Ep 65: Finding Support for Your Fertility Journey with Julie Hunt of Progyny
Fertility Forward Episode 65:
Although rich in knowledge, many fertility professionals simply cannot relate to the lived experience of the complexities of a fertility journey. On today’s episode, we speak with fertility specialist and business development director at fertility benefits management company, Progyny, Julie Hunt, who suffers from PCOS and has been through two egg-freezing cycles. She shares her background and the unique role she has taken up at Progyny. We consider the three factors that accompany infertility; financial, physical, and emotional stress, and Julie tells us how Progyny serves its people by providing support for their fertility journey along with their overall wellbeing. Next, we dive into the educational components of a fertility journey and the importance of factoring in all elements of fertility as a service provider. Julie walks us through her decision to freeze her eggs twice and lets us know how her own experience has enriched her work, highlighting the importance of access to egg freezing for transgender patients. She shares her struggles with PCOS and why she switched from client advocacy to business development at Progyny, and finishes up by telling us why she is so passionate about the inclusive, life-changing work that Progyny does. We hope you join us today for a wealth of knowledge on fertility benefits from someone who is truly in the know!
Rena: Hi everyone. We are Rena and Dara, and welcome to Fertility Forward. We are part of the Wellness Team at RMA of New York, a fertility clinic affiliated with Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Our fertility forward podcast brings together advice for medical professionals, mental health specialists, wellness experts, and patients because knowledge is power and you are your own best advocate.
Rena: Julie Hunt is the Director of Business Development at Progyny. She has been working in the fertility industry for the last eight years. She started her career as a patient care advocate at UCA, a fertility specialist that helps a patient navigate their fertility and family building journey. Through her experience, Julie was able to expand her role with Progyny and transition into business development. As a director today, she leverages her PCA experience and passion for helping individuals achieve their dreams of having a family by helping employers understand infertility and comprehensively cover fertility treatment as part of their healthcare benefit. Julie was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome, PCOS, in March of 2018. Since then she's undergone two egg freezing cycles to preserve her fertility and future family building needs. As a proud sister of a gay brother, she passionately supports and empowers the LGBTQ+ community and is an avid advocate for inclusivity and equality. Julie, thanks for being on today.
Julie: Thanks for having me. I’m excited to be on!
Rena: Yay! Thank you so much. I think it sounds like similar to Dara and I, you have your own kind of personal story and how you got involved in your work.
Julie: Yes. So I originally started at Progyny, so I'm actually, it's, it's interesting my background. So I'm actually the second longest standing Progyny employee before we even became Progyny so I actually helped to build out this benefit that's now being adopted and implemented across, you know, leading employer organizations throughout the United States and then a different background piece for me as, as Dara had alluded to is that I was the first patient care advocate at Progyny. So my role at Progyny is a little unique in the sense that I have, you know, worked with members firsthand, I have my own personal experience and then I really leveraged that experience to take that to employers so that they could offer a comprehensive coverage.
Rena: That's amazing.
Rena: So did you get inspired by a lack that you found when you were going through it and a need and then wanting to fill that?
Julie: So my inspiration really started when I started as an intern back in the day here where I was just really interested in women's health and then just like reproductive, you know, infertility, the topic was very interesting to me. I didn't know a lot about it. So I was like, this is something that I think I could really get into and I want to understand it more so that I can really apply my skills and see how we can improve this area. And then working for a startup, you know, we didn't know what we were going to do or that we were going to be the first, you know, publicly traded fertility benefits management company in the US but we had an idea and we were hoping to take that to the next level. So, you know, it was just working directly in a direct to consumer fertility model before we became Progyny, that really made me realize that there was a need and there was a lack of coverage for comprehensive fertility treatment in the US that really resulted in me being like, we can build something better.
Rena: Tell our listeners who don’t know what is Progyny?
Julie: Yeah. So Progyny is a fertility benefits management company and essentially what we are is we're like fertility insurance, right? So employers elect us, we integrate with the client's medical insurance carrier to administer our benefit and that gives employees coverage to in vitro fertilization, artificial insemination, egg freezing services, donor tissue, et cetera, egg freezing. of course, because I, as a Progyny member have access to egg freezing services, which is, how I was able to freeze my eggs.
Dara: Oh, wow.
Rena: How do you know if your company has Progyny because to me, and I'm sure to Dara, it sounds like why wouldn't your company have this? We all know that unfortunately cost is still a barrier to care for so many people. So how do you know if your company has a Progyny?
