Intrauterine insemination, or IUI, is a fertility treatment in which sperm is injected in a woman’s uterus with the goal of achieving pregnancy. It is generally less invasive than in vitro fertilization, or IVF, and may be offered first to aspiring parents.
But before committing to one — or several — rounds of IUI, patients should understand the costs associated with the procedure.
While undergoing IUI is typically not as pricey as other fertility treatments, such as in vitro fertilization, the costs can add up quickly. If IUI is unsuccessful, and you decide to move on to new interventions, it can drain your savings and make affording those pricier procedures more difficult.
Here’s what to know about the cost of intrauterine insemination and how to pay for it.
What Is Intrauterine Insemination, or IUI?
IUI is a fertility treatment involving the injection of sperm into a woman’s uterus to encourage fertilization and ultimately result in a pregnancy.
It’s sometimes jokingly referred to as the “turkey baster” method, says Barbara Collura, president and chief executive officer of Resolve: The National Infertility Association. You may also have heard it called “artificial insemination.”
IUI may be recommended when a patient uses donor sperm or when a male partner has a low sperm count. But there are a range of diagnoses and situations in which IUI may be the prescribed method for achieving pregnancy. Patients who undergo IUI may also be given fertility drugs to encourage ovulation.
[Read: The Cost of Birth Control.]
How Much Does IUI Cost?
IUI costs range between $500 and $4,000, according to FertilityIQ, a resource for fertility costs and doctor reviews. For most people, the cost per round is a few thousand dollars, says Jake Anderson-Bialis, co-founder of FertilityIQ.
That said, your out-of-pocket cost will depend on whether insurance covers IUI and the inclusion of add-ons such as donor sperm, ultrasounds and medications.
Oral medications can run a couple of hundred bucks or less while injected medications may cost $1,000 to $2,000 per month, says Dr. Susan Hudson, a reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist who co-hosts the “Fertility Docs Uncensored” podcast.
Ultrasound costs vary, but can run about $250 if your insurer isn’t covering them, Hudson says. The insemination itself may cost $300. Donor sperm can run $300 to $600 per vial, not including the cost of shipping.
IUI is typically done in rounds, so patients may go through several cycles of treatments, which balloons the price over time. In certain cases, it may make sense to save the money spent on IUI — or at least limit it — and go quickly to an IVF cycle, Anderson-Bialis says. Chances for success may be better with IVF, so think carefully about why you’re using IUI and if it makes sense to spend the money on it first.
How Do I Pay for IUI?
How you pay for IUI will depend on your health insurance plan, employee benefits and access to cash. Remember that many people undergo more than one cycle, so costs can add up quickly. “It’s not a one-time purchase,” says Dennis Nolte, certified financial planner and vice president at Seacoast Investment Services in Winter Park, Florida.
Here are some strategies to pay for IUI:
Health insurance. First things first, check with your health insurance plan and state, which may have mandated infertility coverage, to determine whether IUI is covered and under what circumstances.
Additionally, some plans may require attempting IUI before they will reimburse more aggressive fertility procedures such as IVF. Be aware that your plan may require a diagnosis of infertility, which can leave out some patients, such as same-sex couples or single mothers who want to become pregnant on their own.
Employee benefits. Some companies offer a fertility benefit for couples and individuals who want to use it. Check your employee handbook or schedule a confidential conversation with your human resource department.
Dedicated health savings accounts. If you save money for health costs in a health savings account or flexible spending account, you may be able to tap those funds to pay for eligible fertility expenses.
While there are differences between these accounts, in general, they allow for pretax savings on qualifying medical expenses.
Your own savings account. Ideally, you’d have money saved to pay your share of the cost of IUI treatments without having to borrow. That said, patients may be racing against their biological clocks and feel that accessing money quickly is more important than taking the time to save the cash.
Mom and Dad. This could be a situation in which your interests are aligned with your parents’ wants. If your mom and dad are asking to become grandparents and want to offer financial assistance, take them up on their offer. “It’s a team effort,” Nolte says.
Borrow money. First, think hard before borrowing money for a fertility procedure. “If you have to go that deep, then the concern I’d have is how are you actually going to raise that child?” Nolte says.
If borrowing is the right call for you, however, there are many ways to borrow money, with some offering better rates or terms than others.
Some places to find borrowed money include:
— Borrowing against retirement accounts.
— Tapping home equity.
— Swiping your credit card.
— Financing options offered through a fertility center.
— A personal loan.
Not all of these options are created equally, and they all have their downsides, so consider these payment options for fertility treatments carefully.
If your procedure is successful, it’ll be just the beginning of the costs related to childbearing and child rearing. If it’s unsuccessful, and you want to move on to IVF, costs will continue to snowball.
Is IUI Worth the Cost?
Whether IUI is worth the cost will depend on your individual situation. “Whether IUI is a good value is 100% a function of the profile of the person medically and financially,” Anderson-Bialis says.
For example, for a same-sex couple with no known fertility issues, IUI may be a better bet than it is for a couple who has known fertility problems and is only undergoing the procedure so insurance will cover IVF later.
“I do think it’s a good value because there are a lot of people who are going to get pregnant within those first three cycles, and you’ve only spent three months,” Hudson says.
But Collura says she’s talked to many aspiring parents who’ve done five, six or even nine cycles of IUI and paid for it out of pocket before realizing that the cost added up to one IVF cycle they could have tried right away. “If it’s not successful, take a step back and reevaluate.”
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