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Paying for IVF

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Image: Some Ryan Gosling Encouragement

I am pretty open these days with my family, friends and coworkers about my infertility struggles and I talk freely about the IVF process for many reasons. I do this in hopes of not only increasing my support network but to also educate people about what it’s like for women who struggle with fertility issues. Without fail, each time I explain how expensive IVF is there is always the reaction of jaws dropped in absolute shock. There is also the occasional hand thrown to the heart as if they are going into cardiac arrest. The “sticker shock” is well, incredibly shocking! But knowing this is my only option for a healthy pregnancy and that my time is limited due to my low ovarian reserve, I knew I had to figure out something financially and to figure it out quickly. When most women talk about their biological clock ticking, my situation is like that, but imagine the typical biological clock has been sped up ten times faster. My reproductive endocrinologist said, “We can’t waste any time, we need to get started on this now.” So how was I able to finance my IVF? There are so many ways to pay for IVF, in fact I am considering devoting a whole section of my blog here soon to this subject. But for this entry I will explain how I worked it out for myself and briefly go over the other ways you can too.

How I paid for IVF:

  • Extra work: did overtime when it was available, took on second job temporarily
  • Selling on Amazon (my sales are very low at the moment, but every little bit helps)
  • Savings: set amount pulled from each paycheck and put in special savings account at different bank (so I wouldn’t have easy access to it and make it harder to spend on “emergencies”)
  • Cut expenses to the bone: no clothes shopping, reduced phone bill, pack lunch to work, make coffee at home 95% of time, etc.
  • IVF grant: Applied to grants I was qualified for. Excited to share that I won one grant that paid for part of my procedure.
  • Borrowing money: borrowed money from family (to avoid high interest rates for an IVF loan)
  • Attain Fertility discount program: savings if you pay for two or more IVF cycles in advance. Check if your fertility clinic offers this program.

Other options available for IVF:

  • Double check if any of your IVF might be covered by insurance, including medication costs
  • IVF grants: apply to all the ones you are qualified for. You might actually win. Be thorough with your application, don’t miss any sections and do it to the best of your ability. Ask for help from friends/family if you need to.
  • 0% APR interest credit card
  • Sell things around the home: Garage sale, consignment shop, craigslist, etc.
  • Side work: second job or side business
  • IVF or medical loan: always ask what the interest rate will be, if you can try to avoid high interest loans
  • Fundraising events or through online fundraising sites such as Go Fund Me

 

I’m sure there are a lot more I could list, but these are what I can think of at the moment. Basically anything and everything you can do to keep your costs down the better. My goal was to avoid paying interest, so any money I was short I asked if I could borrow the money from family in order to avoid interest, and they were more than willing to help. I’ve heard that unfortunately there are predatory loan practices with the IVF loan industry because they know women need money fast so they have very high interest rates and take advantage of those women. I’m not saying all IVF loan companies are like this, I’m just saying that this is something to be aware of. I’ve read that some of those companies charge upwards of 35% interest rate on a loan. You might be better off getting a loan from the mafia at that point. Please don’t resort to terrible interest rate loans or the mafia for help. You also don’t need to rob a bank, although feel free to joke about it if it gives you a good laugh to talk about with friends and family. 

 

Plan to have extra money just in case there are unexpected expenses. I did not realize my medication costs were not included in the IVF discount program. Big mistake! I was scrambling trying to come up with thousands of dollars at the last minute. Keep a decent sized emergency fund in addition to your IVF savings, because emergencies do happen while you are saving up. Our clothes dryer stopped working, my car’s check engine light came on, and a handful of of other little emergencies came up during the time we were saving.

There are so many different ways to reach your goal of paying for IVF. Take the time to do research to figure out what methods of saving up will work for you. Leave no stone unturned. My biggest advice to you is to do anything and everything to avoid interest payments or to at least reduce the percentage of interest you might pay by shopping around. Please go beyond reading this blog entry and extend your research far and wide across many credible websites and books on how to pay for IVF. Also check out IVF forums where other women talk about what worked for them, this was a valuable resource to me. As I mentioned before I am planning to dedicate a whole section of my website to the subject of ways to pay for IVF. I will also include how to apply to IVF grants and talk about how I was able to win an IVF grant. Please check back for more details. Paying for IVF is a big undertaking, but with consistent effort you will get there!