Julie: So typically that information is going to be listed on your benefits internet website, or in your HR department if they have some sort of online resource for you, or you have a benefits package. You can go there and see what coverage is being offered for infertility or fertility treatment, whether it's through Progyny, hopefully it is, or through your medical healthcare insurance, or if it's not located anywhere that you can access it online, you can reach out to your HR team directly.
Dara: Are the services for like national or even global? Like who do you reach? Is it people just in America?
Julie: Yeah so right now, we're based in the United States and we're servicing employers in their US population. So we're, our main focus has been in the US but you know, we'll see what future developments come from that.
Dara: Of course being Canadian, I'm like, we need this in Canada.
Rena: I get a lot of patients who they come to me and they say, you know, my company doesn't have benefits, but I know that there were the new laws enacted in New York, or I've heard about Progyny, but I'm really nervous to go to my HR because I don't want them to know that I'm trying to conceive because then I'm worried that they're going to judge me or pass me over for a promotion or, you know, whatever it may be. So do you have any advice for someone who's in that position? They want to go to their HR. They want to advocate. They know that their benefits could be better. There is a Progyny, they want their HR to know about it and explore, but how to kind of do that in what feels comfortable and not like they're potentially compromising their career?
Julie: Yeah. I think that that's a really great and critical question for patients. I would say the biggest recommendation I would have is you absolutely have to advocate for yourself and your needs. However you want to strategically go about doing that. Whether you want your best friend that's your colleague to ask on your behalf, or just make a general inquiry, or if you want to be as transparent to say, listen, I'm struggling with infertility. I really, really need benefits. Like what can we do about this? I heard about this amazing company called Progyny. You know, my friend has Progyny at their organization. Would we be willing to explore that? And what I can say for that, that's so important is that employers don't know what they don't know. So if they're not hearing from their employees about a need or a demand to offer this type of coverage, then they're not going to explore that initiative as they would, you know, a different type of benefit coverage such as mental health, et cetera. So by being brave and strong enough to actually reach out to your HR team, that's really, what's going to put it on their radar and make them consider exploring it. Oftentimes when I'm talking to employers who are considering the Progyny benefit and evaluating it, you know, they'll often say, listen, we're hearing a lot of noise from our employees about offering this type of coverage or offering more inclusive coverage that's not as restrictive as conventional carrier based benefits. And that's what really is going to start that conversation and the interest and the need with your employer to actually reach out. So it's scary. It's really hard. I get that. I understand, you know, not wanting to disclose that for, you know, wealth of reasons, but that is the biggest thing that's going to push your employer to evaluate expanding their coverage. What I would say for those who are afraid to be passed up for a career promotion, et cetera, number one, that's horrible for anyone to even have that fear. That's why I would say, listen, if you don't want to make the direct ask yourself, then we all have best friends at work. Like, have one of your friends who doesn't necessarily have a need to reach out on your behalf and just say, Hey, I think this is something that we should be offering or listen, I've been speaking to a lot of our employees, whether there's an employee resource group for women or LGBTQ, and it seems like there's a need and that we could be doing better in this space and have them reach out on your behalf so that you don't feel like, you know, you're exposing yourself, but, you know, with that exposing yourself for having a need, there's a really important reason that people aren't talking about fertility treatment and that's the stigmas around it. And what we're doing at Progyny is we're trying to raise awareness and erase those stigmas to make this part of a normal everyday conversation because infertility affects one in eight individuals and that's more than diabetes, depression, asthma, and cancer. But right now in the United States, for whatever reason, we're treating infertility as though it is an elective benefit. But, and I say this to my clients all the time, no one is electively choosing to be infertile. So why are we considering this an elective benefit?
Rena: I feel like you're totally speaking our language and it's so refreshing and nice to meet, you know, yet another person in this space who believes that and is fighting that, you know, for all of us, you know, as you said, it's one and eight. And I think for people to explain to an employer, like I always say, there's the triple threat, so to speak, for infertility, right? Financial, physical, and emotional stress. So if we can take financial stress off of someone, that means they can then be a better employee, not have the financial burden, they can be more present at work, not be worrying about the financial aspect. And so I really do believe it, it benefits employees and benefits companies when people have this coverage, because it can become such a huge, huge stress.
