Episode 124: A STEM Professional’s Fertility Journey
Many times, the family building journey can make someone feel alone and without help. This sentiment rang true for Priya Santhanam, Ph.D., a scientist and engineer in the STEM field.
In Priya’s culture, having children is an important life milestone and she, like so many others, imagined a life that followed the blueprint of get a degree, have a successful career, have kids, and maintain a harmonious work/life balance. Things didn’t exactly go as planned.
Her experience with miscarriage, IUI, IVF and successfully navigating her employer’s fertility benefit was the start of her advocacy. When Priya began her journey, she found the lack of women in STEM led to an inherent lack of women in STEM talking about fertility. This gap and her own experience led her to become a tireless advocate for infertility awareness in her field.
On today’s episode, Priya walks us through the importance of emotional support while on a fertility journey, the crucial impact of a robust family planning benefit, and the need to bring conversations around infertility to the forefront for women in all industries.
Guest: Priya Santhanam, Progyny Member
Host: Lissa Kline Progyny
For more information, visit Progyny’s Podcast page and Progyny’s Education page for more resources.
Be sure to follow us on Instagram, @ThisisInfertilityPodcast and use the #ThisisInfertility.
Have a question, comment, or want to share your story? Email us at email@example.com.
Here are some highlights from this episode:
02:26 – 03:04
Priya Santhanam: I had two miscarriages back-to-back within a one-year period. When we reached out to our OBGYN, we were told that we could not go to a specialist. This was because I didn’t have three miscarriages. After we had the second one, for me, I truly bresourcesroke down. There was a moment when I had to collect a sample tissue of the fetus myself, I put the sample into a container and sent it to the doctors so they could do some assessments on it. That truly broke me.
You Are Never Alone
06:45 – 07:24
Priya Santhanam: When it comes to infertility, I’ve heard this from so many women on your podcast, we hate talking about it. We need to talk about it more and more and this is the other thing. I wish I had more women doing this when I was going through my journey, where it felt so isolating. My career suffered as a direct impact of my infertility struggles. I don’t wish that on any other woman and one of the drivers behind my blog is to just make the noise. Having that conversation and knowing that you’re not alone.
An Unknown Path
15:43 – 16:42
Priya Santhanam: I came from a family in a culture where it was a given that you would have kids. I had a plan which was to go to the U.S., get my Ph.D., have a fantastic career, have a kid, and have that wonderful harmony between work and life. That was the dream and I just thought of course it’s going to happen. The fact that it did not happen, especially for someone like me with a certain achievement mindset, was just very challenging. I had to accept that I was failing at something and that’s the unexpected part about fertility. I can say that it directly impacted aspects of my career at the time. It’s all meant to be and then it all makes sense, in hindsight, but those are the unexpected parts of the infertility itself.
19:37 – 20:07
Priya Santhanam: I think I am in a position of privilege to be able to talk fairly about Progyny. The first time I went with my daughter, I did not have Progyny. The second time with my son I did, and those two experiences were like night and day. There is a significant advantage of having a benefit like Progyny in the workplace, and I really wish I had it the first time around. The number one thing that comes out of it is the dedicated patient care advocate. It’s the person that can literally hold your hand through the entire process. I believe mine; her name was Claudia, and she was fantastic. There’s all the emotional turmoil, the tangible actions that you must take, figuring out insurance, figuring out the policies in the workplace or where you can go. All these logistical challenges, Progyny made them significantly easier for me. For me it was the second time around, so I knew which doctor I wanted to go to, and I knew exactly what to expect in the process. If you are going through this the first time and you don’t know where to go, you don’t have to be the only one to figure it out with the help of Progyny.
Lissa oversees the Patient Care Advocates and the Provider Relations Team. She worked at Columbia University Medical Center for several years in the division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility. Involved in Patient Services and the Donor Egg Program, she loved working with patients while they underwent fertility treatment. Lissa graduated with a Master of Science in Social Work from Columbia University.
Priya is an engineer by training, scientist at heart, Program Manager by day and writer at night. She grew up in various parts of India and moved to the US to pursue her MS and PhD in Chemical Engineering.
She is a mom of two young children and is constantly hustling to find that coveted personal life – work life balance! In addition to work and mom duties, she loves to read and write. She is a STEM advocate and currently leads an initiative to bring awareness around infertility in the STEM community via her blog.
In her own words: “3 years, 2 miscarriages, 3 IUI’s, 2 IVF’s, 101 injections, $20,000+ expenses, 1 missed promotion….this pretty much sums up my infertility story.”
Music From This Episode:
Artist: Kai Engel
Track: Global Warming
Artist: Philipp Weigl
Track: Not the Streets You Used to walk along
Track: Western Shores