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40 Years Ago First IVF Baby Born

40 years of IVF

Image: Photo of Louise Brown, the First Baby Born Using In Vitro Fertilization from Metro.co.uk

Forty years ago the first IVF Baby was born, her name is Louise Brown. The ground-breaking historic event has lead to many advances with the science, and many more to come. For women like myself, this gives us hope of creating a family. It’s easy to connect with other women who have fertility issues whenever I read their blog articles or see their comments in the infertility forums. They are saying exactly what I’m feeling or damn near close to it.  But when I read articles relating to the science of IVF itself I feel a greater sense of unity with humankind. There is a whole science devoted to helping others achieve their dream of having a child of their own, and that’s pretty amazing. You feel less alone in this when you know there are so many people involved in your journey including doctors, nurses, nurse assistants, embryologists, anesthesiologists, geneticists, radiologists, medical receptionists, IVF grant foundations, miscarriage support group members, family, friends, co-workers, and members in the online infertility community. When you step out of yourself and look at the bigger picture there is a huge number of people who are cheering you on and wish for the future where you can hold your precious baby in your arms one day.

 

For almost one and half years I kept my struggle to myself. I only told a few people in my family. But having four miscarriages while working and missing a lot of work because of it, led to people wondering what was up. Other family and friends would wonder why I wasn’t showing up to holiday events or even a simple evening of a dinner out with friends. Being around other women who could easily get pregnant and complained about their children created a bitterness in me that was very hard to get over. In my job I work with at-risk youth, including pregnant teens who smoke and use other drugs including meth. Here I was surrounded by the many women who took for granted the process of pregnancy, including my own friends and family who openly complained about parenthood often on social media. It took time to seperate myself from that bitterness. But time itself wasn’t the only method of healing, it also took action on my part. I began to speak about what I was going through, a little at a time, one person at a time.

 

I started with close family, then extended family, friends, and then co-workers. The more I talked about it the more people shared their own stories too. I was surprised to learn that most of the people in my life had experienced infertility or miscarriages at some point in their life. I also learned a few had even underwent IVF. Sometimes I think the idea of infertility being a stigma is too simplistic an explanation for why women are not more open about infertility. I think it’s probably more about protecting our hearts from more pain. But what if that pain could be alleviated the more we share our stories and learn from those who have walked the same path as us? For me, I felt incredibly ill keeping quiet about my struggle. Speaking up helped to unburden myself and to seek solutions instead of wallowing in the pain. It cleared my head and made me determined to push forward and stop wasting time. There were of course a handful of people who did not understand or who gave me poor advice. Even if what they were saying was incorrect medically speaking you have to consider the fact that they are trying to be helpful. Sometimes it’s better to look at the bigger picture of people’s intentions to be helpful rather than dissecting whether what they are saying is medically sound. Honestly I expected way too much from people who did not understand my situation. You will save yourself a lot of time and pain by deciding your treatment plan with your doctor, as opposed to seeking medical advice from friends and family who don’t know the nitty gritty of your specific and unique medical circumstances. This does not mean that I don’t talk about my treatment plan, it just means I don’t seek medical advice from those who are not qualified. I switched from saying with friends/family, “I don’t know what to do now” to instead, “I’m excited to be starting X treatment, because it will improve my chances of pregnancy.” By doing this you can still get the support you seek rather than than a plethora of advice, which ranges from possibly helpful, occasionally superstitious, to downright unhealthy and absurd. Save yourself the head-spinning trouble and speak with your medical team about a treatment plan.

 

If my suppression check goes well I will be starting my first injections for IVF in less than two weeks! I’ve been telling everyone this flight out of state to receive IVF treatment is like Disney World times ten. I am elated and filled with anticipation for our future. There are many things that are out of my control, but the one thing I can control is what I do today to move one step closer to our goal of having a child. History was made 40 years ago with the first IVF baby, maybe we can be parents to the growing number of millions of babies born through IVF. Wouldn’t that be something?