Julie: I could not agree with you more and, and really to speak to those three core components: so when an employer has, has agreed to partner with Progyny to offer these benefits, the Progyny solution addresses all three of those core needs that are a factor that play a really critical role in a member's journey. So, you know, this is an employer sponsored healthcare benefit so you will be paying your co-insurance as applicable to your in network benefit coverage. So your deductible will apply to that just like it would for any other treatment service, as well as your in network co-insurance will apply to that. So we remove that financial burden and barrier, and then when it comes to that emotional and physical aspect, that's why we do assign every single one of our members, a dedicated patient care advocate, which I was for many, many years, that's really going to be their sole point of contact throughout the duration of their fertility experience. So we're supporting them through those physical hardships. We're also, we're supporting them through these, these emotional critical hardships, right? So infertility is often the first medical crisis that a couple will endure together. So what we do and what we pride ourselves on is the fact that we're able to assist members, not only with the general navigation of the complexities of a fertility journey, but also with that emotional wellbeing. You know, I had a member called into the call center one time. I'll never forget this patient a day in my life. And she had one of the most difficult cases I've ever dealt with with a patient. And when she called me, she said that her dog was put down. And for those of us in the infertility industry though, too, like, it's not just like a loss of a pet. And, you know, for those of us that aren't necessarily struggling with infertility that do have our pets, our pets are like family, but those who specifically don't have children, those are your fur babies. And her fur baby was put down. So before we even talked about her reproductive history or her reproductive organs, we talked about, you know, the loss of her dog for 40 minutes. Right? And that's what we're there to do. Yeah.
Dara: How nice is that. I know Rena and I can definitely attest that, you know, the women and men that we work with is we, you know, people in the space needs support, and it's not necessarily fertility, always fertility related, but just giving them that time and listening and support can really help them in their whole process. For sure.
Julie: And then there's that educational component too, like for anyone who's tried to navigate infertility, whether it would be with a traditional carrier insurance, or if you're a self pay patient, you know, this is so hard to navigate and understand all this medical jargon. And, you know, if a doctor makes some sort of a treatment recommendation, do you do, is that really the treatment that you feel like you should be actually pursuing? And that's really another way that the PCA is supporting that member. So we're explaining to you every single treatment option that's available. So you call us right after your consultation and say they said all these terms, like pre-implantation genetic screening. I don't even know what that means. And that's what we do is we want to make sure that we explain it so that they understand, and we want to give them back that sense of control that's often lost with the diagnosis of infertility. We want to help you to not only advocate for you, but advocate for yourself. And we feel like there is, is so much importance when it comes to having an understanding and that knowledge so that you can confidently walk into a fertility provider's office and know what they're saying to you and understand that, and also give you a sounding board to discuss your options after you've received some sort of recommendation.
Rena: That's wonderful. I have to say, I have a lot of patients who have Progyny, and now I'm going to speak up more about your benefits and tell them because I think healthcare can be so confusing. And I think a lot of times people just don't even know what's available to them. I mean, for instance, right before this recording even I went and I grabbed my mail and I had some flyer from my health insurance that was like about, do I know my benefits? And I was looking through it. I had no idea. And I think it's so confusing. Sometimes we have these benefits, you know, that we just don't know about. You know, it's so easy to get lost in it. And especially when you're going through fertility treatment, which is super overwhelming and daunting, it sounds like you guys offer everything that we all know that a patient needs and I think it's so wonderful that people have this service available to them. And sometimes I think the hardest part is just people knowing how to, or even just picking up the phone and the first call is the hardest. But to know, there's people out there who understand, you know, again, all three of us on this recording have gone through treatment and so we get it. We've been a patient. We bring that perspective too. So we understand how hard it is and it really takes a village.
Julie: It absolutely takes a village. And it's just, you know, oftentimes even when you have coverage through a conventional traditional carrier based model, for example, you know, they're outdated. That's a lot of the frustrations. When I speak to these HR leaders, they're like, oh my God, it's not inclusive. And a lot of HR leaders don't even realize that their conventional carrier fertility benefit plan has a heteronormative diagnosis requirement of infertility that mandates that opposite sex partners must try to conceive for a set period of time. So, you know, there's one step from an employer perspective by offering a benefits, which kudos to all of those employers that are forward thinking and have taken a progressive step in the right direction to offer this coverage. But you know what, they don't often realize because not all of them are fertility patients, the vast majority are not, is they don't realize all the barriers that exist in limitations within their existing benefit plan design. And when Progyny was building out our benefit in our model, we wanted to make sure that we were taking into consideration all aspects of the fertility journey and all of the services necessary that a patient could possibly need during the course of one given treatment cycle and we ensured that we included that in our benefit offering so that members never have to make cost-based treatment compromises. We want to give our doctors a toolkit of all of the services they could possibly need to mix together that will result in the highest probability of success for our members.
