Starbucks Expands Fertility Benefits -The 411

Employees at Starbucks now have access to broader fertility benefits.

Starting this month, the coffee giant is bolstering its benefits to reimburse for surrogacy and intrauterine insemination not covered by health insurance. Workers will receive reimbursements of up to $10,000 per qualifying event, with a lifetime maximum of $30,000.

Lifetime maximums for fertility benefits are also increasing under Starbucks medical plans — to $25,000 from $15,000 for fertility services, and to $10,000 from $5,000 for prescription drugs. All full- and part-time benefit employees who work at least 20 hours per week are eligible for the benefits.

A company spokesperson told Employee Benefit News, Starbucks wanted to update its Family Expansion Reimbursement program to assist employees whose needs are not fully met by health insurance.

“We made this change to assist partners whose needs may not be met by their healthcare insurance company, such as same-gender couples looking to become parents or individuals seeking fertility services,” a Starbucks spokesperson said in an email.

While nearly all (87%) employers cover some kind of infertility benefit through their health plan, companies are expanding their benefits to cover different services such as surrogacy and egg freezing, according to data from the National Business Group on Health. Of that group, some 71% of employers cover in vitro fertilization, 69% cover artificial insemination and 34% cover egg freezing.

Fertility services are often expensive — the average IVF cycle costs $12,000, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Benefits that cover some of the cost can help to ease the burden on workers. Large employers including Microsoft, Cisco and MassMutual all offer fertility benefits to workers.

Starbucks has been making big changes to its benefits. Last year the company said it would spend $250 million on new employee benefits including a pay boost for domestic workers, in the wake of the federal tax overhaul. In September, the company updated its employee assistance program with a new long-term initiative that includes an enhanced employee assistance program and mental health training for store managers, which will begin in the second quarter of next year.

“We brought 12,000 store leaders together for an unprecedented session on mental well-being and emotional first aid,” Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson said in a statement about the updated EAP program. “That was just the first step in a new long-term initiative to take a stand, help break the stigma around mental health, and get even more partners and their loved ones the support they need.”

Starbucks offers a number of other family-friendly benefits including parental leave, employee and family sick time, and backup child and adult care. It also provides tuition reimbursement to workers looking to earn a bachelor’s degree.

“We are consistently evolving our benefits as we continue to listen and learn from our partners (employees),” the company told EBN. “It has long been our belief that when we put our partners first.”

IVF #6 – The Meds Are In – The 411

shit just got realI got back to the condo this morning after being in DC Metro Area for the past six days and boxes of meds were waiting for me from Freedom Fertility Pharmacy for my upcoming IVF cycle !   Things are REALLY getting real now and the fear is starting to set in.   I have to fight the urge to let the “what if it doesn’t work” thoughts from evading my mind !!

IVF 6 - meds IVF 6 - meds2 IVF 6 - meds3 IVF 6 - meds4 IVF 6 - meds5

Ladies and Gentleman….  I present to you… MY IVF MEDS CYCLE SIX !!!  Woot Woot ! (and why do the antibiotic suppositories look like white bullets? lol)

More later…..

IVF # 5 – Stim Day 14 – The 411

ivf 5 - keep calm and stim like a champ

Today is stim day 14… I am starting to wonder if we are ever going to get to the end of stims !  I do not feel the “full” feeling I get when my ovaries are about to burst with follicles.  I can not wait, actually yes I can, to get to that point.  Stimming slow and steady is the best way to get quality eggs so I am being patient.

I have been so stressed out the last few days.  One best friend losing her son and grandmom at 10pm the SAME night on Monday, My godmother and mother both undergoing cancer treatment, and my best friend, actor, Gary Anthony Sturgis, has finally gone public with his mother’s stage four cancer diagnosis.  He finally got his mom to tell her siblings and now he was talked about it publicly, so I feel heartbroken for him, but at the same time relieved that he will have additional support.  Cancer SUCKS rocks !  In the midst of all of this mortality, I am trying to create life.  It seems strange.

In better news, my agent and I are submitting the final (although it is really just the beginning phase) mock ups of my reality tv project.  I am excited about the possibility of this show about my life, my struggles and the fertility struggle so many women and men face that I get to put a face on, being on national television !  I also know what this exposure can do for my career and other projects I want to launch in the future.  I am trusting God to open the right doors to the right people at the right time !

I am so eternally grateful for the opportunity to even be able to take this journey and I would be remiss to not thank God for His faithfulness because there are so many who would not be able to even dream of doing what I have done this past year.

I did my AM injections of Ganirelix, Lovenox, and Neupogen.  Tonight, I will inject 175 units of Follistim and 37.5 units of Menopur.

ivf - menopur  IVF 5 - Follistim  ivf 5 stim day 4 neupogen  IVF 5 stim day 2             Vitamin D emulsion

Tomorrow morning, I have another blood draw and sonogram.  Prayerfully there will be a little growth in the follicles, but not too much of a leap !  I want all the little ones to grow to the same size as the larger ones so that I have plenty of quality eggs to transfer back next week !

