This is Infertility is a bi-weekly podcast where we fuse narrative storytelling with experience and science to give you a new perspective on what it’s really like to go through a family building journey. Each episode dives into the emotional, physical, and financial burdens carried by those who experience infertility on their path to parenthood. Be it IVF, IUI, egg freezing, surrogacy, adoption, etc., the path is never the same and it can be long, painful, and lonely. It’s our mission to give those struggling a platform to be heard, a community connection, and an opportunity to raise awareness of the 1 in 8 who, for many reasons, struggle with infertility.

Episode 67: IVF, Bariatric Surgery, and Finding the Strength to Move Forward

Infertility is often described as a journey, but it’s important to note that this is a journey people don’t have to take alone. Those in a relationship can rely on each other throughout the experience, reproductive endocrinologists can leverage transformative medical technology along with their expertise to change the narrative, and friends and family can step in at crucial moments to provide emotional and financial support. But there is another mechanism of support that some are fortunate enough to rely on as they embark on this journey: coverage for fertility treatments.  

In today’s episode, we hear from Hillary Filstrup, who along with her husband Scott is in the midst of an extended journey to parenthood. Hillary’s journey includes bariatric surgery to reduce weight, a lifestyle overhaul to stay healthy, and two IVF cycles. Hillary and Scott have been fortunate to have support through this journey from Scott’s employer, Palo Alto Networks, who has provided the couple with coverage for their fertility treatments through Progyny.  

We also hear from Dr. Laurence Jacobs, a Reproductive Endocrinologist from Fertility Centers of Illinois (FCI), who gives us an overview of the connection between obesity and infertility, and the efficacy of bariatric surgery for certain patients. He also discusses the benefits of PGT-A testing for IVF 

Guest: Hillary Filstrup, Progyny member 

Expert: Dr. Laurence Jacobs, Fertility Centers of Illinois 

Host: Sam Correll, Vice President, Provider Account Management 

For more information visit Progyny’sPodcast pageandProgyny’s Education pagefor more resources on emotional support and awareness. 

Be sure to follow us on Instagram,@ThisisInfertilityPodcastand use the#ThisisInfertility.   

Have a question, comment, or want to share your story? Email us atthisisinfertility@progyny.com. 

Here are some highlights from this episode:   

Bariatric Surgery and Fertility
3:31 – 8:47 

Hillary Filstrup: I found out one of my tubes was completely blocked. I had endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome and insulin resistance. At the time I was just over 300 pounds, I’m five two, so a big girl. I decided at that point that I wanted to have very bariatric surgery to give my body the best chance.  

Sam Correll: Bariatric surgery is a procedure on the stomach or intestines to induce weight loss. There’s a lot of conflicting information out there on the internet about weight and infertility.  

Dr. Laurence Jacobs: It’s also really important on my end that I emphasize to the patient before they see a surgeon to obviously understand that this is also going to involve certain lifestyle changes, it’s not a matter of just do the surgery and then the weight just comes off. 

Fertility Coverage
11:05 – 14:10 

Hillary Filstrup: We decided in early November that we wanted to just do IVF and not frankly waste any more money on things that had a very low chance of working.  

Sam Correll: For anyone, even for those with great coverage, the decision to move forward with IVF is never taken lightly. IVF is far from a frivolous treatment. And it’s not something people generally want to experience. But for those without coverage, the decision to do IVF can lead to other difficult decisions. Some refinance their house or others maxed out their credit cards. Regardless, sacrifices are often made. 

Hillary Filstrup: When we found out we had the Progyny coverage, we called the clinic to see if they took it. They said Progyny was fantastic and that we were really lucky to have it. My husband’s employer is an amazing company and invest in their employees.   

The Importance of Support
18:44 – 19:49 

Hillary Filstrup: Sam told us that even though the coverage didn’t start until January, we could already call in and work with an advocate to make sure our account was set up and ready to go when the time came. So, I called in and was paired with Manuela, a Patient Care Advocate at ProgynyFrom that very first conversation, she and I created a strong bond! She explained everything to me and made sure I had no questions.  

Host

Sam Correll, Vice President, Provider Account Management

Sam Correll is VP of the Provider Network at Progyny, where he leads the team responsible for the contracting and account management of quality fertility providers. Prior to Progyny, Sam found his passion for the fertility space while working for Freedom Fertility and Express Scripts, his first job after graduating from the College of Charleston.  When not traveling for work, Sam enjoys time at home in Texas with his wife, two children, and two dogs. 

Guests

Hillary Filstrup, Progyny member

Hillary and her husband, Scott, have been trying to conceive for the past six years. After multiple failed IUIs and a bariatric surgery which resulted in a massive weight loss for Hillary, the couple turned to IVF which was covered under Scott’s Progyny benefit. To date, the couple has done two retrievals, three transfers, and experienced an unviable pregnancy at 17 weeks. Regardless of their obstacles, the couple have not lost hope and are willing to do whatever it takes to grow their family.  

Dr. Laurence Jacobs, Medical Director of the Center of Excellence for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) at Fertility Centers of Illinois

Dr. Jacobs is a Mayo Clinic-trained Reproductive Endocrinologist and board-certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology. He has been practicing medicine since 1975. He completed medical school and an Obstetrics and Gynecology residency at Northwestern University, and then went on to complete a fellowship in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at the Mayo Clinic in 1988. He has been honored as “Top Doctor” by the prestigious publisher Castle Connolly in all of its editions of “America’s Top Doctors” 2000-2020 (top 1 percent of specialists nationwide) and “Chicago’s Top Doctors” 2000-2020. Ladies’ Home Journal and Chicago Magazine have repeatedly chosen him as one of America’s “top infertility doctors.” Dr. Jacobs has authored numerous articles for journals, books, and newspapers. Dr. Jacobs’ own experience as a former fertility patient allows him to empathize with his patients and provide the support and encouragement needed. Dr. Jacobs is committed to providing patients with the most comprehensive care available to make their dreams of a family come true Dr. Laurence Jacobs sees patients in these Fertility Centers of Illinois locations: Buffalo Grove and Hoffman Estates 

Music From This Episode:

Artist: Josh Woodward
Track: The Gloaming Instrumental Version
URL: https://www.freemusicarchive.org 

Track: Once Tomorrow Instrumental Version
URL: https://www.freemusicarchive.org 

Track: Stars Collide Instrumental Version
URL: https://www.freemusicarchive.org 

Track: Hollow Grove Instrumental Version
URL: https://www.freemusicarchive.org 

Artist: Jahzzar
Track: The Wrong Way
URL: https://www.freemusicarchive.org 

Track: So Far So Close
URL: https://www.freemusicarchive.org 

Track: Sleepin
URL: https://www.freemusicarchive.org 

Artist: Doctor Turtle
Track: Dorcas Breaks the Surface
URL: https://www.freemusicarchive.org 

Artist: Lee Rosevere
Track: I Wanted To Live
URL: https://www.freemusicarchive.org 

Artist: Swelling
Track: Dawn II
URL: https://www.freemusicarchive.org