For one in six couples in America, the simple joy of childbearing is anything but easy, but with the help of fertility expert Mindy Berkson, would-be parents around Greenwich — and the globe — are realizing their dreams of becoming parents through surrogacy arrangements.
With well over a decade of experience in the fertility consulting business, Ms. Berkson, who is currently focusing her practice in Connecticut, told the Post it’s hard to believe her career began in venture capital and that she would eventually dedicate her life to helping parents who struggle with conceiving a child. The transition, Ms. Berkson said, began after the arrival of her firstborn, when she tried to conceive for a second time and discovered that she was unable to do so.
She said she “spent the next three and a half years stymied by how overwhelming” the process of navigating alternative fertility options was. With virtually no resources to tap into and no concept of what questions to ask about her options, Ms. Berkson felt lost, she said. But after successfully bearing twins, she set out on a mission to change the industry, founding one of the first fertility consultancies in the country — Lotus Blossom Consulting.
Today, more than seven million couples in the United States alone suffer from infertility, and numbers are on the rise as more people delay having children to focus on careers, gain financial stability or find the right significant other, Ms. Berkson said. Additionally, women who have undergone certain cancer treatments often end up with a compromised uterus or become infertile. Furthermore, by the time a healthy woman reaches the age of 30, more than 90% of the eggs in her body have been depleted.
The numbers can seem overwhelming, but there is hope for those who can’t conceive, especially in the form of surrogacy, Ms. Berkson said.
In 2008, she wrote a business plan to expand her business internationally, and today, 30% of her clients are from countries outside the United States. Working with clients in Connecticut, however, has become a priority, Ms. Berkson said, and that has brought her into Greenwich, where her help has been welcomed by grateful patients.
Each state, and even specific counties, throughout the country have their own legal issues surrounding fertility treatments, especially when using an egg or sperm donor, which involves working with DNA, she said. However, Ms. Berkson said, Connecticut welcomes a growing number of people from nearby states to pursue surrogacy, particularly from New York and New Jersey, where the legal environment prohibits certain treatment options like surrogacy arrangements.
These arrangements are readily available in Connecticut, along with other fertility treatment options, which are more affordable thanks to the state’s mandate requiring insurance companies to help cover treatment costs, she said. Nevertheless, for many couples, the process comes with a heavy load financially, legally and emotionally. That’s where Ms. Berkson comes in.
As a fertility consultant, Ms. Berkson is an advocate for the patient — a luxury she did not have when she struggled with infertility herself. For each prospective parent or set of parents, Ms. Berkson said, she orchestrates a full team of professionals that specifically suit the client’s needs and preferences, while simultaneously arming clients with the appropriate questions to ask. She works with agencies all over the country to “put the puzzle pieces together” for intended parents and arranges an unbiased team of professionals to help them solidify the process, she said.
Often an important part of those teams, Ms. Berkson said, are mental health professionals. Many heterosexual women endure heavy emotional stress while traversing the surrogacy process, she said. The idea of a mother giving up a biological connection with her child is “a grieving process that takes time and depth” for many intended parents, she added. Accordingly, Ms. Berkson said, finding an egg donor or surrogate that closely matches a mother or couple’s wishes regarding their child’s physical appearance is part of the help she provides as a fertility consultant.
Another important part of Ms. Berkson’s role is helping an intended parent or parents with estate planning, as that is what will protect them the most, she said. Working with attorneys and financial experts around the country, Ms. Berkson ensures that a parent or couple’s name appears on the child’s birth certificate — the “ultimate goal” in a surrogacy arrangement, she said.
Ms. Berkson said she has had the pleasure of serving as a fertility consultant for several gay and straight couples in Greenwich, and plenty more around the state and the world. However, surrogacy is not always the best option for prospective parents, she said. The most important thing, she said, is for intended parents to get themselves a solid education on fertility options so they may make the best medical choice for their specific situation. “There’s no cookie cutter consultation,” she said.
Women who are getting married and having families later in life should evaluate all of their options, Ms. Berkson said. “It’s so important for women to understand their actions,” she said.
For example, she said, if a woman knows she will delay childbearing, she should consider storing some of her eggs in a bank until she is ready or putting an insurance policy in place that ensures she’ll have the funding for fertility treatment in the future.
Whatever an individual or couple’s situation, Ms. Berkson said, working as a fertility consultant has been a “positive, rewarding experience” all around. She works closely with Michael Doyle, the doctor who founded CT Fertility, and Ms. Berkson said the duo makes a “phenomenal team” that looks forward to helping many more individuals and couples in Connecticut achieve their dream of becoming parents.
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