and try and it still doesn't work it's like maybe it's not in our cards to have children"
"I absolutely understand some of the feelings. They feel not just devastated that it didn't work but they put so many resources into it," Dayal says.
But, for the Foglers, a miracle turned that devastation into sheer joy when they say they had a miracle, or rather two, to be exact. After all of their IVF treatments, they ended up conceiving two sons, naturally.
Still, the couple said they could not have even tried treatment without insurance coverage.
No matter the outcome, both couples have some advice for other couples struggling to get pregnant—be strong together even when the journey seems hopeless.
Beth Helmond does currently run a support group to help other women struggling with fertility problems. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org