Rena: So do you work only with large companies? Do you work with small companies too? Can individuals purchase or buy into a Progyny plan?
Julie: Yeah, so right now we are offered through employer sponsored health benefits only. We do not have a direct to consumer model at this time. So the size range of employers that we're working with our minimum threshold requirement is 1000 benefit enrolled employees. And then we go up beyond, you know, 300,000 group size, so larger organizations, but the smaller ones, certainly we absolutely do assist and we have solutions in place for them.
Rena: Okay. And if you do have some sort of on your website, so say someone, I want to make it as easy as possible for someone that's listening and says, yeah, I want to advocate. I'm ready. So do you have material on your website or can we direct them somewhere to give them everything they need to present to their HR? Here, we should get Progyny. This is why, here's the material.
Julie: Yeah. So we have a lot of resources on progyny.com. We have a lot of educational resources, but we also have a section called ‘Talk to HR’ where they can fill out a form on our website to say, Hey, you know, I want to advocate for comprehensive fertility treatment coverage at my organization. And we actually send them, you know, an entire pamphlet of, you know, questions to ask, things to consider, you know, how they should approach their HR team about offering benefits. And we get a lot of patients or employees that reach out and say, I don't want to reach out to my HR team, but I really, really need this benefit. Progyny, will you reach out on our behalf? And those are the ones that really touch me and motivate me just as much as the ones who were like, I want to advocate for myself because then I feel like I have a duty and a mission to at least make outreach to their HR team to say, Hey, listen, your employees are coming to us. There is a need. So we're happy to work with employees on how to advocate for it on their own and give them the material and the resources to do so, but we're also happy to make that outreach on their behalf and all they have to do is just fill out a form and ask us to do so.
Dara: That's wonderful. That's great to hear that. Cause I, I mean, that's the one thing I was thinking is, I applaud people who have the confidence and courage to go to HR or to go to their, you know, employees to speak about this. But I think it's great that you guys can also help out by sending this and kind of taking that first step for those people who are still a little bit nervous.
Julie: And to that point. I think what's really important for all of our listeners to know, is that, you know, you're struggling with this at your organization, chances are, you are not the only person that is suffering in silence, right? So as daunting as it may be to raise that courage in and actually make that outreach, you're doing something that's even bigger than you and your own journey, you're helping your colleagues to achieve their family building goals. You're being brave enough on behalf of an entire subset of a population within your organization that also needs access to these benefits. So it's really inspirational when someone does make that outreach because the impact is not just that single person. It's a lot of people at the organization that also need that care and access.
Dara: I think that's a good point. And it's interesting, you know, with myself, I had a personal experience at RMA being a patient and then working there. And it's so nice to see Julie, that you have had, you know, a working experience at Progyny, which led you to decide to freeze your eggs. How did that come about?
Julie: Yeah. So as I mentioned, I was a patient care advocate for many, many years at Progyny, before I transitioned roles over into business development. And, you know, I would work with these patients and I had a deep understanding of all of the symptoms for various conditions, et cetera. And I personally never necessarily thought that I fit the bill for any of these specific conditions, but my menstrual cycle since puberty was never, ever, ever regular, Right? But I have like atypical PCOS where I am not the standard patient that presents with the key indicators of having PCOS. So, you know, I wasn't overweight, I didn't have excessive hair growth. The only thing that really struck out to me was I had some cystic acne here and there, and my cycles were never regular, regardless of, you know, the highest level of estrogen birth control that anyone ever put me on, I would always have breakthrough bleeding. And it was just, you know, I just started to get really frustrated with it because I had breakthrough bleeding yet again. And usually what my OBGYNs historically would do is they would just change me to another brand of birth control and that would work for like maybe a year and then it would start happening again. And I was like, okay, something else is at play here. And I spoke to our SVP of member services, Lissa Klein. And I was like, do you think there's something going on here with like my ambulation? And she was like, yeah, it does. It sounds like it could even be PCOS, you should really get that checked out. So in 2018 I actually went and I had diagnostic testing, workup done, and I think it was on like day two or three of my menstrual cycle, I had about 15 follicles on both of my ovaries. And I'll never forget, you know, the doctor and the nurse in the room that were doing the trans vaginal ultrasound. We're like, whoa, that's definitely polycystic ovaries. You