Every year, millions of couples struggle to start a family, experiencing problems with infertility. Some say the situation can feel hopeless, with the costs of treatment being overwhelming.
Advocates across the country are pushing for their states to adopt insurance coverage for infertility.
One woman (our own Kara Ryan Edwards) shares her story, as she dedicates her life to making sure others don’t have to face what she did.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. While mental health has become a focal point for many in the past year, the stigma and silence continue, especially on the path to parenthood. Family building is an incredibly stressful experience; 55% of people feel infertility is more stressful than unemployment and 61% feel it is more stressful than divorce. That’s why Progyny hosted a webinar dedicated to prioritizing mental health on your fertility journey.
Special guest Mollie Walker explains how she and others are advocating for infertility coverage across Tennessee - on a national stage.
Friends since kindergarten, Mollie Walker and Lauren Brown discovered a shared challenge that brought them even closer together in adulthood: infertility. Finding a lack of support groups to help them through the emotional trials that accompany that struggle, the dynamic Memphis-based women formed their own advocacy program to offer community, awareness, and education to families throughout Tennessee. Learning the legislation ropes, they’re making strides to ensure women across the state are eligible for infertility insurance coverage in the workplace. Please welcome our newest FACES, Mollie Walker and Lauren Brown, the founders of Tennessee Fertility Advocates.
"I was diagnosed in 2012 was infertility and delayed treatment for eight years due to no insurance coverage," she said.
Those eight years felt like an eternity, until the pandemic came along. Procedures she needed were seen as elective, so starting a family was put on pause.
"I began to feel a little more defeated. I waited eight years and now I'm having to wait even longer," said Harrah. "I'm like, 'Oh my gosh the time is running out'. COVID definitely halted a lot for me."
Harrah wasn't alone. The health risk and financial impact put a lot of family plans on hold.
With gratitude to News Channel 5 Nashville musician and singer Andrea Dozzi for speaking out about fertility treatments and egg freezing and to Dr. Christopher Montville of Tennessee Fertility Institute for mentioning TN Fertility Advocates and our legislative efforts.
Montville said only 30 to 35% of his local patients have a plan that covers egg freezing or IVF. “It’s a huge cost, one group in Tennessee, Tennessee Fertility Advocates, is actually helping with legislation this past session, that’s since been put on hold, but it’s going to be revisited next year," Montville said. If it had been covered, he believes more Tennesseans would have followed the national trends. Last year, births dropped to the lowest level since 1979 across the country.
Thanks to Nathan, Holly and Nashville Fertility Center for sharing this. Retrograde ejaculation is a rare condition in which, during ejaculation the semen moves into the bladder instead of moving out of the penis through the urethra. In Nathan’s case, surgery as an infant had caused the condition.
“When I look at online forums, I see a lot of people who have given up on having a baby because they have a low sperm count, but they shouldn’t give up hope,” Holly said. With the right fertility care, men and women can overcome infertility issues and have a baby.
We are so proud to share this story from The Jackson Sun, featuring one of our tireless advocate families and their journey during National Infertility Awareness Week. It was also the week those supporting the Tennessee Pro-Family Building Act coming before committees in both houses of the state legislature saw the bill get rolled to next year.
The act, if passed, would require insurance companies to cover infertility treatments for state employees and the fully insured market. Troy resident Katelyn Kelly said she and Tennessee Fertility Advocates look forward to bringing the Tennessee Pro-Family Building Act back to the Capitol next year. Katelyn and her husband, Andrew, have an idea how much they’d like the see the act be passed next year.
(NASHVILLE) – State lawmakers announced today the Tennessee Pro-Family Building Act to expand access to costly fertility treatments for all Tennessee families struggling with infertility. The legislation is sponsored by Sen. Becky Massey (R-Knoxville) and Rep. Sabi “Doc” Kumar, MD (R-Springfield).
