Benefits and Compensation, HR Management & Compliance

Understanding and Supporting Your Employees’ Infertility Journey in a Pandemic

The novel coronavirus has turned the world of business upside down, and while fertility treatments may have been postponed, access and use of employee benefits have not. Your employees have been affected in many ways, including working from home and, in some cases, layoffs and furloughs.

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The more you, as an employer, can empathize with employees whose fertility treatments may have been suspended, the better poised you will be to support them.

Current State of Fertility Treatments

Understanding the current state of fertility treatments will help you communicate with and support your employees through this difficult time. On May 11, in the early stages of the pandemic, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) recommended a moratorium on nonurgent care until the conditions on the ground, healthcare systems’ ability to deal with the surge in patients, and transmission rates could be better defined and managed. 

This means that although infertility is NOT elective but is rather a “condition,” they recommended that fertility treatments be suspended until the situation was better understood. While some clinics around the nation paused treatments, the stress related to these treatments and their planning never paused, leaving some of your employees who were accessing their fertility benefits in distress over their family-building trajectory.

Since the initial recommendation, and in light of the worsening prognosis from delaying fertility treatment, the task force identified approaches to responsibly resuming care for fertility patients while not contributing to the spread of the virus or placing a strain on healthcare systems. While the situation is still in flux, fertility practices across the country are slowly phasing in treatments with flexibility in response to infection rates and how the curve is flattening regionally.

Know that Timing Is Critical in Fertility Treatments

Your employees who are going through a family-building journey are counting the years, days, weeks, and even minutes. This is because timing is crucial for fertility treatments. Age is the single biggest factor affecting a woman’s fertility.

As she ages, the number and quality of her eggs decline. A woman’s fertility peaks in her early 20s and slowly declines until about age 35, when the rate of decline accelerates. Additional family-building paths include access to donor eggs and sperm, surrogacy, and adoption, each of which is time-sensitive.

Delaying fertility treatments or any family-building option for 6 months or a year can mean the difference between having a family and not having a family. The very notion accelerates stress and anxiety and could lead to lower productivity levels and absenteeism.

Help Employees Access Their Benefits

There are many ways you can support your employees through this complex family-building journey during a pandemic. First, remind your employees they have a family-building benefit and that you are there to help them navigate it.

The benefits they can tap into might include virtual clinical oversight, counseling and behavioral health support, and discounted prescription medication programs. Most virtual and clinical oversight programs will give employees the option to use phone, text, and/or video chats with a nurse care manager or other clinical support to review the most effective path in their family-building journey.

Behavioral health support will allow employees to speak with a professional who can help them through this very complex emotional journey. Anxiety is at an all-time high due to COVID-19. Employees who are experiencing that anxiety along with the stress that often accompanies a fertility journey are seeking benefits that include support for mental health.

Clinical oversight also ensures the dispensing of only the appropriate medications and quantities, as well as patient education.  Patients are informed on pharmacy dosage, storage, and medication side effects, which helps employees maximize their fertility medication benefit.

Taking the time to explain and advise employees on how to fully take advantage of their family-building benefit, and how to use it, will create a trusting partnership between the employee and your company while showing support for employees experiencing the stress and anxiety that accompany the fertility journey.

Peter Nieves serves as the Chief Commercial Officer for WINFertility. He is responsible for the profitable growth, product strategy, and expansion at WIN. Nieves has over 25 years of experience in the benefits consulting and P&C industry.