In 2012, after trying for a year to conceive and experiencing two early miscarriages, I was diagnosed with infertility. Over the next four years, I would have two more miscarriages, undergo in vitro fertilization (IVF) seven times and give birth to stillborn twins before finally having my daughter Aurora last year.
Uncomfortable yet? That's precisely the problem.
My story is hardly unique. One in eight U.S. couples experience infertility; and unlike the lack of diversity at companies nationwide, fertility is something that impacts the personal lives of both women and men and every ethnicity and socioeconomic class. No workplace is immune.
Like other medical conditions, infertility drains employees emotionally, physically, mentally and financially. And, right now, many of these employees are not receiving the support they need from their employers.
The result isn't pretty: A survey by my company of 1,000 U.S. employees with infertility found 47 percent saying they had not been open about their struggles at work. Of those, only 29 percent felt supported by their employers.
Taking a deeper look at these "silent" employees in particular, here's what happens when they don't feel supported in the workplace: They leave (29 percent), actively seek or are open to new job opportunities (27 percent) or, potentially worst of all, stay unhappy in their current positions (32 percent).
And although infertility is often viewed as a "women's issue," another survey, of 1,312 respondents, by the Reproductive Medicine Associates of New Jersey actually found that more men than women wanted to leave their employer.
Though the statistics look grim, it's possible to avoid this poor employee experience. Luckily, one solution is an easy one: Normalize the conversation surrounding infertility. According to our survey, struggling employees would feel more supported if those around them learned more about infertility and how to talk empathetically about it.
But removing the stigma of infertility, especially in the workplace, is only the beginning. And because it's National Infertility Awareness Week (April 23-29), there's no time like the present. Take a page from the following 11 companies helping employees facing infertility:
Activision Blizzard: interactive entertainment company
Headquarters: Santa Monica, Calif.
In partnership with a fertility clinic with locations across the country, the company offers employees access to the latest technology and protocols, to optimize their chances of conceiving a healthy baby.
Confidential access to Ovia Health, a fertility and pregnancy-management program
“We believe benefits such as these provide a lot of value and are the right thing to do for our employees,” Milt Ezzard, senior director of global benefits, told me. “They also make sound fiscal sense since they may help avoid the high costs associated with caring for complicated pregnancies and deliveries.”
And it's making an impact. One employee, who wished to remain anonymous, recently shared: "My wife and I were surprised to hear that we had some coverage for infertility this past year. We are happy to say it helped us out greatly and we are now expecting our first child.”
Answer Lab: user experience consulting
Locations: New York City and San Francisco
One-time $10,000 stipend to help employees defray the costs associated with procedures and processes for becoming parents
After her own struggles with infertility, CEO of AnswerLab Amy Buckner Chowdhry wanted to make sure her employees didn't have to go through the same situation alone. By offering a lump sum of money, the company gives employees the freedom to use it in a way that fits their situation.
“Having waited until later in life to start reproductive planning, I wanted the company to offer a resource for any employees who want to explore egg freezing or other options that would enable them to increase their chances of success when they are ready to start families,” Chowdry told me.
DaVita: healthcare company
Testing to determine the cause of infertility, as well as treatment services to potentially restore fertility
Lifetime maximum of $10,000 (subject to deductible and coinsurance) for prescription drugs and medical procedures, including in vitro fertilization, GIFT, ZIFT and other artificial insemination
Jennifer Scharff, senior director of benefits at DaVita Kidney Care, a division of parent company DaVita, said that the company surveyed employees in 2016 asking what type of benefits not currently offered were most important to them. Fertility benefits was one of the suggested areas for improvement, which aligned with DaVita's focus on a family-friendly culture.
“We’re proud to now offer this benefit enhancement to our teammates,” Scharff said.
Domo: business-performance software
Headquarters: American Fork, Utah
Access to Progyny, a concierge fertility benefit
Eligible employees can receive $30,000 in medical and $10,000 in pharmaceutical benefits, including: diagnostic tests, ultrasounds, IVF cycle management, retrieval, ICSI, embryo assessment and transfer and egg freezing consultation
Surrogacy and adoption consultation
Advice from fertility nurses, geneticists and embryologists
“By and large, [most of our employees] are starting to build their families and buy homes, and so that has driven the kinds of benefits we offer,” Cathy Donahoe, vice president of HR, told me. “We wanted to expand our offering to include employees that had experienced fertility challenges, which is why we specifically added Progyny to our benefits package.”
One of Domo’s business consultants, Jarrick Tilby, shared his experience with the Progyny benefit with me. He said he and his spouse accessed the full end-to-end fertility services, ending with IVF, which unfortunately did not result in a pregnancy. They are getting ready to start a second cycle, which combined with the first, totals about $40,000.
