A number of fertility clinics hold contests where couples can enter to win a free IVF cycle. These contests usually require entrants to create a video, write an essay, poem, or story; or compose a blog post centered on a particular theme. Or, the contest may ask for entrants to share their story in an emotionally compelling way. Then, winners may be selected by public vote, the fertility clinic’s staff, a committee not associated with the clinic, or some combination of these.
Other IVF contests are more like a lottery. For example, attendance to a particular event (like an informational session at a clinic or a fertility trade show) would get you an entry. Then, a winner is chosen at random.
IVF Contests and Ethics
There’s some debate on whether these contests -- especially those that ask infertile couples to submit their stories -- are ethical. Some say that IVF contests exploit vulnerable infertile couples, using their stories as fodder for marketing campaigns.
Supporters of IVF contests argue that they offer couples who couldn’t otherwise afford an IVF cycle a chance to conceive that they might not have had otherwise. They also claim that the stories they share as part of the contest are forms of infertility advocacy. They get infertile people “out of the closet” and spreading infertility awareness.
If you’re considering entering an IVF contest, the only thing that matters is your opinion on these contests. If you don’t have any ethical issues with the idea of an IVF contest, and you’re aware and comfortable with the fact that your story will be used to market a particular fertility clinic or product, then you should go ahead and give an IVF contest a try.
Before you do, here are some guidelines to keep in mind.
Cautiously Share Personal Information Online
Before you share information online, make absolutely sure the contest is reputable. Sadly, there are people who have intentionally scammed infertile couples. Scam IVF contests have been used to commit identity theft and steal money via “entry fees.”
Questions to consider include:
- Is this contest connected to a known and reputable fertility clinic? These contests are typically created to market a particular clinic or fertility product. If you can't tell obviously who's benefiting from the contest, it's likely a scam.
- Does the website look professional? Is the contest site directly connected to a known fertility clinic’s website?
- How did you find out about the contest? If it was through a spammy looking post in a fertility forum, or a fishy looking email, proceed with great caution.
- Are you being asked for personal information? Asking for an email address or phone number is normal. If the contest asks for your credit card or bank information, walk away!
If you have any doubts, call up the clinic said to be associated with the contest and ask first if the contest is legit. Also, make sure you check that the fertility clinic involved in the contest is real (and not an imaginary "clinic" invented to scam people).
Carefully Consider the Fertility Clinic and Treatment Being Offered
Just because it’s a free cycle doesn’t mean you should take it blindly. Look into the fertility clinic just as carefully as you would if you were paying yourself. Is this a clinic you would have considered if they weren’t offering a free cycle?
Also, be sure that the treatment being offered is appropriate for you.
If you need full IVF, and the contest is only for mini-IVF, then you shouldn’t enter. If you need a surrogate or gamete donor, make sure the contest includes these kinds of cycles. (The contest will probably not pay for the surrogate or gamete donation costs, but the basic IVF may still be “free.”)
This should be explicitly laid out in the rules, but if you’re unsure, call the contest sponsors and find out what’s covered, what’s not, and what you can pay for on top of the free cycle, if you win.
Make Sure You Qualify
Do you need to live in a particular area? Are there age limits on the contest? (Some don't allow women over 40 to enter.) Are you allowed to enter if you have insurance coverage for part of the IVF treatment?
Some contests may also limit what kind of infertility you have. You may be disqualified from entering if you already have any children at home or have secondary infertility.
Make Sure You Can Afford to Win
When clinics offer a “free IVF cycle,” they rarely mean all the IVF expenses. Perhaps it would be more honest to call it a discounted IVF cycle.
Some contests cover more expenses than others. Fees you may need to pay yourself include:
- Travel expenses, which can really add up if the clinic isn’t nearby
- Preliminary testing and consultation
- Fertility drugs, which can add up to thousands of dollars in some cases
- Anesthesia costs
- Anything that isn’t considered “basic” IVF, including assisted reproductive technologies like ICSI or assisted hatching
- Monitoring of the cycle, which is sometimes covered, sometimes not
- Embryo freezing and storage, which may or may not be covered by the contest, or may be covered for only a limited time
Make sure you would have the money to cover what isn’t included, otherwise you may need to forfeit your prize.
Also be sure that what you win won’t cost you more than paying on your own. If the clinic isn’t nearby, travel expenses and time off work may make the “free” cycle not worth it.
Make Sure You're Comfortable with Your Experience Being Publicized
Carefully read the fine print when entering. Even if you don’t win, your entry may be used to market the clinic.
If you do win, you may be required to speak to the media. You may need to agree to being photographed or videotaped before, during, or after your IVF treatment. Very emotional moments may be filmed and shared publicly.
Are you ok with this?
Make Sure to Follow the Rules
How disappointing would it be to work hard on a video or essay entry only to be disqualified? Read the rules and regulations carefully. Make sure you meet video length and essay word count requirements.
You may be required to mention the name of the clinic in your video or essay. Yes, that’s a marketing aspect of the contest!
Also, make sure you submit your entry properly. You may be asked to email your entry, or post it on a blog, or write it as a comment on Facebook or their blog. You may need to upload your video to a particular website. Every contest is different, so read those rules!
One last note: if you don’t win, it doesn’t mean your story wasn’t heartbreaking enough. Just about every infertility story is heartbreaking. Unfortunately, not everyone can win.
Try not to take the loss personally. If not winning would add significantly to your heartbreak, it may be best not to enter.
More on IVF:
- IVF Treatment Step by Step
- How Much Does IVF Cost?
- Is Crowdfunding IVF For You?
- Crowdfunding IVF or Adoption: The Basics
- Tips for Successful Crowdfunding of IVF or Adoption
- Becoming Parents via Surrogacy
- IUI Treatment: Costs, Success Rates
- Fertility Treatment With Gonadotropins
- Fertility Treatment Stress: How to Survive Your IVF, IUI, or Other Fertility Treatment Cycle
- How to Cope When Trying to Conceive Overwhelms You
2013 ‘I Believe’ Video Journal Project – Dr. Sher Explains. Sher Fertility Clinics for Reproductive Medicine. Accessed November 11, 2013. http://haveababy.com/fertility-information/ivf-authority/2013-believe-video-journal-project/
Rochman, Bonnie. Family Matters: IVF Video Contest for Couples Seeking Baby: Cruel or Fair? TIME.com. Accessed November 11, 2013. http://healthland.time.com/2012/06/19/fertile-ground-couples-compete-for-free-ivf-exploitation-or-generosity/