Exploring the paths to fertilization and their costs

Down the tubes.
Down the tubes.
Image: Daniel Wolfe
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Talking about fertility care is difficult. On the one hand, sharing stories about the many winding paths to parenthood can be a great way to normalize the experience of infertility. On the other, it can be alienating to hear stories about treatments that worked for some, but not you.

Although fertility care looks different for each person receiving it, there’s a general decision tree that most people follow. The first step is trying to figure out the cause of infertility, according to Jennifer Fay Kawwass, a reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist at Emory University.

Broadly speaking, if a couple can’t get pregnant, about 30% of the time there may be a problem with the sperm, 30% of the time there’s a problem with the eggs, ovaries, fallopian tubes, or reproductive tract, and 40% of the time, fertility specialists aren’t clear what’s wrong.

🎧 For more intel on fertility care, listen to the Quartz Obsession podcast episode on egg freezing. Or subscribe via: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google | Stitcher.

Once a prospective parent has figured out what the issue may be, it’s a matter of figuring out the least invasive—and often least expensive—option likely to result in a healthy baby. Special situations can point potential parents down different side paths. Perhaps they’re aware of a heritable condition they want to avoid passing down to their children, or they need to seek out sperm or eggs as a single parent or same-sex couple. In general, fertility care specialists will start at the least invasive and most cost-effective end of the spectrum, and progress to the other end if initial strategies fail.

Here’s what you can expect those different tiers of care to look like, with costs for each round of care based on US prices (it can take multiple rounds before a successful pregnancy).