“I just want to reiterate how amazing the process has been and how unbelievably thankful we are for the opportunity to use this benefit,” he said.
EY: assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services
Financial assistance of up to $25,000 per family for adoption and advanced reproductive technology procedures (ART) for surrogacy and medically-necessary egg and sperm freezing
“As the definition of ‘family’ and traditional gender roles at work and home continues to evolve, we needed to make sure that our benefits were evolving, too,” Carolyn Slaski, vice chair of talent at EY Americas in New York City, said. “By equalizing ART benefits for same sex and opposite sex couples, we wanted to enable our people -- regardless of how they bring a child into this world -- to have the flexibility they need to manage their family demands, while continuing to experience dynamic career opportunities and development."
Gusto: payroll, benefits and HR software
Headquarters: San Francisco
First startup in California to introduce health insurance covering fertility treatments for single women and same-sex couples by eliminating the need for a medical diagnosis of infertility. The plan initially covers about $20,000 worth of treatment.
"When it came to fertility benefits, we realized a lot of the rules out there were antiquated,” Katie Evans-Reber, head of HR, said. “It was a hurdle my wife Amy and I faced when trying for a second child, and we wanted to shake things up -- giving people a space to be their authentic selves at work.”
Rackspace: managed cloud provider
Headquarters: San Antonio, Texas
Up to $10,000 lifetime maximum for infertility medical treatments and prescriptions
Counseling, relationship support and legal services
“Fertility benefits give our Rackers some peace of mind during a time that can be difficult both personally and professionally,” Sharon Noneman, director of benefits, told me. “As a company, we want to ensure we are supporting our Rackers to the best of our ability through tough and unexpected times.”
Jackie Campbell, a technical account manager at Rackspace, shared her personal story with me. “My husband and I were faced with infertility due to endometriosis with a low ovarian reserve. We were told we only had a 3 percent chance of conceiving. Rackspace helped relieve the financial stress of undergoing the treatments.”
Phone2Action: digital advocacy platform
Headquarters: Arlington, Va.
$15,000 allowance for fertility treatments, covering both men and women
“We want to send a message to our team members that their happiness is important to us, and that we understand what they are going through,” co-founder Ximena Hartsock told me. “The pain that comes from infertility is similar to the grief over someone dying but it is worst because it is a recurring grief. We want to show our employees that their journey does not have to be lonely anymore and that we are here to support them emotionally and financially.”
Ultimate Software: human capital management software
Headquarters: Weston, Fla.
100 percent employer-paid health insurance, which includes coverage for IVF and IUI fertility treatments and extends to same-sex couples, spouses and part-time employees
“It’s been our long-standing commitment to cover 100 percent of healthcare premiums (medical, dental and vision) for all our full-time employees and their families, including same-sex married couples,” Vivian Maza, chief people officer, said. “This new coverage for infertility treatment is part of other recent steps we’ve taken to support our parents and mothers and fathers to-be.”
Zillow: real estate and rental marketplace
Coverage for infertility services is available under all healthcare plans
“Having comprehensive parental benefits like fertility care gives our employees several options when it comes to family planning, empowering them to make decisions based on their familes' needs,” Dan Spaulding, vice president of people and culture, said.
One employee in Lincoln, Neb., told me he used Zillow’s adoption assistance benefit soon after it was announced. He and his wife traveled to China on his paternity leave to adopt their third child. They used adoption assistance to offset some of the costs associated with the process.
Zynga: web and mobile game company
Headquarters: San Francisco
$20,000 lifetime benefit for U.S.-based employees offered through the company's health insurance provider, covering IVF, IUI and egg-freezing
“At Zynga, we aspire to be a workplace of choice for women in gaming. We entertain tens of millions of women every day with our games, and it’s important to us that our teams and culture reflect the diversity of our players,” Renee Jackson, vice president of HR, told me.
Zynga employee Erin Smith-Cheng shared how going to the doctor felt like "a second job" while she searched for the reason she and her husband could not conceive.
“Amid the frustration of chasing a diagnosis, I was able to have nearly 100 percent of all of my tests and appointments covered by Zynga’s health insurance, including using our infertility benefit," she told me. "In addition, our flexible work hours and unlimited vacation policy enabled me to work from home and take time off as I went through test after test.”
Because its pregnancy and parental leave policy, which includes infertility support, is widely known and used at Zynga, Smith-Cheng felt comfortable and supported at work.
“For many people, infertility is a taboo topic and I truly think that it’s through supportive work environments, like I was able to experience at Zynga, that we can begin having a more open and informed dialogue about how to support those dealing with infertility,” she told me.