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SoulCycle master instructor Emma Zaks is calling on her employer and others to provide fertility benefits to staff, saying she gave her “baby-making years” to the company.
Zaks, a former Broadway actress who’s worked at SoulCycle for 10 years, has spent the last three years trying to conceive with her husband Geoffrey Wigdor. Their journey has including five pregnancy losses and four rounds of IVF, or when an egg and sperm are mixed in a lab before a resulting embryo is frozen or implanted directly in the uterus.
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The experience has made Zaks an outspoken critic of the expense of fertility treatments, which she says make family-building unnecessarily “cost-prohibitive” and “exclusive.”
Specifically, she calls on employers like her own to offer coverage of such treatments as a part of their healthcare benefits.
“I gave my baby-making years to SoulCycle — I gave those years to building a successful career,” Zaks told host Andrea Syrtash on the most recent Pregnantish podcast. “And now I’m in need of their help, and I am not getting it.”
SoulCycle did not respond to Insider’s request for comment.
Before trying to get pregnant at age 36 in 2018, Zaks and Wigdor underwent fertility and genetic testing. The results indicated all was well. “I honestly thought we would conceive within a few months,” Zaks told Syrtash.
Instead, it took more than a year, and that first pregnancy wasn’t viable. When the couple turned to IVF and got pregnant right away, Zaks thought their struggles were over. But she lost that pregnancy at about seven weeks. The next pregnancy, created from one of the couple’s frozen embryos, lasted just over eight weeks.
Learning of the third loss “was like an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ moment of falling down through the table,” Zaks said. “I felt like my world was coming to an end.”
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Zaks got pregnant again naturally in January 2021. That too ended in miscarriage. Now she’s now completed her fourth embryo transfer and is praying it sticks.
“At this point, the rose-colored glasses have been shattered, and I don’t care how I get my baby, whether it’s via surrogate or me,” she said on “Pregnantish.” “I’m just ready to be mom.”
Zaks’ experience has sparked her to speak out against what she says are the unnecessary costs of fertility treatments.
“It ends up making it about ‘can you afford to have a baby?’ versus ‘can you go through the emotional and physical trauma?'” she said.
The average cost of a single IVF cycle is $23,000, and the average couple will undergo multiple cycles, according to data collected by FertilityIQ. Egg freezing costs, medications, and tests can add tens of thousands more to the price tag. The procedures aren’t cutting-edge; the costs reflect spotty insurance coverage, CNBC reported.
“I have to call a spade a spade: They are playing on our desperation,” Zaks said. While she said she’s worked with some wonderful doctors, “there are people out there who are 100% playing on our emotions and overcharging for things that they they shouldn’t be.”
Zaks implicated employers too, saying they shouldn’t accept the status quo of companies not providing fertility coverage. “Like the company I work for: SoulCycle,” she said. “Sorry to call you out, guys, but I have to.” She said that the fitness industry should be especially compelled to support this aspect of her health.
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More companies are offering fertility benefits, with the number of companies with more than 500 employees offering it rising from 24% in 2015 to 27% in 2020, according to Resolve: The National Infertility Association. SoulCycle has more than 1,000 employees.
Apple and Facebook were early to offer up to $20,000 worth of egg-freezing costs, while Snapchat, Salesforce, and Spotify cover some surrogacy costs, according to the BBC. Other companies offer a lifetime cap for fertility treatments, ranging from $12,000 at Hootsuite to $50,000 at A&E.
The specifics of SoulCycle’s health benefits aren’t public, and reviews of the company’s benefits on Glassdoor don’t include anything fertility-related.
Zaks said she loves SoulCycle more than “most things in this world.”
“But they really need to fix the insurance that we have because it just doesn’t make sense.”