According the American Medical Association, infertility affects 15 percent of couples. Less than three percent of those couples will use advanced assisted reproductive technologies such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) in order to conceive. The average cost of an IVF cycle in the United States is $12,400. Unfortunately, even with this hefty price tag, fertility care such as IVF is not offered by most insurance plans. The legislation, SB425/HB1379, will provide Tennessee families with:
"Meet Brittany Faith and her family. She is a member of TN Fertility Advocates. She also has diminished ovarian reserve. Today TN Pro-Family Building Act passed onto the Insurance Committee for review. Faith says this could impact families that suffer from infertility like hers.
But what exactly is the TN Pro-Family Building Act? It would expand health insurance coverage to all Tennesseans and guarantee levels of coverage for fertility treatments.
“Infertility treatments should not be reserved for the upper-middle class,” Faith said.
The Pro-Family Building Act received a positive recommendation from the state’s Council on Pensions and Insurance on Monday afternoon.
Rep. John Stevens, R-Huntingdon, cast the lone dissenting vote for the bill that would provide coverage for some Tennesseans struggling with infertility.
Sen. Becky Massey, R-Knoxville, and Rep. Sabi “Doc” Kumar, R-Springfield, are sponsoring corresponding bills in the Senate and House, respectively.
TN Fertility Advocates is a pro-family group of Tennessean's advocating to optimize legislation in TN to ensure that men and women have the opportunity to access the medical fertility treatments that they need. Mollie shares her own God story and the road that has led her to champion families who are struggling with infertility. Mollie also serves as the Collierville City Executive at Landmark Community Bank and is a member of Harvest Church. She is married to Taylor and is the mother of two beautiful children.
A new bill is looking to forever make changes for Tennessee families, specifically for those looking to start a family.
“One in six couples experience infertility,” said Phipps. “A third of those are female factor, a third are male factor, and a third are both or unexplained. We happen to fall in the both and unexplained category. The doctors told us IVF was our one and only option. Phipps and Pierson are the same as many Tennesseans with their insurance not covering in-vitro fertilization.
Mollie Walker and others spear-headed an effort to begin a movement beginning last year to advocate for insurance mandates for fertility treatment, and the effort has resulted in a bill that’s being sponsored in the state senate by Becky Massey (R-Knoxville) and in the general assembly by Dr. Sabi Kumar (R-Springfield).
The bill, SB 425/HB 1379, will go before the pensions and insurance joint committee for discussion first beginning next week.
“After hearing heartbreaking infertility stories from across the state, I’m proud to sponsor the Tennessee Pro-Family Building Act, SB 425,” Massey said in a statement. “This bill allows Tennesseans the opportunity to overcome a disease to build their families and help those struggling with access to care to get valuable treatment." Kumar said working on this bill helps increase the number of loving parents in the state.
“It’s just so crazy that a disease, a health issue, isn’t even covered by health insurance,” she said. “We didn’t choose infertility.”
Their story is all too common. Collierville residents and best friends Lauren Brown and Mollie Walker know the pain. The two co-founded Tennessee Fertility Advocates during the summer of 2020 and the group has about 7,000 members.
I don’t look at a bill as a Republican or a Democrat bill,” Senator Becky Massey said “I look at the merits and how it makes a difference in Tennesseans lives.”
The pro-family act is an amendment to an insurance bill. It must go through several committees and receive favorable recommendations before going to the floor for consideration. If approved there, the bill would then need Gov. Bill Lee’s signature.
"It was devastating to think we finally have this plan and we're getting started and moving in the right direction, only to have the rug pulled out from under you," said Cassie Devente.
Devente started treatments again in May. By August, she quit her job because of safety concerns. After multiple failed attempts, she stopped.
"We hit a point in September where we were mentally exhausted, physically and emotionally," she said.
One-in-six couples are affected by infertility in the U.S. Organizations like Tennessee Fertility Advocates help provide resources and support.
In episode #54 of The Hormone P.U.Z.Z.L.E Podcast, our guest Mollie Walker talks about Advocating for Your Fertility Rights. More about Mollie:
Mollie is the co-founder of Tennessee Fertility Advocates. She is a proud alumni of the University of Memphis, member of Harvest Church, and currently serves as the Collierville City Executive at Landmark Community Bank. She is also actively active in the Collierville Chamber, Collierville Rotary, and a member of the Generosity Network.
