Borrowing Options to Pay for Fertility Treatments

Finding Financing for IVF, IUI, and Other Fertility Treatments

Credit card being swiped at a fertility clinic
Fertility treatment costs can add up quickly. If you're going to borrow, borrow wisely. Photo: Rob Melnychuk / Getty Images

Once you’ve gone beyond low-cost fertility treatments (like Clomid), treatment costs rise and multiply quickly. The average fertility clinic patient spends $5,000 on out-of-pocket expenses, with less for those just using medication (about $900) and much more for those using IVF (about $20,000). If you need an egg donor or surrogate, the costs are even higher.

Few people have that kind of cash lying around.

So how can you afford treatment? There are a variety of ways to cover fertility treatment expenses, and one of those ways is borrowing money.

Deciding to borrow money to pay for fertility treatment shouldn’t be a quick or impulsively made decision. With all the emotion around fertility treatment, it’s easy to make bad long-term financial decisions.

With that said, here are some ways you might borrow the cash you need.

Borrowing from Family

Borrowing from family can be the best option or the worst option. It really depends on your relationship with the loaning family member, and your ability to pay them back in a timely matter.

On the one hand, if you need to miss a payment or delay paying them back, you won’t lose your house or ruin your credit rating. On the other hand, tension from borrowing the cash can lead to bickering and even bitterness. In a worst case scenario, it can cost you the relationship.

If you have a good relationship with your family, and if they have the cash to lend, and if you think your relationship can handle any resulting tension, then it’s an option to consider.

You may want to check out Lending Karma, which is a website that helps track loans between friends and family:

Taking Out a Home-Equity Loan

If you own your home, you can consider taking out a home equity loan. People take them for renovations and weddings, so why not take one out for fertility treatment?

Some benefits are that they have relatively lower APRs, and you may be able to get a tax reduction on interest costs. Also, if you have bad credit, you may still qualify.

The biggest risk is that if you fault on the payments, you can lose your home. Also, if you should need to sell your home before you pay the loan back, you may end up still owing the bank money.

Learn more about home equity loans:

  • The Basics of Home Equity Loans
  • Home Equity Loan Tax Deduction
  • 10 Things to Consider Before Refinancing or Getting a Home Equity Loan (Written to business school students, but the advice is still relevant.)

Using Credit Cards

Paying with credit cards is often how infertility treatments start. Those beginning smaller costs add up, and while in the beginning, you may have needed just a few hundred dollars here and there, you might now be looking to borrow thousands.

If at all possible, pay off what you have on your credit cards before you add more to the debt. Paying the cards off, especially in a timely manner, may boost your credit rating, which can increase your future borrowing limits.

While in some cases treatment needs to occur sooner than later, that’s not always the case. Ask your doctor before you decide you don’t have time to pay off your current debts.

If you have a good credit rating, you may be able to make a deal with your credit cards. Call them up and ask. They might be able to offer you a lower APR for a set period of time, or increase your credit limit.

Just be sure you can afford to pay the debt back! Check what your monthly payments would be, after interest is considered, before you swipe your cards to pay for IVF.

  • How to Lower Your Credit Card Interest Rates

Taking Out a Personal Loan

Otherwise known as unsecured loans or signature loans, a personal loan is given without being attached any collateral, like your house or car.

The only guarantee the bank has that you’ll pay them back is “your signature.”

Banks and credit unions offer personal loans. Unlike credit cards (which are a kind of personal loan), unsecured bank loans work by giving you a lump sum of money, which you then pay back over time.

If you have good credit, you may be able to get a good interest rate, but even if you have bad credit, don’t assume you can’t get a personal loan. The interest rates, though, will likely be high.

  • The Basics of Unsecured Personal Loans   
  • Getting an Unsecured Loan with Bad Credit

Taking Out a Medical Loan

Medical loans are credit card loans which are specifically marketed for health care costs. Some medical credit cards can only be used at participating providers, while others are less restrictive. They are offered for a variety of medical needs, from cosmetic surgery to dental work. Some can be used to pay for fertility treatments.

Not every medical loan can be used for fertility treatment, so when you look into loan possibilities, be sure not to waste your time filling out forms for a loan they’ll never give.  

