From 2012 to 2019, the Nevada Fertility Center in Las Vegas put on a controversial contest. It put out a call for home videos from individuals or couples struggling with infertility, asking them to talk about their journey, and published a selection on its website. The public could vote for the most compelling videos. Of the top 10, a board from the clinic picked just one.
The winning video’s prize: a free round of in vitro fertilization (travel to Las Vegas and lodging not included).
The contest was the subject of the 2016 documentary Vegas Baby. While it’s easy to balk at the idea of a popularity contest for care intended to result in a child, the desperation suggested by the contest’s popularity—the clinic received thousands of submissions annually—is emblematic of the state of fertility care. In the United States, the average cost of a single IVF treatment is usually around $12,000; with medications needed to stimulate ovulation, costs can be as high as $20,000. Most people have to undergo a few treatments, so “successful” treatments resulting in a baby often cost around $64,000, one 2012 study estimated.