Advocate Spotlight: Leyla Bilali of Fertility Together
Advocate Spotlight: Leyla Bilali of Fertility Together
This nurse wanted to make infertility care more personal. So, she started a side business that does just that.
Even with the support of a great doctor, partner, family, and friends, the day-to-day grind of infertility treatment can make any woman feel isolated. Leyla Bilali wants to help change that. A registered nurse at one of New York’s top fertility clinics (Reproductive Medicine Associates of New York), in 2017, Leyla founded Fertility Together, a personalized concierge-style service that offers women the guidance and wisdom of a medical professional whenever — and wherever — they need it. We sat down with Leyla to learn more about what inspired her to start this service, and tips she has for women everywhere as they start the treatment process.
Celmatix: You started out as a pediatric nurse. What was it that drew you towards working with women experiencing infertility?
Leyla: I started as a pediatric nurse at the very beginning of my career. I loved it, but I realized that if I stayed, it would become my only work experience and I wouldn’t necessarily learn anything new. My work at Reproductive Medicine Associates of New York fell into my lap. I was looking to develop a whole new skillset, and originally I had applied to work in the recovery room. After I interviewed, the nurse manager must have felt that my vibe would be better suited to being an IVF nurse.
I didn’t know anything about the fertility world going in, but it turned out I had a knack for it, and eventually it turned into a real passion.
Celmatix: What inspired you to found Fertility Together? What gap does it fill/problem does it solve?
Leyla: One of the most common things women going through infertility treatment want help with is with injections, especially for many of our patients who don’t have partners or just aren’t comfortable doing it themselves. I had one patient for whom I did three or four cycles of daily injections, and she had been texting me all the time. One day she suggested I turn it into a business. I looked into it, and was shocked to see that in the New York City/tri-state area, where we have concierge-everything, the kind of service I was offering didn’t already exist.
Since launch, virtually everyone I’ve told about Fertility Together says they wish they’d had access to the service when they went through treatment.
In the big fertility clinics, we’re so lucky to offer such great care, but the fact is, with such a high volume of patients, there isn’t much capacity to personalize it.
And people need to feel like it’s personalized, not just a factory.
Celmatix: What are some of the most in-demand services Fertility Together offers?
Leyla: Injections are certainly popular. I’d say the most popular is the on-call service, where you pay a monthly fee, then patients have unlimited access to me. We can FaceTime, text, whatever they’re most comfortable with. They can ask questions like “Am I mixing this medication correctly?” and I get a response to them in 5–10 minutes.
One important thing that many people neglect is the consent forms. Because I have my notary, I can sign the consent forms with my clients. It’s incredible to me how many people don’t read those forms — you could be consenting to discarding your embryos, or deciding who you’re leaving them to in the event of unlikely death. It’s important to really consider those.
Celmatix: You have a number of great testimonials on the Fertility Together website. Can you think of a specific instance where Fertility Together made a big difference for a woman or couple in their fertility journey?
Leyla: One of the most poignant examples that comes to mind was a very young couple, she was 29 and he’s 31, and they had just learned that they needed to use a gestational carrier. To hear that at that age is just devastating. I met her at an event, and she was hysterical. So, I walked her through the gestational carrier process, and we talked through what it means to have a child. After that, I got to witness the change in how she felt about it, from the emails I received after they selected the gestational carrier, to the joy of delivery.
I love watching the way people’s emotions can flip, from the sadness they feel at being told they need an egg donor, for example, through the acceptance and happiness they come to experience.
And I’d say meeting the babies afterward is my absolute favorite part of the job.
I’m actually pregnant right now. I’m due in April, and I think it’s very interesting being on the other side. For those of us who work in the infertility field, we can think we’re untouchable. I thought it would happen so quickly once we started trying, but that wasn’t the case. Being on the other side gives you a new level of empathy. Working there, we’re so jaded. We think these injections are nothing. But when you go through it, it’s totally different. It’s going to be a whole other learning curve, and I’m looking forward to that.
Celmatix: What’s one thing you wish women knew about infertility and/or the process of undergoing infertility treatment?
Leyla: I wish that women knew what they could be facing when they were much younger. I wish that when women went to the OB-GYN for their annual at age 26 or 27, their doctors would open up the conversation about their fertility. It doesn’t have to be in a fearful way, but an educational way.
I participated in a health event in Hoboken a month ago, and it was funny; young women would come to my table because it was pretty, pink, and girly, but then once they learned what I did, they turned away thinking “I don’t need that.” At their age, I didn’t think that either, but when I started working in the field, I wished I’d had that education sooner.
Celmatix: Are there resources that you would recommend for women outside the tri-state area who are interested in services like those offered by Fertility Together?
Leyla: Through Fertility Together, I offer virtual consulting as well. I have clients in places like Bermuda and Los Angeles. A lot of it can be done virtually, but of course, if you want someone to come to help with injections, for example, you can find a nursing service to do that.
There are many infertility coaches out there, in many different cities. RESOLVE has them listed by geographic area, which is incredibly helpful.
One thing to look out for is that there are infertility coaches out there who are gimmicky and expensive. I would tread with caution when working with someone outside the medical field for anything related to your health, but even these coaches could provide good emotional support.