have PCOS. And I was like, oh my God. So like, for me, you know, for years and years here, I was advocating for fertility patients and going to bat for them and in coordinating their care and really being empathetic and understanding their own situations. And then I suddenly just found myself in the patient chair myself, and I was like, oh my God, I have to be my own PCA. Now I have to figure out what this means for me and my fiance and, you know, our future life plans and my future family building goals. And you know what I want out of my career, how this condition is affecting me. And so that's when I went to Dr. Alan Copperman at RMA. I've had a history with Alan for I'd say seven or eight years though, before progeny was even a thing we've worked closely in close collaboration with RMA of New York and Dr. Copperman. So, he's also Progyny’s medical director. So I was like, what better person could I go to, to treat me for this and assist me with that just knows me on both a personal and a professional level. And, and then we just decided, I was like, all right, let's do something about this. I'm in my late twenties, you know, I'm in my reproductive prime, I need to preserve my fertility because I have polycystic ovarian syndrome. I thankfully had coverage because I work at Progyny to access for all fertility treatment services, but they've included coverage for egg freezing and I was like, okay, let's do this, Dr. Copperman. And, and I underwent my first egg freezing cycle and I got 17 eggs from that yield. And then I, you know, got paranoid. And I was like, ah, you know, that's, that's right on the cusp of how many they recommend for having one child. What if I want two? So then I underwent a second egg freezing cycle and I have a whopping 35 eggs chilling in storage, pun intended, for future use.
Rena: Do you find that after your personal experience, that it just, it changed how you saw your work and how you related to people?
Julie: I am an empath to the nth degree aside from that. So it really didn't change my passion for my job necessarily because I've always been extremely passionate in this space, but from a patient perspective, especially injecting yourself two to three times daily for 8 to 12 days, a lot of employers don't realize what egg freezing actually entails in the physical and emotional rigors that individuals who are pursuing egg freezing must endure. So I think part of my role, especially in business development and having the privilege of speaking to employers about fertility treatment coverage is also advocating for coverage for egg freezing and sperm freezing and fertility preservation. You know, there's a lot of stigmas around that. I know both of you are well aware that, you know, people don't view it like they necessarily should. And they think that people are just going out for the heck of it and pursuing this treatment. And that's really not the case. If I didn't have a true need to do this, I wouldn't have done it. And to do it a second time and for all my IVF girls and egg freezers out there, you know, I had to mentally prepare to endure that again. And that was something that was not, it's not fun. We all know that. So I put myself through that twice and having the support of my employer and my partner and my colleagues and my friends was really critically important. And I think what it did for me in my role here at Progyny is it just helps me to better understand, you know, the hormones and the emotional and physical impact that it truly has on patients. I had it, I understood that, you know, without having that firsthand experience, but now I make sure that I'm explaining to employers every time I speak to them that this is a whole process. This is a very invasively involved process and your employees need support through that. So having that experience really only elevated me in my talk track to better educate employers on why this is so critically important. And it's not only important for your female workforce or, you know, necessarily delaying parenthood. You know, we have people who have medical reasons. Often we see that oncology is one of the biggest reasons that people preserve their fertility, but, you know, maybe you haven't found the right person and you still want to have the ability to have a biological child when the time comes and you find that partner. And that's why it's critically important to offer egg freezing. And another thing that I always tell employer clients about electing to cover that or not is the transgender community, you know, it's pride month. We need to make sure that LGBTQ and specifically transgender employees have the ability to be able to preserve their fertility prior to starting their hormonal therapy to transition genders.
Rena: Absolutely. And what about for you? The diagnosis of PCOS you know, and there, and I speak a lot, both of us have PCOS as well. And very similar. I know there is some, very similar to you, too, it’s like not super like physical presenting symptoms, kind of the more silent. And so I know for myself, and then also a lot of my patients who were diagnosed, usually I find a PCOS and endometriosis, two things that there's no real physical symptoms. Usually you don't know you have it. Then when you do get the diagnosis, it can be so upsetting and feel like, wait a second. This was in my body this whole time for all these years. And I had no idea, and now it's impacting my fertility and it can feel there's so many emotions that can go with that. Did you kind of run through any of that cycle at all too, with your diagnosis?