She is the wife to Taylor and a proud mother of two beautiful children but the road to having them wasn’t easy. With no insurance coverage, years of trying to conceive, and two miscarriages it felt overwhelming and hopeless at times.
One in six. That's the number of couples who will struggle with infertility in the U.S.
It's a number that can be hard to put into perspective, especially when couples face shame and sadness throughout their infertility journey.
Many families are left to navigate a labyrinth of steep emotional, physical, and financial pains in silence.
In Tennessee, this journey is exacerbated by a lack of mandated fertility coverage.
"One in Six" is a series which shines a light on the question many couples are asking themselves in private:
Infertility issues are typically one of the more emotionally difficult things a couple can experience while trying to have a baby, and the high financial costs of treatment is an added burden on those couples trying to conceive.
That’s why a group of people who’ve been through the struggles have banned together and formed a group that has three goals: To spread awareness about the disease of infertility, to assist advocates in speaking to their employers about the need for fertility coverage, and to advocate for fertility friendly legislation in Tennessee.
“We really had no plan when we started all this last year,” said Walker, who lives in Collierville. “We just knew something wasn’t being done and needed to be, whether it was encouragement and a place for us find community as we go through this or to answer each other’s questions and help each other out or to do something within our state government.”
“You don’t need a child to live.”
That is a direct quote from an insurance representative when asked why fertility treatments weren’t included in the caller’s healthcare coverage. Infertility isn’t a choice; it’s a disease. Yet, when couples and individuals seek help, they’re told by their insurers to deal with it on their own. As it stands, there is no national mandate for fertility coverage, which leads us to today’s guests, Kara Edwards and Mollie Walker. They’re working to bring a mandate to Tennessee and formed the Tennessee Fertility Advocates.
Throughout this episode, we hear from Kara and Mollie about Tennessee Fertility Advocates, which seeks to change legislation in their state on coverage for fertility treatments. If successful, it will require eligible employers to provide fertility benefits for their employees. Join us to learn how you can do the same for your state.
Back in 2012 when Melody Harrah and her husband, Sante, of Maryville, were hoping to grow their family, they got the disappointing news it wasn’t going to be easy.
Harrah, who is now 36, was diagnosed at that time with polycystic syndrome and also infertility, which means she had gone a full year trying to get pregnant and couldn’t.
“At that point, I knew I would need to be referred to a fertility doctor,” she said. “I knew that insurance wasn’t going to pay for that, so I just put it aside.”
Main and Mulberry: Her Town with Mollie Walker
This week's guest is Mollie Walker, City Executive for Landmark Community Bank and native to Collierville, TN. She is passionate about her community involvement, and she serves in a number of local organizations. Mollie is also the Co-Founder of Tennessee Fertility Advocates and in today's episode will share her story of starting a family and beating the odds.
A new Tennessee advocacy group is pushing the state legislature to pass a fertility insurance bill. Tennessee Fertility Advocates says they want to create the strongest pro-family bill the state has seen.
Dunlap teacher Sydney Walker dedicated her life to children. Her students are a joy, but also a reminder of one who’s missing.
“Siblings come through my classroom and mom has three or four others coming up, and I’m just like ‘I just want one, I’ll just take one,’” she said.
Sydney and her husband have struggled with infertility for years, putting themselves in debt trying to have a baby.
Mollie Walker of Collierville, Tenn. and her friend Lauren Brown co-founded Tennessee Fertility Advocates. Both struggled with infertility and spent thousands of dollars to get pregnant and start building a family.
Infertility is a reality for 1-in-6 couples, according to fertility experts. However, fertility care isn’t offered by most insurance plans in Tennessee. Many hopeful parents incur thousands of dollars in debt as they fund fertility treatments, trying to start a family.
So, Tennessee Fertility Advocates has drafted legislation that covers fertility diagnosis, fertility treatments including medication and fertility preservation.
A new Tennessee advocacy group wants to expand insurance benefits for those who suffer from infertility and is pushing lawmakers to pass legislation in 2021.