In the mean time, I am working on little gifts for the staff at the clinic.  I bough EOS balms and made cute hand tags that say “You Are The BALM!”  Thanks !.  I also got peanut M&Ms and put hand tags that say ” Thank You For Helping Make My Little Peanut (s) !”.  I also had Banana Bakery out of Dallas Texas make medical themed cookies that say thanks on them and they are shipping the cookies to my hotel in Albany to arrive next week and they are already hand wrapped individually.

To keep my mind occupied, I have been making flour with hard white wheat berries and baking and my team and I are working on the launch of Valerie The Pajama Chef, my cooking show.  You can pull up my flour escapades on Youtube that I shot with my cellphone LOL.

I am headed downstairs to my kitchen now to make mile high buttermilk biscuits !  I am craving them, so I am making them and will go get some molasses  🙂   I know I am supposed to be doing gluten free, but one little biscuit is not gonna hurt much !  With all the hell going on around me, I deserve one little biscuit right?  🙂

IVF # 5 – Stim Day 11 – The 411

IVF 5 - Follistim         ivf - menopur   IVF 5 stim day 2      ivf 5 stim day 4 neupogen

Today is the eleventh day of stims, sixth day on Follistim and fourth day on Menopur.   In the morning, I inject Neupogen, Ganirelix, and Lovenox.   I take various supplements and vitamins, and synthroid (which I have not taken since Friday because my TSH plumented to .1) and in the evening, I inject Follistim and Menopur.

Because my Vitamin D level has been low since February, I am no longer taking the pill version.  To raise my vitamin level, I have to take an emulsion at dinner that also has Vitamin K1 and Vitamin K2 in it to help with absorption. (see previous post about Vitamin D levels).

Vitamin D emulsion

I ordered the emulsion from  It tastes pretty okay.  Not nasty like I was expecting.

I had monitoring this morning and my follicles are slowly growing.  LabCorp had a problem with their machines today so my blood work was not in by the time my RE’s office closed.

ivf 5 - stim day 11 scan

I was instructed to just remain on my same meds and I will get a call tomorrow from my nurse once the blood work is in and they will make adjustments if necessary.

Hope everyone else is doing well !  More tomorrow ~

Saizen (Human Growth Hormone) for IVF – The 411

baby- saizen

Saizen Growth Hormone Helps Infertility

Adequate growth hormone levels are critical for good ovarian follicle development, and growth hormone levels are known to decline significantly with age. Studies show that adjuvant growth hormone treatment during IVF can help older women to beat the odds and have a higher take home baby rate – even when their ovarian reserve is poor and previous cycles have failed – by restoring youthful hormone hormone production within follicles. Some studies show that younger women who are poor responders reap the benefits also.

The results are quite amazing. In one study (1) one hundred women, 40 years of age or older – all of poor prognosis – were studied as they pursued IVF, half received growth hormone with their ovarian hyper-stimulation medications, half did not.

The numbers of eggs, embryos and pregnancies were similar in both groups but the growth hormone-treated women had far fewer miscarriages and a higher take-home-baby rate. Women being co-treated with growth hormone had far less biochemical pregnancies, and a pregnancy rate of 26% compared to 6% in untreated cycles. The delivery rate was significantly improved also, 22% of cycles versus 4% in the untreated group.

During the stimulation phase of the IVF, treated women had higher estradiol and growth hormone levels within the ovarian follicles thought to lead to healthier eggs and higher embryo quality. The researchers of this study (1) concluded that:

“Administration of GH (growth hormone) during ovarian stimulation alleviates age-related decrease in assisted reproduction treatment efficiency. This effect appears to be mainly due to an improvement of oocyte developmental potential, but GH action on the uterus cannot be excluded…”

“In conclusion, this prospective randomized study shows that women aged >40 years undergoing assisted reproduction treatment and co-stimulated with GH achieve more ongoing pregnancies and suffer less pregnancy wastage, resulting in more deliveries and live births, as compared with women of the same age category stimulated with gonadotrophins alone.”

Previously in a study (2) on 20 women who had responded poorly to ovarian hyper-stimulation, 24 IU (intramuscular injection) of growth hormone was given on alternate days alongside gonadotrophin stimulation. The researchers concluded that:

“…in a subgroup of patients who respond sub-optimally to standard ovarian stimulation regimens for IVF-ET and who have ultrasound-diagnosed polycystic ovaries, systemic growth hormone is an effective adjunctive therapy.”

