The Hidden Costs Of Starting A Family When Queer
The Hidden Costs Of Starting A Family When Queer – Jac Ciardella sat at his kitchen table in New Jersey and inserted a syringe into a navel orange. His hand flexed as he squeezed the plunger, pushing water into the fruit’s rind. He needed the practice. He was about to inject fertility drugs into his wife, Candice Ciardella, and he wanted to get it exactly right. He knew how painful it could be.
The couple’s fertility journey started in 2015. The original plan had been to use donor sperm to impregnate Candice. But after six unsuccessful attempts at intrauterine insemination (IUI), they decided to try IVF on Jac, with the idea that Candice could carry one of his fertilized eggs. Candice began giving her husband shots of the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), to make him produce extra eggs.
“For years, needles were just part of the routine for us,” Candice says. “I think we had more empathy for one another because we both knew what it felt like. When it comes to the shots and the appointments, not many spouses can say: ‘I know exactly what you’re going through.’ We can.”
The process was emotionally taxing for both of them, but especially for Jac. “Someone’s head is between your legs, and it’s awkward for anyone — but, being transgender, it’s extra awkward,” Jac says. “Mentally, I’m feeling like I’m not supposed to be in that position. For me to feel comfortable going through IVF while still keeping my sanity and my integrity was huge.”
Three cycles of IVF weren’t successful, and testing revealed no clear issues that would cause infertility. So in 2018, the Ciardellas decided to try IVF again, on Candice this time.
“It was emotionally defeating. If you can survive IVF and infertility, your marriage should be able to survive just about anything else,” Jac says. “It’s humbling and debilitating and cruel.” Adding to their stress was the financial strain. The Ciardellas were acutely aware that each failed cycle of IVF and IUI was costing them — big time. “You’re talking about tens of thousands of dollars going out the door,” he says. “It takes toughness.”
Jac and Candice’s story is unique, but the financial burden they faced is not. Most LGBTQ+ couples who want children have to confront the fact that starting a family will be expensive. Adoption, fertility treatments, and surrogates are all costly, often lengthy processes.
The Ciardellas say their insurance only covered their testing for issues that could cause infertility, such as blocked fallopian tubes. They had no financial help with the sperm, the IUIs, or the rounds of IVF. All told, over the course of three years, the couple would spend about $120,000 on four IVF cycles, $20,000 on fertility drugs, plus over $10,000 on IUI. “I got those numbers imprinted on my brain,” Jac says. “We always knew that to be parents, we’d need to be cutting into a good chunk of change — but we didn’t expect it to be quite that much.”
Sandy Chuan, MD, a fertility specialist at San Diego Fertility Center, confirms that the costs of conceiving via fertility treatments can be shockingly high for LGBTQ+ couples.
She says sperm samples can cost $600 to $900 per vial. One IUI attempt without insurance costs about $700 to $1,000, plus the donor sperm. “I usually tell my clients to ballpark around $1,500, but they might need to do three to six rounds,” Dr. Chuan explains. If IUI is unsuccessful, the next step is IVF, which Dr. Chuan says can cost as much as $15,000, plus $4,000 to $5,000 for medications to stimulate egg production. The price point for procedures can vary by state and market.
Refinery29.com, by Molly Longman, June 15, 2020
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