Medical loans can be attractive options. For one, many offer a 0% interest rate for a set period of time. Another possible advantage is because they can only be used to pay for medical treatment, you may be less tempted to use the loan for other expenses (which would limit just how much debt you could go into, sort of.)

However, read the fine print on these loans! Will you be penalized for paying off the debt early? What happens if you are late on a payment? What happens if you take longer to repay the loan than the period you have a lower or 0% interest rate?

In many cases, if you’re late on a payment or take longer than the 0% interest rate offer, you will have to pay a high-interest rate not just for what you still owe, but also on what you’ve already paid off. And the interest rates can be very high, higher than on a typical credit card.

Here is a partial list of companies offering medical loans:

Note: a listing here is not an endorsement. Credit lines may be restricted by health care provider and location. Please research the terms of any loan before signing up, and as always, be cautious of how you share your financial information.

There are also companies that will compare and contrast various medical loans for you, usually for a fee:

Getting a Fertility Clinic or Fertility Consultancy Based Loan

Growing in popularity are medical loans that specifically cater to fertility patients. They may be suggested by a fertility clinic or fertility consultancy.

They are just like medical loans – credit cards specifically for medical treatment, in this case, fertility treatment. They have the same pros and cons, including possible harsh interest rate penalties for missing a payment or not paying the debt off quickly.

If your clinic offers a "payment plan," make sure you know what you're signing up for. Is it a payment plan -- with payment for treatment split into a set number of monthly payments -- between you and the clinic? Or actually, a credit card or loan, brokered or recommended by the clinic?

The fertility loan offered by your clinic may not be the best option available. A different medical loan provider may offer you a better deal, or you may get better rates just using your personal credit cards.

Be aware that your doctor, clinic, or consultant may financially benefit with each fertility loan sign up. This isn’t always the case, but it’s important to know.

Just because your doctor says this is “the best loan” you can get, or this is a “great company you should trust” doesn’t mean it is. They may be biased.

Here’s one of the bigger fertility loan companies:

Note: As written above, a listing here is not an endorsement. Please research the terms of any loan before signing up, and as always, be cautious of how you share your financial information.

Borrowing from a Retirement Fund

Borrowing from a 401K, IRA, or other retirement funds may be possible through what is called a “hardship withdrawal” or “unforeseeable emergency” loan.

Whether this is possible or a good idea will have to do with your particular plan, your assumed job security, your ability to pay it off, and whether you want to disclose to your employer your infertility (because you may need to prove you have a need, which may require sharing your medical bills with HR).

There are many possible downsides to borrowing from your retirement funds, including getting hit with expensive withdrawal penalties, needing to pay taxes on the borrowed funds, and, if you lose your job before paying the loan back, needing to repay the loan to your employer within 60 days.

In some cases, you can borrow the money without paying fees or penalties. Speak to a knowledgeable financial advisor before taking any retirement based loan, as navigating the rules is tricky territory.

One very important caveat to know: even in cases where the penalty fee is waived, your expenses may need to occur in the same year you borrow the money. So, if you borrow money in 2016 to pay off credit card debt acquired from fertility treatment in 2015, you may end up penalized, all because the medical need didn’t occur in the year of the withdrawal.

  • Eight Ways to Avoid the 10% Early Withdrawal Fee on Your IRA
  • 5 Things You Should Know About 401(k) Loans  
  • 401k Loans and 401k Hardship Withdrawals

More on affording fertility treatment costs:

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Berkson, Mindy. “Can Your Retirement Account Fund Your IVF Treatment?” American Fertility Association.

Johnson, Emma. “Ten Financing Options for Cosmetic Surgery.”

Silver-Greenberg, Jessica. “In Vitro a Fertile Niche for Lenders.” The Wall Street Journal.

Silver-Greenberg, Jessica. “When Your Doctor Sells Credit Cards.” The Wall Street Journal.

The Hastings Center (2013, December 9). Marketing loans for fertility treatments raises ethical concerns. ScienceDaily. ​­ /releases/2013/12/131209132516.htm

Wu AK, Odisho AY, Washington SL 3rd, Katz PP, Smith JF. “Out-of-Pocket Fertility Patient Expense: Data from a Multicenter Prospective Infertility Cohort.” J Urol. 2013 Sep 7. pii: S0022-5347(13)05330-5. doi: 10.1016/j.juro.2013.08.083. [Epub ahead of print]

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