About 1/8 of all couples have infertility issues.
Only half of those have insurance coverage to try to become pregnant.
And of those who do, many face strict financial limits. Becoming pregnant can cost up to $20,000.
Dr. Mark Leondires knows those issues well. As medical director and partner in reproductive endocrinology at Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut, he sees them every day.
Now he’s doing something about it.
With a group of local residents — some medical professionals, others in finance and law; 4 from Westport, 1 from Weston — he’s formed the Nest Egg Foundation.
It’s a brilliant name — and a wonderful concept.
Each year, the non-profit provides $10,000 grants for in vitro fertilization treatment to people who have been unable to start their families due to financial needs.
There’s no guarantee of success in the infertility field. But the Nest Egg Foundation’s success is clear. Last year, they gave 4 grants. Three of those women are already pregnant. The 4th is getting ready to try.
It’s a rigorous process — and that refers to the selection, as well as the treatment. Applicants are vetted by a retired OB/GYN, a psychologist and a CPA.
“This is not about giving money,” Leondires notes. “It’s about giving the opportunity to try to get pregnant. My heart breaks for these people. If people want to have a child, money should not be a barrier to try.”
“Everyone thinks everybody around here can afford everything. That’s not true. A lot of our neighbors can’t.”
He adds, “In some ways, I have the best job in the world. People always send me pictures of their babies. But in some ways, this is the most challenging, because of all the people who can’t.”
Now the aid is more consistent, more clearly defined — and out of the hand of the physicians themselves.
Though it’s professionally run, the Nest Egg Foundation relies entirely on volunteers. Miggs Burroughs donated the logo; others — including many from Westport — offer free legal and PR help.
Many people find the organization through RMACT’s website. “If you’re dealing with infertility, you spend a lot of time on the internet looking for information,” Leondires says.
Others hear of it through social media, or word of mouth.
Of course, the Nest Egg Foundation needs its own nest egg. Money comes from donations, board members and fundraising events like last month’s “Birdies for Charity” golf tournament.
Many worthy causes ask for money. Leondires is proud to be one of them.
“Becoming pregnant can change people’s lives,” he says. “The chance to try gives us the chutzpah to keep asking.”