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How to crowdfund a pregnancy

Tawana Ashcraft and her husband, Travis, and their children. The couple, who have children from previous relationships, are hoping to have their first child together. (Family photo)
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Tawana Ashcraft and her husband, Travis, hope to do an IVF cycle later this year. But paying for the pricey shots and fertility doctor’s visits won’t be easy. She runs a beauty salon in tiny Poplar Bluff, Mo. He manages a book and video store. So when their doctor told them the procedure could cost $18,000 and wasn’t covered by insurance, with no guarantee of success, Tawana was floored.

“That was very stressful,” she says.

They cut expenses. They made plans for a loan. And they turned to GoFundMe, an online crowdfunding site. Tawana set up a fundraising appeal for $9,000. Donations trickled in for $10 and $20, mostly from friends, inching them closer to their goal.

The Ashcraft’s attempt to crowdfund a baby — instead of a band or a business, the usual crowdfunding targets — is part of what GoFundMe calls “a recent upward trend” in the number of people looking for help footing the bill for fertility treatments. The site, which takes a 5 percent cut of donations, is among a short roster of crowdfunding places — another is Indiegogo — that focus on more personal projects.

A recent search on GoFundMe revealed more than 600 campaigns related to in-vitro fertilization and hundreds of campaigns related to infertility.  A couple near Detroit raised nearly $4,500 for their IVF attempt. A young couple from Albuquerque raised $3,700. And a couple in Mission Viejo, Calif., raised just under $300.

Infertility can be a struggle that people prefer to keep private, and many of the couples on GoFundMe write of working through their concerns about going public with such a personal issue.

The Ashcrafts, who have been trying for five years to have a child, confronted infertility after Tawana suffered two ectopic pregnancies. They have raised $210 so far. Not much. Still, Tawana is not dissuaded by IVF’s lofty price tag.

“I can’t say it’s outrageous,” she says, “if it works.”