Heather Monaghan couldn’t get pregnant, and she didn’t know why.
After receiving a diagnosis of “unexplained infertility,” in 2017, Monaghan, with the support of her husband, went down the path so many women have traveled: she went through more testing; was prescribed Clomid to treat her infertility; and attempted intrauterine insemination (IUI), a kind of artificial insemination. Nothing worked.
“It’s frustrating when you don’t know what’s wrong,” says Monaghan, now 40. “It can be pretty lonely, because you’ll get that call at work that says, ‘Sorry, you’re not pregnant,’ and it’s just tough to hear.”
Despite those feelings of loneliness, Monaghan is far from alone in her experience. In the U.S., 10% of women struggle with infertility, according to the CDC. And yet, just 61% of large employers provide some kind of fertility benefit to their teams, according to a 2021 Mercer survey. Of those employers that do provide coverage, 97% said it has not resulted in a significant increase in medical plan costs.
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Monaghan knows firsthand how vital that kind of employer support can be. Following the couple’s failed IUI attempt, they took a break from trying to get pregnant, and restarted their efforts in late 2019. As they took on this fresh load of stress, they knew they had resources, through Monaghan’s employer, at their disposal.
In 2018, she’d joined the financial services company, Ally, as the director of culture communications and programs. In addition to a robust suite of fertility and family-building benefits — including coverage of three IVF cycles and $35,000 of support for surrogacy or adoption — Monaghan felt comfortable discussing the stress of the process with colleagues and managers.
“Not only was the financial stress not there because of the company’s benefit, but just because that benefit existed, I was more comfortable sharing what I was going through,” she says. “I wasn’t afraid to tell my leadership, boss or team if I needed to come in late or have a window of unavailability so I could go to an appointment.”
This time around, Monaghan and her husband worked with a new doctor, who conducted more in-depth tests and started preparing the couple for the possibility of in vitro fertilization (IVF). But early tests discovered that Monaghan had a vitamin D deficiency (which has been associated with reduced fertility), and the doctor put her on medication and a hefty dose of vitamin D. By summer of 2020, the couple received good news.
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“We don’t really know [the cause and effect], but after that, I was pregnant,” Monaghan says. Throughout her unlikely pregnancy, Monaghan again found support through Ally.
“When I told my boss I was pregnant, everything about our business one-on-one meeting stopped, and it was all about how I was feeling, what I needed, and how excited she was for me,” she says. “And later that day, I got a call from our CHRO, who took time out of her day just to call and congratulate me. I felt very celebrated.”
While she was expecting, Monaghan experienced gestational diabetes and high blood pressure, causing additional trips to doctors and hospitals. Her time, she says, was always respected, and her work was always covered when needed. Following the birth of her daughter in March 2021, the company’s inclusive family leave policies allowed her to spend five months at home.
Ally’s fertility and family-building benefits aim to be as inclusive and broad as possible, and staff surveys have shown that these programs drastically reduce financial and emotional stress on Ally’s employees, Gwen Gollmer, executive director of benefits, explains.
“Our fertility benefits are available to those without a medical diagnosis, which allows for a larger population of Ally employees to use them — single women, LBGTQ people, same-sex couples, opposite-sex couples, and others who want to expand their families,” she says. “We want to support our employees holistically during key moments in their lives, and this is certainly one of them.”
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Monaghan is thankful for the support she received, and as she and her husband get further down the road of parenthood, she trusts that additional benefits and programs will support them along the way, like 529 plans that help parents save for college. It’s helping her keep the focus on her daughter, who’s now 14 months old.
“Being a parent is a learning curve, and there are days when you wonder if you’re doing it right,” she says. “But it’s so fun to watch her grow, and shape this little human that you know is going to make the world a better place.”