Mollie Walker of Collierville co-founded the group.
“I myself struggled with conceiving and needed medicine to help with ovulation and also had a rare blood clotting disease,” she said.
Doctors diagnosed Walker with infertility. After that, she and her husband spent thousands of dollars to get pregnant.
They’re not alone. She’s now connected with thousands of Tennesseans facing infertility as well.
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and ALSAC announced they will offer fertility benefits for all employees beginning January 2021.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, infertility affects 1 in 6 women in the United States.
“Infertility is one of the most profoundly lonely and frightening and demoralizing health experiences that men and women go through,” said Dr. Erica Kaye.
Kaye is a pediatric physician and researcher at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital who struggled for eight years to start her family.
Mollie Walker with Tennessee Fertility Advocates talks about their efforts to bring awareness to an issue that one in six people struggle with. Watch the interview.
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, and only 19 states offer fertility insurance for those struggling to start a family.
That’s why Mollie Walker and Lauren Brown co-founded an organization to bring hope to families who are struggling.
"We really want to give our pain a purpose,” Brown said. She and Walker have been friends since they were 5 years old. Throughout the years, they’ve experienced all of life’s greatest joys and greatest sorrows together including infertility and suffering miscarriages.
The duo decided to create the Tennessee Fertility Advocates group in July to offer support for others going through the same thing. Watch the full interview here.
This month on our WKNO TV / PBS Show, The SPARK, our theme is “Focused on Family," featuring interviews with Mollie Walker, co-founder of Tennessee Fertility Advocates; Laurie Powell, CEO of Alliance Healthcare; and Monica Soraya Sanchez, Artistic Director and Co-Founder of Cazateatro Bilingual Theatre Group.
Check it out here.
After about eight months to a year of trying to conceive without success, many couples start testing to rule out or discover problems. Endometriosis, low sperm count, blocked fallopian tubes, antibodies to sperm, ovulation issues and more start the lengthy list of possible causes. And, in about 15 percent of couples, no cause can be identified.
Treatments at fertility clinics may start with the least expensive and least invasive, such as medicines to increase the release of eggs. A next step may be intrauterine insemination, or IUI (indelicately referred to as the "turkey baster.") In vitro fertilization, which, including medication, can cost $10,000 to $15,000 per cycle, may follow.
Read on. Our own Kara Edwards and Starfish Infertility Foundation are featured.
The Memphis Mom Collective features a nonprofit organization every month.
"We are building and expanding our advocacy efforts to raise awareness about the need for fertility care coverage. If you want to have a discussion with your employer or would be willing to write your State Legislators then please reach out. We would love to help and elevate your voice! Our stories do make a difference. Stand with us and help fight for families."
Read the entire blog post here.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A St. Jude physician is speaking out about an issue that can affect women across the medical field.
Female doctors face a much higher rate of infertility compared with women in other professions. Dr. Erica Kaye is a pediatrics physician, researcher, but likely her proudest title is “Mom.”
She and her husband welcomed their first child four years ago.
But Dr. Kaye held tightly to a secret. "We had significant struggles with infertility for many years, as well as five pregnancy losses, and I grieved that journey very privately in large part to the shame and stigma,”
Host Jeremy C. Park talks with Mollie Walker, Co-Founder of Tennessee Fertility Advocates, who shares the story of starting her family and co-founding the grassroots coalition group to make a difference in the world of infertility coverage for the state of Tennessee. The pro-family group is advocating to optimize legislation in Tennessee to ensure men and women with infertility have the opportunity to access medical treatments they need. Currently, Tennessee has no fertility care or fertility preservation coverage. Watch here.
“Many women struggle with infertility in silence or feel embarrassed. I want them to know that there are support groups and resources. It has been amazing to see the number of women who have said they’re struggling, too,” Mollie says, “It’s important for women to know that they shouldn’t give up and they are not alone.” She recommends that families explore fertility options that might be covered by their employers. Molly has become an advocate for fertility coverage in the workplace. Read about Suffering in Silence: Mollie Walker's Infertility Journey