As today’s workforce changes, so too do the benefits that employers offer. Employers still want to offer benefits and perks that attract, inspire, reward, and retain the right workers. But corporate discounts to the gym or opportunities to work from home are no longer enough to manage this. Across the U.S., workers might be offered perks like free in-house organic fruit smoothies, massages, artisanal catering, flexible hours, the ability to bring a pet to the office, or employer-matched charitable donations. In terms of benefits, they may also be offered fertility treatment coverage, flexible work hours, or high-deductible health plans. When it comes to millennial employees, they are increasingly choosing fertility benefits in case they aren’t ready to become parents now, but want to preserve that option for later.
According to a 2018 New York Times article, the average age of first-time mothers in the U.S. is 26 years old; it’s 31 years old for fathers. In 1972, it was 21 years old for mothers. Although there are regional differences across the country and the world, the age at which one becomes a parent is clearly rising. There are many drivers of this shift, such as pursuing additional education or training, paying off student debt, high real estate prices, expensive or limited childcare choices, and newer contraception methods.
In her mid-30s, a woman’s fertility begins to go down significantly, and this continues with age. After age 40, it is much more difficult for a woman to conceive and risks for complications, like miscarriage or high blood pressure, go up. Women also have a greater chance to have a baby with certain genetic conditions, such as Down syndrome, as they get older. Men can also experience lower fertility and sexual functioning as they age and have a slightly higher chance to have a baby with certain medical conditions.
Assisted reproductive technology
There are several motivations to seek medical assistance to achieve a pregnancy using techniques that collectively called assisted reproductive technology (ART). Many people are starting or growing their family later in life; they might be healthy but need help navigating the age-related issues mentioned above. Some might be younger and have medical issues that can affect their ability to have a child, such as cancer treatment or a genetic condition. Others might be part of the LGBTQ community and pursue ART to have a biological child. ART techniques like egg or sperm freezing, in vitro fertilization (IVF), intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), and preimplantation genetic testing (PGT), can create a path to having children that may not otherwise be there. Recent studies indicate that while there may be risks associated with certain ART procedures, the overall absolute risk is low and ART appears safe.
ART can be very expensive, though, which means not everyone can realistically access these options. A single round of IVF in the U.S. can cost more than $20,000. Only a small number of U.S. health insurers cover fertility treatments for their members, keeping them out of reach. In addition, U.S. state laws vary in recommendations for insurers to cover fertility treatments, making the situation more complex and difficult to navigate. But more and more, employers are responding to this gap by offering fertility treatments as part of their employee benefits package.
Millennials choose fertility options
Employers that offer fertility treatment benefits are viewed as modern, responsive, and holding a holistic view of their employees. For that reason, a rising number of U.S. employers are partnering with fertility benefits management companies, such as Progyny and WINFertility, to offer employees fertility benefits. Millennials are taking note of this when choosing to apply for or stay at a job. And once they sign the contract, more of them are opting into fertility benefits. They recognize that family planning can get complicated—and expensive—with time. So although they may not be ready to become parents now, they might be later. And they want to take action to preserve those options today.
Are you an employee wondering how you can take action? Speak to your employer’s Human Resources department to see if fertility benefits are available at your company—they might indeed be offered, but perhaps not widely advertised.
For more information about PGT and the ART journey, please visit the Resources page.
Deepti is an independent consultant for Sharing Healthy Genes. She is a highly skilled writer and editor with medical communications and marketing experience, which blends with her 20+ years of clinical acumen as a certified genetic counselor in the U.S. and Canada. Deepti has an active consulting business and is an engaged member of the National Society of Genetic Counselors, most recently serving as a 2018-2020 Director at Large. In her downtime, you’ll find Deepti poring over cookbooks, facing down superhero quizzes from her sons, or writing about her family’s foodie gene on her blog.