Marji and Justin Dupuis expected in vitro fertilization (IVF) and surrogacy to cost around $100,000. But, they’re now preparing to pay twice that.
Extra expenses include an out-of-state surrogate, additional medical testing, and travel for the couple.
Marji says she’s still happy the couple committed to it because she knew she could never carry a baby because of severe endometriosis.
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When Marji and Justin Dupuis started looking into in vitro fertilization (IVF) and surrogacy, multiple agencies told them the process, from beginning to birth, would cost around $100,000. A lot of money, yes, but a manageable amount for a couple who desperately want a child.
Less than 6 months later, they’ve already spent $92,000 — “and we haven’t even started yet because she hasn’t had the baby,” says Marji, 34, of northwest Florida. “It’s been a lot.”
The couple is still thrilled to be moving forward and excited to meet their baby in early 2023. They know that they will be worth it, whatever the cost. But they want others considering IVF to proceed with caution if money is a concern.
“I don’t want to push people away from IVF, but I also don’t want them to be paralyzed by the cost,” Marji says. “We’re really fortunate. We know that. We both work full time. But it’s just been really stressful.”
But the COVID-19 pandemic led them to reevaluate their lives and that decision. According to a 2021 roundup of state-by-state fertility insurance coverage requirements compiled by the National Conference for State Legislators — a bipartisan organization that provides research and other information to lawmakers — about 10% of American women of child-bearing age receive assistance with fertility. Only 17 states have laws requiring insurers to cover or offer coverage for infertility treatments, NCSL says.
The first step on the Dupuis’ journey to parenthood? Finding the right IVF facility in Wisconsin, where they were living at the time, and scheduling an egg retrieval procedure. According to FertilityIQ, one IVF cycle can cost $23,474 on average. And it typically takes more than one cycle for a successful pregnancy.
The process of egg retrieval, Marji says, “was one of the most miserable things I’ve ever been through.” During the procedure, she wrapped herself in a handmade cream Afghan with multicolored pompoms she’d bought specifically for Baby Dupuis. The soft warmth helped her focus on the joy to come.
The first procedure resulted in a single embryo as doctors discovered Marji’s ovaries were still being affected by endometriosis. The second try yielded 10 embryos, 3 of which were found to be healthy via genetic testing, a common requirement when using a surrogate. The Dupuis’ insurance covered these costs.
The second step? Choosing a surrogacy agency. A 2022 U.S. News & World Report article put the average surrogacy agency cost at $20,000 to $50,000, depending on the services provided. A surrogate’s “base compensation” can range from $30,000 to $60,000, the article noted.
The Dupuis fell in love with and hired the first surrogate they met, a 29-year-old Ohio woman who was already a mother of two. They gave her the blanket Marji wrapped herself in during the egg retrieval so she could do the same during her own medical visits. The agency’s fee: $24,500. The couple’s surrogate will receive $45,000, which is paid in increments throughout the pregnancy. The surrogate’s insurance will cover her OB/GYN visits throughout her pregnancy.
Other initial costs included legal fees and multiple trips between Wisconsin, where the surrogacy agency is, and Florida, where the couple now live.
The first transfer happened around Easter 2022 — a procedure that cost around $4,000. The first attempt failed.
“When she let us know the embryo had died, that was a huge blow,” Marji says. “I ended up finding a support group on Facebook for intended parents who were using surrogates. I asked if it was right to feel the way I was feeling after losing an embryo, and many women responded, ‘Oh, yes. You’re not crazy.’”
The second implantation took place in June 2022. It takes about 10 days after the transfer attempt to find out if it was successful. Because the Dupuis’ surrogate lives a 2-hour drive away from the fertility clinic, each trip there during this period first required an ultrasound that cost about $675. Then, there were the added costs of travel, follow-up appointments, and prescription drugs.
But, Marji says, it was all worth it when they learned their surrogate was pregnant. A short time later, they heard the baby’s heartbeat.
“From the moment I was diagnosed with endometriosis, I knew my chances of having a biological baby were low,” Marji says. “Hearing Baby Dupuis’ heartbeat was the most surreal moment. We created a life, despite all odds against us.”
Baby Dupuis is expected to arrive in February 2023.
Future costs for the couple until then include at least four trips to visit the surrogate in Ohio, where they’ll stay in hotels. They’ll also go to Wisconsin whenever their agency requires another document to be signed in person. Plus, they’ll have unknown medical bills, a nursery, two books ($40 each) featuring their recorded voices, maternity clothes, and care packages for their surrogate.
“My love language is gifting,” Marji says. “I send her anything that I think would make her more comfortable. There are great gift box options tailored to each trimester of pregnancy. What she is doing for us is a miracle, our miracle, and it’s most important for us that she is comfortable and not in want of anything.”
Marji and Justin have made some cost-cutting decisions in light of the extra expenses. The first was moving to Florida, where the cost of living is lower. They’d originally planned to build a house but decided to buy an existing one to save money. They’re also not eating out as much as they used to, and they’ve curtailed travel. Their disposable income is 100% focused on Baby Dupuis.
“I have friends who have started the [IVF] process, and they haven’t had transfers yet. And they’re struggling to even think about $100,000. I’ve started to tell them it’s going to be a lot more than that,” Marji says. “At every turn, there’s a different cost. But it’s all for something that in the end is going to be amazing.”
Marji says she and her husband are fortunate to have the means to cover most of their costs without falling into debt. She hopes other couples eager to build families realize that unexpected costs will pop up along the way and can plan accordingly.
No matter the cost, she says, the end result will be priceless.“
Our baby will know just how much we fought to have them, how much we wanted them,” Marji says. “It’s important to both of us that we do everything we can to ensure that they are born healthy and strong.”
Lead Personal Finance Editor
Infertility affects about 7 million Americans, but insurance coverage for it remains spotty in the U.S. Even in the 20 states where some kind of coverage is mandated, there are exceptions that can limit the pool of people eligible for its benefits. And infertility care services don’t count as one of the Affordable Care Act’s 10 essential health benefits that marketplace health plans must cover.
In 12 states, a baseline is that health insurance will cover interventions aimed at preserving your fertility if you need chemotherapy or other treatments with harmful side effects. And you may be eligible for IVF coverage through a work-based plan if you live in one of these 10 states, according to Resolve:
Some employer plans may cover initial diagnostic tests. But for the big-ticket items — like multiple cycles of IVF or surrogacy — you’re often on your own to find the resources. The costs stop many people from pursuing their dreams of parenthood.
It can be a lonely and expensive journey, as the Dupuis attest. The first step is to check your insurance to see what it might cover. Work with your healthcare provider to appeal if a coverage denial contradicts your policy. After that, look for support organizations that may offer grants, scholarships, and financing options, such as those offered by Resolve. And look for ways to advocate for change.
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