Julie: Absolutely. Like that was, I was mind blown on so many different levels with this diagnosis, because like here I am, I'm an advocate. I've helped hundreds, if not well, over a thousand patients in my day navigate their journeys and, you know, a) how could I have not recognized this within myself before receiving that formal diagnosis, which a lot of patients feel, and I'm sure you guys echo those same sentiments, but you know, this has been in my body. But I think one of the biggest emotions that I did feel was anger. I felt a lot of anger at OBGYN throughout the years that I've interacted with for dismissing my symptoms for not checking or looking into that more thoroughly. Not a single OBGYN since I was 16 ever even uttered the word PCOS, right? I didn't even know what it was before I entered into this career and working for this organization. So I would say probably my initial response to that was a lot of anger. And I felt like the medical healthcare system had really failed me. And that was, you know, waves of emotion that I went through. And then I felt really emotional about it to your point, Rena, like this has been a thing the whole time. We could have treated this, we could have addressed this. I didn't have to suffer through the horrific cramps that I was getting, you know, my breakthrough bleeding, you know, in terms of my atypical PCOS, a lot of PCOS patients as you're well aware, they typically don't even bleed or ovulate. I had the exact opposite where I would bleed two weeks every month. And to the point where you don't even think about it, but I stopped wearing cute underwear that makes us just like, feel good. Like for us, like I just bought all black underwear. All my underwear was just black because I'm like..
Rena: Oh my gosh I used to do that too! I had period underwear and it was only black.
Julie: Exactly, exactly. Cause I was like, listen, my period is going to show up whenever it decides to show up whether it's on time or early. And I was like, what's the point of buying this cute underwear, just going to ruin so black thongs, black granny panties for this girl, like I'm not even going to bother. So like, you know, there was just this piece where like, you know, and a lot of fertility patients, as you know, are not diagnosed with these conditions until they actually start trying to conceive and they're not conceiving and they don't understand why they haven't been able to conceive. And in some instances that's a late diagnosis, so we need to be doing better just generally, you know, from an OBGYN perspective for young women and just, you know, women who are just going for their regular checkups of talking about this, looking for those symptoms, addressing that more proactively and educating young women, even in like high school about your menstrual cycle, what that means, you know, to look out for how that could impact you. And I think that that would really change a lot of the narrative that's happening right now in the United States.
Dara: So, so you took the words right out of me because I was thinking the same thing that for me, my hopes and dreams I'd wished that I had known that I had PCOS earlier. I only found out when I wanted to start a family. And, you know, I think partly because I was put on the birth control because my periods were irregular and yes, birth control can serve a purpose, but I wish that there was more education in high school. I wish there was education when I started seeing an OBGYN. And I wish there was testing that was done to rule out whether someone has it or not. And maybe not even rule out whether there, you know, each time you do see an OBGYN, there should be certain tests to be done to rule that out because, you know, we might not get it at a certain age, a can definitely developed a little bit later on, but I really do wish that people were more aware of it. Not necessarily when they were thinking about family planning.
Julie: We're failing, you know, generations of people by not having this education and that's just further propelling the stigma around it, right? Like if everybody who was impacted by a diagnosis of infertility, whether it be male factor, female factor, or a combination of the two, if we were just more open in speaking about infertility our own journey, our own experiences, and it wasn't so hush, hush, don't talk about it. You know, we don't want people to know, you know, even our HR team. And, and I'm fortunate that I work for an organization where I get to talk about sperm and eggs all day and coverage and I can be open and I can even have a conversation about, you know, my own diagnosis with our C suite even, right? And this is just something that I wish was more normalized across organizations that have more of a conservative approach to, you know, healthcare and how we're looking at, you know, leave even for miscarriage leave. Like I was just like exploring that yesterday. We're not offering any type of leave. We're just, it's unpaid. A lot of people can't afford that. They have to use up their six days. They have to take their vacation PTO for this. And we're not talking about the prevalence of experiencing a miscarriage, one in four people. Do you know if everybody who had that unfortunate experience just spoke out about that, how much it would help other women and couples who have suffered that same experience to feel less alone and have somebody else to talk to? And so they didn't feel so isolated. So I think that raising awareness and just authentically owning whatever you need and whatever you have and whatever's impacting you is really going to help to propel these discussions and really make changes within an organization.