In another study (3) on growth hormone supplemented IVF cycles in poor responders, 159 women were studied as they pursued a total of 488 IVF treatment cycles between 2002 and 2006, comprising 221 cycles with growth hormone and 241 without. Growth hormone co-treatment was shown to increase pregnancy rates in fresh and frozen cycles in all age groups – especially younger age groups – the researchers concluded that:

“GH cycles resulted in significantly more babies delivered per transfer than non-GH cycles… (20% versus 7%). The data uniquely show that the effect of GH is directed at oocyte and subsequent embryo quality.”

Previous studies have shown that the levels of hormones within ovarian follicles – especially growth hormone – are critical for the development of normal healthy embryos that are able to implant. Levels of growth hormone are tightly correlated to an oocyte’s ability to be of high quality, with a high potential for implantation. (Mendoza et al. 1999,2002)

A large study on 100 couples where the female partner was over 40 years also showed benefit. The women were split into two groups, to receive growth hormone treatment (8 IU of Saizen from day 7 until the day after the hCG trigger) alongside IVF or a placebo. The study concluded that:

“this prospective randomized study shows that women aged >40 years undergoing assisted reproduction treatment and co-stimulated with GH achieve more ongoing pregnancies and suffer less pregnancy wastage, resulting in more deliveries and live births, as compared with women of the same age category stimulated with gonadotrophins alone.”

Another similar study (4) on poor responders who received co-treatment with growth hormone with ovarian hyper-stimulation found that:

“…the GH cycles had better performance in terms of the number of oocytes fertilized and the pregnancy rate.”

Different studies have used varying amounts of growth hormone but many such studies concur that co-treatment with growth hormone can give you better odds of succeeding, especially if your prognosis is poor.

This article is purely for educational and informational purposes and is not intended to substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment for which you should consult a physician.

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1. Improvement of delivery and live birth rates after ICSI in women aged >40 years by ovarian co-stimulation with growth hormone. Tesarik et al. Hum. Reprod. (September 2005) 20 (9): 2536-2541. doi: 10.1093/humrep/dei066 First published online: April 28, 2005
Human Reprod. (1991)6(47):526-528 Co-treatment with growth hormone of sub-optimal responders in IVF-ET. E.J.Owen et al.

Growth hormone supplementation improves implantation and pregnancy productivity rates for poor-prognosis patients undertaking IVF. Yovich JL and Stanger JD.Reprod Biomed Online 2010 Jul;21(1):37-39
The value of human growth hormone as an adjuvant for ovarian stimulation in a human in vitro fertilization program. JObstet Gynaecol Res. 1996 Oct;22(5):443-50. Wu et al.


The Dreaded Wait- The 411

baby- wait

I was not cut out for all this waiting !  My mind races to a million places and I worry.  It is killing me that I only have two embryos hanging out at the clinic growing and worrying if they will continue to develop and grow.

Thousands of dollars in medications, fourteen days of injections, perfect diet, and I get eight eggs and only TWO fertilized?   I really only need two, but hey, it would have been nice to have some back ups for FETs if this cycle did not work or ended in another miscarriage.

The embryologist does not check my embryos again until tomorrow morning .  I will definitely call them tomorrow mid-morning to check on my babies.  Prayerfully those two are great quality and the one being thawed out will make it through the thaw.  I already knew the frozen one was as 4AB so at least it is a great quality embryo.

This whole process is so unfair.  It is so nerve wrecking !!

No one told me that PIO would IMMEDIATELY yield symptoms ! Oh Em Gee !   My nipples are aching already and started hours after the first injection !   I have abdominal cramping and twinges.   I just hope I do not develop any allergies to the oil.   The injections are super easy, not what I expected at all.

I am beyond bored here in Albany !  I wish my mom could have come with me.  I will get out of the room and go to the mall tomorrow and see a movie or something…

IVF #3 Stim Day 12- The 411

baby - bloating

Today is my 12th day of stims !  I feel like I am harboring two water balloons in my pelvis !  LAUD ! I only have hopefully one more injection tomorrow night and then on Monday, I will should be triggering at 9 pm.  #fingerscrossed.  I got in an acupuncture session this morning and will go another on Monday after my monitoring appointments.

I mixed my meds and did my injections while eating dinner at the table and I completely freaked out my sister lol.  It has become so common place that I do these that I just whip out my needles and mix and eat then inject all in one sitting.  My mom is used to seeing me do it lol.

My other sister, who is an RN just got here today to visit with our mom.  I guess my text messages and pleading to COME HOME and see our mom hit a nerve somewhere.  My mom was ecstatic to see the kids and my sister, so I am very happy !  Both my sisters are here at mom’s house and she has all three of her girls and most of the grandkids here.

baby - IVF3 stim day 1

I need advice from you ladies on how I should handle my pursuit of motherhood and dating.  At what point should I even mention it?  I am apprehensive about mentioning my ivf tries because there are no guarantees and I also do not want to run off potential life partners by mentioning something even a married man freaks out over – KIDS !  What would you do?  How have you handled things?