Embryo freezing, or embryo cryopreservation, is an important advancement in the treatment of infertility. Fertility specialists are able to freeze embryos for a long time, so that couples may use them in the future. This allows you to make multiple embryo-transfer attempts over time from a single egg-retrieval procedure. For many people, though, the cost and financing of embryo freezing can heavily factor in when deciding whether or not to pursue in vitro fertilization (IVF).
The embryo freezing process
After the sperm fertilizes the eggs, your embryologist grades the resulting embryos for quality, and transfers the best ones to your uterus. Your doctor can freeze any embryos of good quality that are not transferred for a long time — in fact, babies have been born from embryos that were frozen for nearly 20 years. In addition, your doctor can also freeze unfertilized eggs.
Embryo freezing is a complicated process that involves removing all water from the embryo and replacing it with a liquid that does not expand when frozen. Your doctor can thaw and then implant the embryos at a later date, though not all frozen embryos will survive the thawing process.
The cost of freezing embryos will vary depending on your individual clinic. Some clinics may offer free embryo cryopreservation for a limited amount of time as part of the IVF process. Typically, though, costs in the United States start at around $2,000 for the initial freezing (and can run much higher), plus a yearly maintenance fee of a few hundred to several hundred dollars. Most insurance policies don't cover this cost, but some do, so it's a good idea to check with your insurance company.
Later on, there will be separate costs to thaw embryos and to transfer them to your uterus.
Insurance coverage by state
There are currently 13 states that mandate insurance coverage of fertility treatments. This is all or part of the total cost, depending on the state. The states that require coverage are:
- New Jersey
- New York
- Rhode Island
- West Virginia
Two states, California and Texas, require insurers to offer coverage for infertility, but don't require that those insurers automatically include it in all policies.
Montana, Ohio, and West Virginia only require HMOs to provide the coverage.
Maryland exempts small businesses with 50 employees or fewer from having to offer it. And three of the states — California, Louisiana, and New York — don't mandate coverage for IVF.
Other financing options: Loans
If your insurance company does not cover the cost of your fertility treatments, or if it only covers some costs, you still have some other options. One is to get a loan. There are several companies that offer loans for the sole purpose of paying for the treatment of infertility. Some offer a refund guarantee, which will give you a total or partial refund if you haven't had a baby in a designated time frame. There is also the option of a personal loan, which may offer better or worse terms than a fertility loan. Personal loans never come with a guarantee, however.
Sharing cycles is another possibility: You agree to share embryos or eggs with another couple, and you essentially split the costs. Sharing cycles are usually arranged by the fertility center.
There are also a few organizations that offer financial help to help those who cannot pay for fertility services. Here are three that offer help nationwide:
- Couples residing in the U.S. who have both financial and medical need may qualify for a scholarship from the InterNational Council on Infertility Information Dissemination, Inc. (INCIID), which will cover a fertility procedure.
- The Tinina Q. Cade Foundation offers up to $10,000 for medical fertility treatment or domestic adoption to infertile families in the U.S. who have both a diagnosis of infertility and financial need.
- The Pay It Forward Fertility Foundation offers full and partial grants to U.S. residents for fertility treatments such as IVF, IVF with egg donation, and the adoption of embryos.