In 2015, just five percent of US employers with over 500 employees covered egg freezing costs for employees. In 2020, that number was 19 percent. Pushed by an increase in women in the workforce as well as the pandemic, more and more companies are offering comprehensive fertility assistance in addition to parental leave.
Gina Bartasi, founder and CEO of third-party fertility and family care provider Kindbody, tells Wired that the flexibility of work from home has more patients thinking about the potential of children while the pandemic is also making it harder to meet potential partners, encouraging women to think about creating a backup plan for their fertility.
Facebook became one of the first companies to offer comprehensive fertility services after an employee with cancer couldn’t afford to freeze her eggs in 2014. The company paid for her treatment and shortly after, began offering the option to all employees.
Egg freezing involves using hormonal injections to stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple eggs. These are then harvested and frozen in a lab. The process is physically demandingーand expensive. The costs range from $6,000 to $20,000 in addition to yearly storage costs of several hundred dollars. Egg freezing is a great option for women who are concerned about their fertility, but not ready to be parents yet, but it’s also often the only option for women whose fertility is threatened by illness such as endometriosis or sickle cell anemia.
Bartasi says that Kindbody saw a threefold increase in patients in 2021. The increase is pushed by policy changes at large companies, like Lyft, which is one of their clients. Plus, as more companies offer fertility services, it normalizes the conversation around topics like egg freezing and prompts more companies to follow suit. The benefit has become so common that many women now look for it when considering a new position. One survey found that 68 percent of employees would switch jobs for a better fertility policy.
Although the benefit is becoming more common, some companies and employees have their reservations. One reason is that women who freeze their own eggs have only an 18 percent chance of having a baby. By comparison, the success rate for IVF is 26 percent. Employees have also voiced concern about egg freezing services being futile if the company doesn’t also offer a generous maternal and paternal leave benefit. Lastly, 50 percent of fertility issues are attributed to male partners, so many argue that fertility services shouldn’t be limited to female employees.
Interestingly, many European companies are behind the US when it comes to egg freezing benefits. Over a third of UK companies say they have no plan to offer fertility support to employees. Experts note that the robust universal healthcare options of most European countries make the policies less essential.
Regardless of a company’s stance on fertility support, the movement to expand these services for employees does have one undeniable benefit: it’s normalizing the conversation about infertility and family planning. More open and honest dialogue about these issues will yield improved healthcare options for all employees in the coming years.