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I'm sure this has been asked many, many times before, but as we're saving up to start TTC, I'm wondering how much of that money needs to be spent on sperm alone. My wife, who will be the gestating parent, is 26 and will be 27 when we TTC. She's super healthy and her family has a long history of mega fertility. :) We're going to try the simplest procedures first--basically, the equivalent of a turkey baster. (Not ACTUALLY a turkey baster, but you get the gist.) I'm wondering, how many samples should we buy? What's the best practice?
 

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Hey!

I'm probably not tons of help since I'm still in the middle of a TWW without a successful pregnancy yet, but I'm on my 3rd official try (would be 5th but one was interrupted by a cyst and another by random mystery bleeding). The sperm I get generally costs about $800 total (including shipping). There are obviously additional costs if you do the insemination at a doctor's office and if you take fertility meds, but the sperm has generally been the most expensive thing (annoyingly).

Also, I might suggest that your wife get an ultrasound if she hasn't yet (if she has, ignore me!) because I went into this process very confident that I was healthy as a horse and super fertile. I had my periods every 28 days on the dot, they only lasted about 3 days, and the only issue (so I thought) was a heavy first day and decently bad cramps. I also have an extremely fertile family. Four of my cousins are "miracle babies" that were conceived after doctors told my aunts that getting pregnant was impossible- so my aunts went off BC. Needless to say, being a healthy 28-year-old with such a fertile family, I really didn't think I'd have a problem. So, we went to an RE for a "check things out" ultrasound and the doctor found a huge cyst on my left ovary that she highly suspected was caused by endometriosis. After one try with unmedicated IUI and lots of chatting with the doctor and my spouse, I decided to opt for surgery before trying again (doctor said I'd need it within the next couple years anyway to prevent the cyst from bursting so I figured now's as good a time as any). During surgery they found a lot more stuff- one of my tubes was completely blocked and the other wasn't looking great and it was everywhere- stage 4. She said I'd have lost a kidney if I'd waited too much longer for surgery. Now I'm on IUI #3 and the doctor is warning me that there's a very good chance it won't work at all, but we're doing our best. We're opting for 5 tries and then focusing our attention on adoption.

Anyway, long story short, this journey can be full of surprises.
 

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The price of a vial varies depending on the bank. If you are doing it yourself at home, ICI vials are usually cheaper than IUI vials. We used The Sperm Bank of California and their costs are about $550 and $650 per vial (ICI vs. IUI). If you are doing ICI, I would recommend doing at least 2 inseminations per cycle just to make sure you cover the fertile time. It can be difficult to pinpoint ovulation if you are doing it yourself, so you want to cover a window of time because frozen sperm only lives about 24 hours. We bought our vials with each cycle because that was when we had the cash. Some banks give you a discount if you purchase a certain # of vials at a time. That might be worth it if you have the cash saved up. If you get pregnant faster, you can save the other ones for a sibling but you will have to pay for storage. Also, remember to save all of your receipts. Sperm, shipping and any related medical expenses are tax deductible.
 

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We used a known donor, which means that overall it was a bit cheaper than using a sperm bank donor, but there was a lot of money that we had to pay up front. We decided to store up 6 vials of ICI (two vials per try at home by ourselves for three months) and 6 vials of IUI (same, but with a midwife coming to our apartment). We started the known donor process with the cryobank last January, but the vials weren't ready until June. Of course, I didn't realize that my wife's 26-day cycle meant that we used up the ICI vials by August but hadn't booked the midwife for the first IUI try until September, so we had to take a month off! D'oh. In October, we started the process to get 14 more IUI vials (7 months' worth), because even though we've done all the preliminary paperwork and genetic screening for our donor, it's still a 3 to 4 month process for vial collection, quarantine, and processing. Nice that the second batch wasn't needed, but now at least we've got them in the bank in case we want to have another kid at some point!

We wound up conceiving on the third IUI. From what I've read, chances per cycle for frozen ICI are about 5% to 7% if the timing is perfect and there are no reproductive issues, but chances per cycle for frozen IUI are about 18% to 20% under the same conditions, so you might want to figure that into your math. People have definitely succeeded with frozen ICI, but it seems to be the exception rather than the rule.
 

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This is just such an impossible variable to know in advance. Some people who are veryyyyy on top of charting and fertile signs and may get lucky on the first go, but for most people it will take several cycles. If you have any fertility issues or timing issues, it will take even longer.

Since it's impossible to plan, my partner and I decided to budget for 6 months of inseminations, with the understanding that if we didn't achieve pregnancy by that time, we would revisit our budgets, our tactics, and our plans.

I did two cycles of ICI at home, with 2 vials the first cycle and 3 vials the second cycle. The third cycle, my partner performed an IUI on me at home, we used 2 vials. We conceived on that cycle. In retrospect I wish I had just started with IUI and not spent $1800 on those ICI vials. But all in all we were extremely fortunate.
 

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We did AI with a known donor. Actually two known donors... the first didn't have semen testing done, but we did three tries with him (just once for one cycles, twice for two cycles) without success. Our second donor had gotten semen analysis (which all sperm bank donors get) and had come back with extremely high fertility. Worked the first time with him. So... either four cycles or one cycle, depending on how you count, for us. I'm 36. They say it takes the average healthy ttc person under 35 six cycles.
 

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My kids are 7-1/2 and 9, so it's been a while, but we always ordered 2-4 vials at a time. It seemed like a good compromise between having to order all the time and stocking up too much and ending up with a surplus. As long as you're not absolutely fixed on one certain donor, you don't have to worry about getting enough all at once to cover however many cycles you might have to try. We tried for a lonnggggggg time with my partner, who has PCOS, then I started trying too and got pregnant my 1st (miscarriage) and 4th tries at age 40. Getting vials for the first child wasn't such a big deal, but after the first we really wanted to try for a sibling with the same donor so at that point we bought 6.

You just can't know. We spent $10,000 total getting one of us successfully pregnant the first time, and <$500 more for the second. Averages are helpful, but they're just that.
 
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