Source: “At least 8 million IVF babies born in 40 years since historic first from” CNN.com

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Synchronicity / Perseverance / Cleveland Clinic Embryos Lost

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Momma duck with her baby ducklings. Awww.

So I have some good news to share, much happier than my previous post. My migraines have significantly been reduced. Both my regular doctor and reproductive endocrinologist suggested the same blood pressure medicine for me that would be safe for pregnancy and that would probably reduce my migraines. Well, it worked! Up until just recently I would dread sitting up in bed due to the physical pain of my migraine swelling up in my head, almost without fail, every morning of this summer it happened. If I dropped anything on the ground and stood back up my head would spin and I could feel my brain seem to constrict. It’s a funny feeling to brace myself for the usual migraine to come on and now I don’t experience that. Both my doctors seemed to be right, my migraines were related to my blood pressure. Now the house is finally clean, I’m getting out and socializing more, I’m picking up more shifts at work, and it’s one less worry for me.

 

At the same time I was starting my new medicine I had a severe staph infection flare up on my leg. It was absolutely unreal the amount of pain I was in. Right about the time my migraines disappeared, I had to deal with a staph infection. It felt like someone took a handful of hot needles and was pressing it into my leg and twisting it deep down, which wasn’t far from the reality of the situation. I went to the ER at 3am due to the excruciating pain. I remembered one of my clients years ago show me her stomach with what looked like a flesh eating disease, she told me she had MRSA. What I was looking at on my leg looked exactly what she had. The ER took my temperature and I had a high fever. The ten people who were in the waiting room before me had to wait while they rushed me in. They told me they were concerned I was getting a blood infection due to the fever and my wound. Within four days, what looked like a tiny bug bite had now landed me into the ER with stabbing pain and a dark gray dying patch of my skin. I could literally feel the bacteria burrowing into my skin, a painful tingling sensation coming on in waves. The doctor drained my abscess, sounds routine right? No! I screamed and cried and screamed and cried when they shoved a sharp numbing needle into the center of it. She said the abscess was one inch deep. They packed my wound, gave me antibiotics and sent me home. The next day my wound turned black, the pain was throbbing, and I was back in the ER again because they said I shouldn’t be in pain and if I was to come back again. They pulled all my packing out early and gave me a second antibiotic to take in addition to the first one and told me to sit in a bath to soak my wound 3-4 times a day. Needless to say I needed time off work for a bit. I wasn’t able to sit on my wound at all or walk without hobbling around like an awkward penguin. It’s looking better, but still draining and I still have a hole in my leg as I write this.

 

I share that mortifying experience with you for a reason. Mind you this whole time I’m dealing with that my head is spinning because I’m thinking it is a very real possibility that my IVF cycle could be postponed due to this staph infection. My husband’s work locks in their time off and you absolutely cannot change it until the following year. And we need him to take time off to fly out of state with me to provide his semen for this whole IVF process to be possible. My AMH level is low and my time is limited to make this IVF happen. So I was so worried about this staph infection ruining my chances of IVF for the entire year. Thankfully both the IVF clinic and my regular doctor said I should be okay to continue and that since I would be done with the antibiotics before even taking my IVF injections that I don’t need to worry. What a relief. There have been so many obstacles in my way, so many I could never have anticipated. But no matter what, all you can do is the best you can with what you have.

 

I received my IVF medication the other day and procrastinated comparing the inventory to what I received. Good thing I checked when I did because I was missing two needles. The letter that came with the box said that you must call within 24 hours of receiving the box in order to for them to honor any requests for items that may be missing. Luckily when I called them the following morning they honored it no problem. Phew! I Should be getting them in a few days.

 

I’m already in the first phase of IVF, which is the suppression phase. I won’t start injections until August 5th. I fly out of state to the IVF clinic on the 10th, and do my egg retrieval August 16th, the day before my birthday. Hopefully this birthday will be a lucky one. I’ve experienced two miscarriages on my birthday in the past.

