I’m a Lesbian Trying To Get Pregnant via Sperm Donor and IUI—Here’s the Financial Reality of That

Photo: Getty Images/Maria Korneeva
I’ve always wanted to have kids, but first, I wanted to feel ready—personally and professionally. Now, at I am 36 years old and my wife, Ashley, is 35, we feel as ready as we think we’ll ever be. As lesbians, we knew from the get-go that science would be a leading character in our story. What we didn’t know, though, was the order of operations, how many steps would be involved, and—crucially—how we would afford all of it. As it turns out, the cost of getting pregnant as a lesbian couple is steep in the best of circumstances.

I took to Google to start gathering information about steps involved for me to become pregnant via intrauterine insemination (IUI) with donor sperm and also to research the associated price tags. Quickly, I grew overwhelmed. While Ashley and I are hardly alone in seeking medical intervention to help us have a baby. Fertility has become a full-blown industry estimated at $8 billion; it provides options for the great many people navigating infertility and people who are in relationships (or single!) such that medical help is needed to make a baby. It's great that medical innovation has provided so much opportunity, but, wow, is it expensive. Here's what I learned

The cost of getting pregnant as a lesbian couple

To dive right in, at minimum, one vial of sperm would cost between $1,195 and $1,895 at the California Cryobank, which is what we planned to use. And they recommend buying four vials per desired child. If you anticipate wanting multiple children from the same donor? Well, simple math reveals how quickly and steeply those numbers climb. That price also doesn’t include upsells like $145 to $250 for a 90-day subscription to learn more about the donor with things like photos, or additional $25 à la carte items, like an audio conversation.

Then comes the actual baby-making part. The cost of an in-clinic insemination, which is recommended, is not covered by most insurance plans (including my own) and can cost upwards of $3,000 per try. That fee doesn't include consultation costs, additional medication, and testing.

Yes, you could save money with a DIY at-home intracervical insemination (ICI), often called the “turkey baster” approach (despite not actually using that kitchen tool). But, Ashley and I decided there's value in going with IUI. A small study found IUI to be three times more likely to result in pregnancy than ICI, and while the procedure itself is expensive, so is the sperm we'd be handling. Furthermore, given our end goal of a successful pregnancy, we figured those stats give compelling reason to pay for professional assistance.

For those who aren’t yet ready to conceive or want to have multiple children from the same sperm donor, I learned storage fees can run between $285 for six months to $3,000 for 10 years. (Many banks do have a “buy-back” policy that allows you to return any unused vials for half-off the purchase price. Many also have financing options.)

Unless you’re lucky to work at a company that offers fertility benefits, or in a state that requires insurance coverage for infertility, your insurance won’t necessarily cover a dime. Unfortunately, as a self-employed people in California, my wife and I were on our own.

What became clear after doing some research and crunching numbers is that the we’d be spending at least $12,000 on sperm for two kids, insemination not included.

What became clear after doing some research and crunching numbers is that the we’d be spending at least $12,000 on sperm for two kids, insemination not included. I started to feel discouraged, and talking with friends who’d gone through the process—with varying results—made me feel both better and worse. On the one hand, I appreciated that I didn't feel alone, but on the other, understanding the likelihood that we'd likely need to try for multiple rounds felt daunting.

Since beginning our fertility journey, Ashley and I have found our perfect-for-us sperm donor, and we feel lucky about that. Even so, the road ahead remains fraught with anxious feelings and uncertainty. And the financial component of it all is inextricably intertwined. However, information is power, and I feel armed with that. In an effort to identify silver linings of personal growth, I've identified five financial takeaways from this experience, thus far.

5 financial wellness takeaways of planning my fertility journey

1. Reminder: I can ask for what I am worth

Examining my finances to prep for this fertility journey forced me to revisit my relationship with money. As I examined my earnings, I could see where, despite my work with Ladies Get Paid centering on advocating for your financial worth, I wasn’t being my best advocate, and I needed to raise my prices. My fees needed an upgrade, and I needed to not feel badly about that. Doing it for my future child somehow made this easier.

2. I can probably trim certain expenses in my life

I believe that when you add something new to your life, you should look for what to subtract in order to make room for it. Given how expensive this whole process was proving to be, my decluttering started with my bank account, identifying all the various ways I was leaking money like subscriptions and apps I wasn’t using, and Amazon returns that were just sitting around the house.

3. It's possible for hobbies to generate income

Decluttering around the house actually led to some extra income selling old books, clothes, and furniture. That, in turn, sparked a whole new side hustle revenue stream of reselling things from thrift shops and estate sales, which is something my wife and I are now doing on the weekends.

4. Everything is negotiable

From the cost of the ultrasound to consultations with fertility doctor, I was able to work out a solution that either reduced the fee or allowed me to pay in installments.

5. Financial shame is a real thing

As a small business owner, I work to remind myself that just staying in business is a measure of success. Even so, it’s hard not to fault myself for not doing better. This fertility process has opened up feelings of shame for me, and while rough, it has also provided an opportunity to work toward healing.

Finances aside, my greatest personal takeaway from this whole process was learning how to straddle a having a plan to set ourselves up for success and allowing things to unfold as they will. I believe whoever our child ends up being, wherever they come from, and however much they cost, they will be a miracle—worth every penny of investing in the fertility process.

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