With so much misinformation about infertility, finding accurate resources that provide trustworthy information can be incredibly challenging. And while seeking out credible sources is imperative for all, it’s especially important for HR leaders looking to offer fertility benefits to their workforce. These leaders, in particular, need to be aware of pervasive infertility myths so they can build the most comprehensive package possible.
From understanding the widespread definition of “infertility” (i.e. being unable to get pregnant after a year of unprotected sex) to knowing the options beyond in vitro fertilization (IVF), many conversations around fertility obstacles can be misleading.
We put together some of the most common misconceptions we hear at Carrot to help HR leaders separate fact from fiction and provide inclusive fertility support for employees.
Myth # 1: Infertility only impacts cisgender women
About one in six different-sex couples will experience infertility. Female-factor issues are commonly assumed to cause the problem, but often — about 30–50% of the time — male-factor issues account for fertility struggles in different-sex couples. And yet, up to 27% of the time, the male partner does not undergo an infertility evaluation. While it’s important for women to be at the center of infertility conversations, there is still a major misconception that only cisgender women experience infertility.
HR leaders need to ensure benefits packages include resources for people of all genders. Carrot members, for example, have access to urologists to help them learn more about their fertility and options like sperm testing and freezing, as well as understanding conditions like low testosterone (low T), which can also impact fertility. These experts can help single individuals, those in different-sex couples, and those in the LGBTQ+ community.
Transgender and non-binary people also need access to fertility testing, preservation, and other family-forming options. For example, some trans people choose to freeze their gametes (eggs or sperm) before starting hormone therapy or surgery. Employers have the opportunity to support trans and non-binary employees by providing them access to affirming providers and clinics. Carrot vets all partners for LGBTQ+ inclusivity to ensure people of all genders and sexual orientations have access to fertility care.
Myth #2: Infertility is rare
As mentioned above, the medical definition of infertility is limited. It doesn’t include most LGBTQ+ people, single parents by choice, and people pursuing parenthood outside of a heterosexual, cisgender partnership. When using a more inclusive definition of infertility, the number of people who require resources to grow their families greatly expands.
Understanding that fertility can impact everyone can help employers create an environment that promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and supports employees’ emotional and mental well-being. Consider offering mental health support to help normalize conversations around infertility and alleviate the emotional stress of the process. Offering financial support to break down economic barriers that prevent people from accessing solutions is also essential, and offering a diverse range of family-forming options is also key to supporting each and every infertility journey.
Myth # 3: IVF is the only treatment for infertility
Many people may first think of IVF when they hear about infertility treatments. And every year, more and more companies offer IVF coverage. While this is an essential offering necessary for some journeys, a common misconception is that it’s the only option for treating infertility. In reality, fewer than 3% of all infertility cases require advanced reproductive technologies like IVF.
IVF is a complex, invasive, and expensive proces,
For example, improving nutrition has been shown to impact fertility positively. From lowering the risk of infertility related to irregular ovulation to improving semen quality, research shows that healthy dietary patterns among people of reproductive age have a beneficial effect. Ovulation tracking is another simple solution that dramatically improves the odds of a successful pregnancy. Only 1 in 3 women who seek infertility services require treatment beyond medical advice, such as guidance on the timing of intercourse. For those employees, education, and resources may be all they need to grow their families. At Carrot, members have unlimited access to experts who consider factors like medical history, age, sex, gender identity, and location to develop each unique plan.
Myth #4: Fertility treatments cause multiple births
Twins and triplets have long been associated with IVF. Until recently, many fertility doctors transferred multiple embryos to achieve a better chance of success, which may have contributed to the notion that IVF inevitably leads to multiples. Today, research shows that voluntary single embryo transfer (SET) reduces multiple gestation rates and maximizes the rate of singleton pregnancy without compromising overall success rates. SET reduces the risk of low birth weight by 50%, reduces NICU admission by 50%, and decreases hospital length of stay by 80%.
Overall, SET is the more physically and financially safe option. Ninety-three percent of members who go through IVF with Carrot choose SET — a national high with methodology independently validated by a global leader in actuarial services, Milliman.
Myth #5: Adoption is the only family-forming option for the LGBTQ+ community
Same-sex parents in the United States are four times more likely than different-sex parents to adopt or foster a child, which makes adoption assistance an essential offering for members of the LGBTQ+ community. But adoption isn’t the only path to parenthood for this group.
LGBTQ+ employees need many of the same fertility options as heterosexual employees. Gestational surrogacy allows individuals and couples to have genetically-related children by using a carrier — an increasingly popular option for same-sex male couples. Intrauterine insemination (IUI), IVF, or reciprocal IVF with donor sperm are options for same-sex female couples. But people of all sexual orientations and gender identities can take advantage of these options.
As employers look for ways to expand support for employees, it’s important to remember that fertility and infertility involve more diverse experiences than most people realize. Unpacking some of the myths and misconceptions surrounding fertility can help those in leadership better understand whether they are meeting all employees' needs and creating a better workplace for everyone pursuing parenthood.
Want to learn how Carrot can provide comprehensive, accessible, and inclusive support for employees experiencing infertility? Get in touch with us.