Q&A: Actress Kellee Stewart on advocating for fertility benefits

Q&A: Actress Kellee Stewart on advocating for fertility benefits



Fertility and family building company Progyny and social-planning website for invitations Evite held an event in Los Angeles on Wednesday where panelists discussed IVF options. They included patient advocacy group for family building RESOLVE, the first IVF baby born in the U.S. Elizabeth Carr, Progyny’s chief medical officer Dr. Janet Choi, and actress and fertility advocate Kellee Stewart.

Publicly traded Progyny offers benefits packages focusing on family building, fertility and women’s reproductive health, including IVF, adoption, IUI and surrogacy.

Stewart sat down with MobiHealthNews at the event to discuss her involvement with Progyny and Evite, as well as her advocacy work for fertility and family-building benefits.

MobiHealthNews: Why did you decide to get involved with Progyny?

Kellee Stewart: Progyny actually invited me to flip the light switch at the Empire State Building orange for the first time for National Infertility Awareness Week. And so, they came to me, and I was like, “Hello, I’ve been looking for you, and I’m going to meet you at, like, the biggest building in the world, you know, the top of the world!” So, it was monumental for me, and from that point on we just stayed in relationship with each other.

I’m an award-winning fertility advocate thanks to RESOLVE, which started that trend. But when I froze my eggs when I was 37 years old, I threw myself an egg shower. And there are no showers for people going through IVF, or adoption, or surrogacy, or egg freezing, and I thought to myself, ‘How do I help normalize the conversation about infertility and different paths to parenthood?’  

So, I was on the Sherri Shepherd show talking about my egg shower, and I put it out there that there are no egg shower invitations on Evite. They heard it. Then Evite reached out to me and said, “We want to help you change this.” So, we partnered and created Parenthood Journey.  

Parenthood Journey is a new category of invitations on evite.com that has IVF showers, surrogacy showers, adoption showers, my very own egg shower invitation that I designed, and also rainbow baby showers. It is a separate category from baby showers, because we want to create that space where people who are still on the path feel seen, without being triggered, and know that there’s support, and that there are millions of us that are still trying to find our way. So, when I partnered with Evite, I introduced Evite to Progyny and RESOLVE, and now we’re here having our first fertility shower.

MHN: What do you hope attendees get out of the shower?

Stewart: I hope that they will understand access to care and be able to spread the word. We hope that they will continue to share their stories to make awareness the pinpoint, because people suffer in silence so much, but when they hear a story that sounds similar to theirs or someone getting over a hump, and it’s like, oh, I’m not the only one. It empowers them to continue their journey or to make choices.  

And I hope, with abortion on the ballot, with things that have happened in Alabama and all of those things, that we can continue to make our voices and our rights heard. As we see things being overturned and going back 50+ years, if we don’t continue to do events like this and speak up and mobilize together, and shake hands with other people that are going through the journey, then we won’t be able to create the change that we seek and that we deserve.  

And one of the things I really wanted to do was to call my friend Elizabeth Carr. Elizabeth is the first IVF baby born in the U.S. And I called her and asked her to be at the shower, and she’s right over there, and she’s going to be on the panel. So, she’s literally history, although I call her “herstory,” and she represents, her parents represent, and her birth represents hope for all of us. So, 41 years ago someone went through an experimental trial and out came one of the most amazing people I’ve ever known. So, here we are fighting for those rights again to stay with us.

MHN: What would you like MobiHealthNews readers to know about the movement for IVF?

Stewart: Know that there are insurance carriers for infertility. If it’s not being covered by whoever you’re employed by, go to HR and ask them why. Because it’s available. And that’s the thing. Sometimes we ask the question, “Hey, do you have infertility insurance?”

“No.”

And then we stop the conversation there. “Why not?”  

So, what I hope people get out of this, for Progyny specifically, is that you continue to poke that bear of “Well then, why not?” And if you’re not getting an answer that speaks into the journey of parenthood that you have, you need to keep fighting for it right there where you work. We don’t need to stop it at no.

I hope people get that out of this event as well – actionable ways that they can empower themselves within their community, within their employers, within their neighborhood, within their families even. You know, being triggered, being asked, “When’s the baby gonna come?”

Sometimes we have to say, “Well, you know, none of your business. I’m working on it.” But Progyny is a great insurance carrier, and it’s available and more companies need to tap right on in.



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