 

Some people may wonder why I’m doing IVF if I know I can get pregnant. I have been pregnant four times, the first two we don’t know the cause of the miscarriage, but the last two were not viable due to a chromosomal abnormality (Trisomy 15 & 16). But the main deciding factors that moved us into the direction of IVF were the following:

  • All four miscarriages required a subsequent surgery due to remaining scar tissue from products of conception. This could prevent healthy pregnancies from occurring if that embryo implanted on any scar tissue that could block nutrients from my body to get to the new pregnancy.
  • Scar tissue built up from multiple miscarriages, one on top of another they suspected. This puts me at risk for infection. I have already had two infections previously due to miscarriage complications.
  • My AMH level (ovarian reserve) is low, meaning I don’t have many eggs left to work with and time is critical to conceive.
  • Financially it is better for me to do the IVF route due versus trying to conceive naturally and risking needing surgery on top of surgery to clear my uterus of scar tissue. I had two surgeries for a single miscarriage due to them not clearing everything with the first procedure. Plus there is the extra cost of expensive ultrasounds to check and recheck my uterus was cleared.
  • Each surgery increases my risk of a perforated uterus which could potentially make me permanently infertile.
  • IVF with PGS would allow the doctor to see which embryo is viable and would pose less risk of a miscarriage.
  • The amount of blood loss with my first miscarriage was on par with hemorrhaging but I hadn’t experienced it before and thought it was normal. In hindsight I should have gone to the ER. Hemorrhaging is another risk of proceeding with natural conception (for me at least, given my history).

I could go on and on about the reasons IVF with PGS is the right choice for me. What I am about to say is controversial but also a very personal decision. If I chose to continue the path of natural conception there’s a tiny chance I could have a healthy baby, but a much larger chance I would risk my fertility and my own health, as well as bringing a child into the world who would probably have a severe physical and developmental disability. To put it into perspective, considering my particular circumstances, the whole “just try again” approach is uneducated and downright dangerous for me. I am a statistic, a 0.05% chance (yes less than half a percent) of my life experience with not only the number of miscarriages I’ve had but the type of miscarriages too. I had not one, not two, but three different doctors tell me I should stop trying naturally and to get the help of reproductive technology assistance. I’m glad I didn’t waste too much time contemplating.

 

As far as the title to this blog, I’ve experienced many moments throughout my journey to see only obstacles, but instead I am choosing to see the synchronicity to it all. I received an IVF grant. I’m receiving financial help from Mom as well. I have friends, family, and co-workers who know about my struggle and are cheering me on. All the baths I had to take with my staph infection helped me relax more and practice mindfulness during this stressful time of doing IVF. I have this blog as an outlet and can really speak my mind. I have two IVF cycles I’m about to pay for to receive a discount and even if this first round doesn’t work I still have another one I can do right away and not waste time saving up money. I was able to take a much needed break from work to recharge and refocus on myself and my needs. My new blood pressure medicine not only helps lower my BP but also helped get rid of my migraines, this will help with the whole IVF process. I switched to on-call work, which allows me to do the many doctor appointments without interfering with my job. I have a lot of good things to focus on through all of this. I am trying to focus more on staying positive and not letting all the obstacles get me down.

 

Now it becomes a numbers game. How many eggs will they get, how many are good eggs, how many will fertilize, how many get to blastocyst stage, how many pass the PGS test as viable, and if I have any remaining for FET (frozen embryo transfer), and if that embryo implants, and finally if I see the BFP (big fat positive) on my pregnancy test. This whole experience is so much like a roller coaster ride with the ups and downs. There’s only so much I can control in life, as long as I know I am doing everything I can I feel I will some day be able to hold our precious little cuddly baby in my arms and know this whole struggle was worth it all.

 

One thing I definitely don’t want to breeze over is the recent news I heard about a Cleveland fertility clinic losing over 4,000 eggs and embryos in a recent malfunction of their equipment that stores the embryos. My heart aches for those families who lost their embryos and maybe their last chance for a family. After hearing this news it absolutely makes me want to implant any embryos sooner rather than later. I don’t imagine now that I’ll have my “kidcicles” sit on ice for very long due to not only the potential human error but now the possible equipment malfunction. I had thought about spacing out my kids over a several years, but news like this makes me not want to risk it. How do you feel about this subject? Does this recent news change your plan for your embryos you may have frozen or are about to freeze?

Thank you for reading, and remember you are not alone! 🙂

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Red flower stands taller than the other orange ones. There is beauty in those that are different.

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