As a fertility doctor, I get excited when I see headlines like this one from TheWall Street Journal last February, The Latest Way to Woo Workers: Fertility Benefits.
Articles like this signal that companies are finally getting it. There is a sea of change in our most significant life events. We are investing in our careers, getting married later, and because of this the age of parenthood is rising. In 2017, for the first time in history, more women in their 30s than their 20s had children.
The National Infertility Association reports that cost is the number one reason families struggling with infertility don’t seek treatment.
And yet, our biology has stayed the same, and your fertility is fleeting. Because of this social trend and biological reality, more than 8 million babies have been born worldwide from IVF, and infertility is now the third largest worldwide public health concern. This modern reality is why it’s so important that everyone, no matter your financial status, sexual orientation or marital status should have access to resources to understand your fertility, and to the advanced reproductive technology that will let you test, track, and preserve your fertility or conceive your family.
In 2018 over 250 U.S. employers now offer their employees fertility benefits. In many cases, this includes coverage of egg freezing and IVF. Technology companies, including Facebook, Pinterest, and Spotify are leading the way by offering $100,000 for four cycles of IVF and preimplantation screening. But other industries are also waking up to the importance of assisting single women, heterosexual or LBGTQ couples in conceiving.
The consulting, consumer, fashion, and banking industries are next in line with the number of companies offering support for fertility preservation like egg freezing, storage, implantation via IVF and surrogacy. For example, global consulting firms Bain and BCG offer unlimited IVF coverage. Chanel also now provides unlimited fertility coverage, and Bank of America is one of the only banks to provide unlimited IVF coverage. In the nonprofit world, The Gates Foundation leads the way by covering $100,000 for four cycles of IVF and preimplantation genetic screening.
When Cost is a Barrier to Fertility Treatment
All of this is great news if you work for one of these 250 companies in these industries, but what if you don’t?
I get the question from people that come to see me all of the time. They want to preserve their fertility or need to undergo IVF treatment, but the cost is a real and significant barrier for them. I get it and want you to know that you’re not alone. The National Infertility Association reports that cost is the number one reason families struggling with infertility don’t seek treatment.
Before you leave your company in search of better benefits, or worse, you decide not to pursue the option of preserving your fertility or starting a family with the help of IVF, I want to offer up six essential considerations.
1. Stay hopeful and know that change is coming, and it may be at your company too.
Sixty-six percent of employers plan to offer fertility benefits by 2019, according to the advisory firm Willis Towers Watson after surveying 490 companies with a total of 7 million workers. Additionally, in May 2018, Senator Cory Booker introduced a bill to Congress that would require health insurance companies to cover infertility treatments.
Finally, government leaders and companies are understanding the changes in the trajectory of our life choices. They are finally listening to the fact that hard-working Americans who want to retain their careers while also building a family or preserving their eggs could benefit from both government and industry support.
Could this include your company? Maybe, and you could be the tipping point. What do I mean?
2. Make a case to your company’s HR department on why fertility benefits make good business sense.
I tell prospective patients all of the time to pitch fertility benefits to their company. Educate yourself and help your company keep you around while attracting the best new co-workers. I’ve had patients negotiate to have a fertility bonus paid for up to $10,000 to spend on a fertility treatment or egg freezing. There are many ways you can get creative with a way to receive fertility treatments—and it doesn’t have to mean leaving your company. A good company will want to know what you have to say, why it matters to you and understand the value of this exchange to keep a valuable employee.
3. Recognize that spending on your fertility preservation today is an investment in your future.
I tell my patients all of the time that spending $10–15K in their 20s or early 30s is way more useful than spending over $100,000 when they are in their 40s.
What do I mean? I have countless patients in their 40s who come to me wanting children. In many cases, it’s because they’ve focused on their career or just haven’t considered children until now for a variety of reasons. For some patients, it’s because they haven’t found the right partner or met their partner later. For others, they’ve delayed pregnancy because of a focus on work or other passions like traveling. The hard-to-face fact remains—they have missed out on the most fertile years in their 20s and early 30s.
Had they known that they could have gotten a fertility screening to understand their future conception prospects or frozen and stored eggs or embryos than they no doubt would make those choices. I’m going to be honest: I help patients in their 40s who are having a hard time conceiving grapple with a lot of regrets. I don’t want you to this happen to you.
An Investment in Your Future Family
Here’s another way to think about it. Focusing on your fertility health and investing in preserving your fertility is similar to paying college tuition. If you give it too much thought, it sounds crazy. You are spending thousands of dollars on the investment in your future self, yet you have no idea how you’ll use that investment down the road. The same is true for fertility health. What you spend today can set you up for living your best future life. However, there is one main difference between comparing the cost of college to fertility health screening and preservation. While you can go to school anytime and at any age, this is not the case for your fertility. Your fertility declines with age. Doctors and science can’t stop that, but we can give you the tools to understand it and preserve it.
4. Consider a low-interest loan to pay for fertility preservation.
Look, you’re not alone if you have financial concerns about fertility treatment. Because so many people have these concerens, several companies have emerged to help ease the financial burden.
I’m not going to instruct you how to manage your finances, but I will encourage you to get creative and do your homework on how you can fund fertility preservation or IVF.
5. Become part of the fertility sharing economy and get your egg freezing paid for in exchange for donating half.
I recently launched the program Freeze and Share which does just that.
The program was born out of a desire to offer younger people a way to preserve their fertility (egg freezing and storage) without the financial burden. At the same time, I had older patients in their 40s or same-sex couples who didn’t have access to healthy eggs and who needed to find an egg donor.
The lightbulb went off. I thought, what if I could put these two groups in touch? What if the couples without their healthy eggs could pay someone to donate their eggs. But the Freeze and Share program goes a step further by helping the egg donor freeze and preserve some of her eggs for her own future fertility needs. I get emotional talking about the matches we’ve made in the program’s infancy. It’s truly a special gift to see this type of exchange. (See The Biggest Loser star Ali Vincent’s story).
If you’re open to the idea of an individual or couple covering the costs of getting your eggs frozen in exchange for donating half of them so they can start a family, then this program may be for you.
It’s more than a transaction; it’s a relationship and emotional bond that you’d be forming with who you are supporting. For many of the families, their egg donor ends up becoming a new member of their family. (See article, The Extended Donor Family: It’s All About Connection) And again, they’d be supporting you too financially by making fertility preservation a reality.
6. Start small and get a fertility screening with my Egg Whisperer Fertility Awareness panel.
The age of parenthood continues to rise, and our biological clocks aren’t adapting to it anytime soon. So what needs to change? Our access to understanding our fertility and our options for taking some action based on what we learn.
Even if your company doesn’t cover the cost of the big stuff (egg freezing and IVF), you can still take a simple step today by getting your fertility screened to learn about your conception potential and potential roadblocks.
Get an Egg Whisperer Fertility Awareness panel to know what your baseline fertility levels are. You can live anywhere, and I will make sure you can get this test sent directly to you. I also always review the results with you over a virtual video chat.
Your fertility benefits are worth the fight. If your company doesn’t offer them, I don’t want that to stop you from finding a way to protect your precious fertility resource.
You can also catch more of me and topics like this through the Egg Whisperer Show. The episodes are live-streamed on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter and on Wednesdays at 7 PM PST. Subscribe to the podcasttoo!