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The high cost of infertility

Gail Johnson
Pay Day

Like so many women, Cecilia Nakatsui dreamed of one day being a mom. So after she got married in 2010, she went off the birth-control pill and was ready to start a family. It never occurred to her that she’d have trouble getting pregnant. After a year of trying unsuccessfully to conceive, a doctor told her that she’d never have children. The news devastated her.

“There were a few months where I was really angry,” Nakatsui says. “I didn’t want to be around kids or pregnant people.”

She went to see a specialist at a private fertility clinic, who acknowledged that her chances were indeed slim, but that there were various treatments they could try. The efforts paid off.

“We got pregnant!” says Nakatsui, who’s thrilled despite some serious nausea. Aged 39, she’s due in October. Her case was a little more complicated than what’s involved in the already complex process of in-vitro fertilization (IVF), because Nakatsui had to obtain an egg from a donor in the U.S.

Her becoming pregnant also cost her and her husband a lot of money: just over $39,000, in fact.

“It’s insanely expensive,” Nakatsui says, adding that the couple had some savings and borrowed cash from her parents. “I have to remind myself that we’re very lucky. I have some friends who just can’t do it because of money.”

According to the Infertility Awareness Association of Canada, 42 per cent of British Columbians surveyed said they are unable to proceed with treatment because of the cost. Infertility is on the rise, with 16 per cent of heterosexual couples (women aged 18-44) experiencing infertility in 2009/10, compared to just 8.5 per cent in 1992.

Whether it’s fertility treatments (which include fees for things like blood tests, semen analysis, cycle monitoring and hormone injections) or adoption (which may involve fees for licensing, legal work, travel and private agency administration), the costs of not being able to have your own baby can be exorbitant. Have a look:

  • In vitro fertilization: from $5,500 to $8,000 (not including medication), according to Benefits Canada
  • Private domestic adoption: from about $10,000 to $20,000, according to Canada Adopts , which helps people adopting for the first time
  • International adoption from the United States: about $30,000 to $50,000-plus
  • International adoption from overseas: about $25,000 and up

Few provinces cover the cost of infertility treatments. Quebec was the first North American jurisdiction to provide full funding for IVF treatments in 2010. It also covers the cost of all non-IVF infertility treatments and the cost of up to three IVF cycles if required. Manitoba helps cover the cost of infertility treatments through a tax credit and Ontario covers treatment for women with bilaterally blocked fallopian tubes.

Similarly, few employer benefits plans cover infertility treatments. The IAAC found in a survey of private insurers in Canada that, prior to Quebec’s move to fund such costs, only 30 per cent of plans assisted with the cost of injectable hormones to induce ovulation, and about 6 per cent provided some reimbursement for the high-dose hormones used in IVF.

Federally, Canadians have some tax relief. Ottawa introduced an adoption tax credit in 2005, mainly for people adopting internationally. However, in Ottawa's most recent budget, the government will broaden its tax relief to include the expenses when someone adopts from a domestic foster-care program.

“The credit amount changes year after year because it’s indexed,” says Cleo Hamel, tax specialist at H&R Block, noting that up to $12,000 in expenses can be claimed. However, like other tax credits, people only get about 15 per cent of that back. “For 2013, the tax savings is around $1,500,” she explains.