Rena: Oh sure. And I think I love how you talked about there’s such disconnect in care and there's no continuity. And I get so many patients who are angry with their OBs. Why didn’t they tell me? They knew I had PCOS. And they didn't think to tell me that that could impact my fertility? And now, you know, it's 10 years later, I could've frozen my eggs. I could’ve preserved my fertility and now I have diminished ovarian reserve and I can't even have biological children. And people just feel so angry at the healthcare system because it failed them. And same with, you know, for both fertility treatments, miscarriage, you know, there's such a disconnect and people just suffer in silence. And I love that we've connected and to find another person who so passionately believes in all the things we do to make a change and I think as women, you know, we have to speak up and ask for this, you know, it's just not right. And you know, again, one in four miscarriage, one in eight infertility, it's so many of us and the care needs to be better. There needs to be better continuity of care. I think education needs to start sooner high school, there’s sex ed let's incorporate, you know, let's not just tell people how to not get pregnant. Let's tell them about fertility, what to ask what to look for. People need to have this information at a much younger age and it needs to be part of the dialogue.
Julie: Absolutely. And there's power in numbers. If all of these populations that are experiencing these issues just join together and even unify and say, this is what we need and hold people accountable for that and hold our HR teams accountable. And I've been fortunate enough to work with many HR leaders that also had firsthand experience and really recognize the importance of offering this benefit and how having that coverage impacted them. And a lot of like male employer, HR leaders, I've spoken to have been very outspoken about their journey with their partner and how it's impacted them. And I think that we also need to hear from the male perspective as well. You know, there's a masculinity component as we know about this. And, you know, even with women, like we feel this shame for like our body's failing us and that is not our fault. And if I could hug every single patient that felt that way and just reassure them and say, this is not your fault. We're going to fix this. We're going to find a solution for you. I would absolutely do that. And that was one of the biggest reasons that I switched from being a dedicated patient care advocate over into sales at Progyny because this isn't sales for me, I call it business development for a reason. And I don't think of myself as a sales woman. I think of myself as a family builder because I was making a significant impact in the individual lives of people on, you know, on working these individualized cases. But I thought, you know, what, if I switch over into business development and I come with all of this experience and I carry with me all of the experiences of every single member or patient that I've ever worked with. And I really articulate the importance of this coverage to HR leaders. And they say yes to partnering with Progyny? It's about, I just helped thousands of people get access to comprehensive care and coverage. And I always cry every time I get a yes from an employer. And I always buy myself a bottle of champagne that night because I'm like, man, I just single-handedly helped to change people's lives. And even when patients and employees thank Progyny, the first thing I say at open enrollment is I go, I'll take the second thank you but your first, thank you always goes to your employer because if it wasn't for your HR team, I would not be here today talking to you about your comprehensive coverage. So they get the first hug. I get the second hug. I will be here.
Dara: Julie, you are doing the work that you are meant to be doing.
Julie: Same. I feel the same. And there's like, if any, like when any other organization reaches out to me to see if I want to work there with an opportunity, I'm like, I'm sorry, are we making babies and giving people like life-changing coverage, that's helping them build their families? And think about that from an employee retention and loyalty perspective. My employer has helped me to have my child, like that's a different benefit than the standard vendors and benefits and point solutions that you see out there. Like we're doing really critically important family building work here at Progyny.
Dara: I feel it.
Rena: I'm so happy that we connected with you and I can feel your passion and energy coming through the recording. This really has been amazing. And I hope really opened the eyes and inspired hope in so many people who've thought that they couldn't get coverage, cross through a barrier. I really hope it's made them feel okay, here's this amazing tool. Here's this amazing resource. Maybe they already have Progyny and they didn't even know how to use their benefits. And now they know, and they just don't feel so alone. So thank you so much for taking the time to come on, share all of the work that you do, that Progyny does. What an incredible company with amazing group of people. So really, really such a pleasure. And we really appreciate it.
Julie: Thank you.
Dara: Julie, what's the best way to find out more about Progyny?
Julie: We have a plethora of resources and content and information on progyny.com. As we mentioned earlier in our discussion, if you want to know how to advocate for that for yourself, you can go to progyny.com. You can contact us directly. We will help you to strategize on how to make that ask. And what is important before we do, you know, leave today's discussion about Progyny, especially in light of pride month, Progyny is the first all-inclusive fertility benefits solution. So I mentioned earlier that there are heteronormative barriers that exist within traditional healthcare insurance plans. And it's more than just removing that language from your coverage. There's more to that. Progyny has thoughtfully really built out a solution that takes into consideration the unique needs of every member's case specific journey and path to parenthood. So we're offering all-inclusive support for single parents by choice, LGBTQ, fertility, preservation, surrogacy and adoption support and guidance. We really want to make sure that we are assisting everybody regardless of their path to parenthood. And we're doing that in a very thoughtful way that's achieving superior clinical outcomes for our members and resulting in planned savings for our employer clients alike. And then, you know, we're the solution that gets happy hugs and tears and emails and just gratitude into an HR team, which they're often used to getting a lot of complaints and escalations. So we're the feel good benefit. And that's what I'm most proud of, especially during pride month and being the sister of a gay brother, that I was fortunate enough to be involved in, to help build out a solution that really meets the needs of all types of populations and all types of parents. And I think that that's, what's critically important to mention and take away from our conversation today, too, especially with all of the diversity and equity and inclusion initiatives that we're seeing and hope that those trends continue,
Dara: What a great phrase. Progyny - the feel good benefit.
Julie: That's what I tell them. That's what I tell everyone. I'm like, we're the feel-good benefit. If you want hugs and tears of just gratitude, you know, partner with Progyny. I will prove that to you. I promise you.
Rena: I love that. Well, you are amazing.
Julie: You are.
Rena: You are. We can go all day. I really, I feel I'm feeling the energy and that's really for people who really truly care about their work and in every day it comes up in so many of my conversations. I feel so grateful to have the career that I love. I mean, it's so clear that it's the same for you to really love what you do and really believe in it, I think is really amazing. And as much as it sucked to go through my own fertility journey and when I was in it, I could not see a reason. It changed my life. And I'm so grateful for it, you know, because it led me here to this wonderful career and now this ability to help other people.
Julie: We’re part of the worst club with the best members, because our community, the infertility community, like we are a group of people that just lifts anybody up that absolutely needs it. And we always extend ourselves to others who have just received a diagnosis or need that support. So I love this community and I am a proud member even though it absolutely sucks. I'm happy to belong to it and have a platform. And thank you for your time today to talk about it and the importance of it and the importance of that coverage. So thank you for your time and for inviting me to join this phenomenal podcast to just talk about my experience and our solution, and hopefully we'll be in touch for some future episodes.
Rena: We like each of our episodes with a gratitude and a note of positivity. So one thing that you're grateful for today?
Julie: Something that I'm grateful for today is that I work for an organization that aligns with my personal values and that even on my hardest days, when I go to sleep every night, I know that the work I'm doing is, is really going towards helping people that really desperately need that help. So that's what motivates me every morning to get up and come to work every single day is that we have really important work to do, and we are never finished.
Rena: A-woman as we say.
Rena: Who’s going to go first?
Dara: I'll go. A couple of things I was thinking about. I’ve been thinking throughout this that I'm proud to live in an era where people are starting to speak up and advocate for themselves and their needs. I think we're getting somewhere we're going somewhere and with companies like this to help us move forward. It's wonderful. And then also for me to be in a space that I feel so passionate about just like you, Julie, just like you, Rena. How lucky are we to have been on both sides and really feel empowered to give back because we got so much out of it
Rena: I’m going to go a little different and say, I'm actually really grateful for zoom. I feel like, you know, today, even though we're all in the same City, I feel like Zoom in the past few weeks I’ve had all these meetings and connected with people all over and especially today, just like it was so easy. And I think it's allowing for this connectivity that before it would have been so difficult, coordinating takes more time to get somewhere. So I'm just, I'm really, really grateful for zoom and this technology and really being able to meet and connect and just get more work done this way with this. So I'm really grateful for that and Julie we’re actually neighbors so hopefully we will meet in person but grateful for Zoom for allowing us all to be here together, have this conversation and get it out there for people
Dara: Shout out to zoom, which is hilarious because a lot of people are like enough of Zoom. But I’m with you. I think it's made life that much more convenient.
Julie: Easier to connect with people too. And then also in terms of our scope too, I can have three employer meetings in one day whereas one of those meetings would have taken me one day of traveling, you know, to whatever city, to whatever state. Now I can make that same discussion happen on the same exact day. So I too am grateful for zoom and I'm grateful to see your beautiful faces. And I hope that we can get drinks in the future.
Rena: This was totally off the cuff. We’re not paid by Zoom. I mean, the ability to meet with more patients, easier for them. So, never thought I’d be a convert but I am all about it.
Dara: We're living in a fabulous time. We are.
Julie: Yes we are. I agree.
Dara: Thank you, Julie. Thanks for being on.
Julie: Thank you guys. I appreciate your time and it was lovely meeting you.
Dara: Thank you so much for listening today and always remember: practice gratitude, give a little love to someone else and yourself, and remember you are not alone. Find us on Instagram at fertility_forward and if you're looking for more support visit us at www.rmany.com and tune in next week for more Fertility Forward.