This Founder Created A Platform To Help With Infertility, Now That Work May Help Address The Global Population Crisis

Andrea Syrtash started her career as a relationship expert. She wrote two bestselling books, appeared in countless media interviews and was known through most of her career for offering relationship advice. Then, after a decade-long bout with infertility and eventually having her daughter via surrogacy, she created pregnantish, the first media and patient advocacy platform dedicated to infertility and modern family building.

Five years in, Syrtash started to notice a new issue bubbling up. Drawing on her decades of relationship expertise and the anecdotes coming from the pregnantish community, she kept hearing how those seeking fertility treatment were having relationship issues – not with their partners, but with their fertility doctors, clinics and providers.

Syrtash suspected that this was a key issue holding patients back from continuing their fertility journey. The lack of trust they were having with providers was contributing to an overall negative sentiment during a time already wrought with emotion. All of this led to them making the decision to pause the process early on.

A survey of over a thousand patients proved Syrtash’s suspicion to be correct. In the study, “Why I left my Fertility Clinic for Another ART provider – It’s Not What You Think: A RealTalk Patient Survey,” 49% of patients pointed to a relationship-based theme for the reasons they left a provider, such as feeling like a number, not feeling heard, treatment not being tailored and more. In other words, people didn’t leave because of lack of efficacy, cost or access. Turns out, the relationship with their doctor or clinic mattered just as much if not more.

The research was submitted to ESHRE (The European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology), was accepted, and will be published in the Human Journal of Reproduction.

I spoke to Andrea about running a business centered on infertility over the past five years and the unexpected spaces she’s found herself in along the way.

Andrea Syrtash, pregnantish founder

Adrianna Favero

Amy Shoenthal: Take me back five years. How did you first come up with the idea for pregnantish?

Andrea Syrtash: I worked in media and publishing sharing relationship advice and I felt we were missing a major chapter of modern day relationships: when people want to have kid(s) and sex doesn’t make a baby. This affects all relationships – the relationship people have to friends, family, their partners, their dates and their own selves and bodies. I originally thought, and told my agent, it would be the topic of my next book. After losing another pregnancy at that time, I realized this was much bigger than a book and it needed to be a platform to educate, advocate and help people find community.

Shoenthal: What were some initial reactions from your extended community when you “came out” about your struggles with infertility?

Syrtash: I was blown away by the response. I first shared my story on Facebook with friends to say I was launching something I desperately craved – a site about infertility that didn’t live on a blog, that wasn’t clinical and dry on a medical site and that wasn’t on a parenting site, where I had to sift through babies to find my sad section. The post was shared so much that someone encouraged me to make it public. By the next morning I was called by Bravo, ABC News, NY Magazine, Toronto Star and more.

Shoenthal: What obstacles did you face while you were building the platform? How did you overcome them?

Syrtash: We launched way before we were ready. When I announced pregnantish for the first time, it was to say the platform was coming during National Infertility Awareness Week in April but we got so much attention that I had to hire people to keep up with the demand. I had done a small $50K pre-seed round in 2016 just to build the beta version of the site (with some video content and premium content I had promised the audience.) My goal was to raise more once we learned more about what the audience needed.

But we never ended up raising more because we were up and running and cash flow positive right away. My approach has been to hire the best part time talent on contracts. Now I’m considering a seed round to build a full time superstar team.

Shoenthal: What has been the biggest surprise through five years of running pregnantish?

Syrtash: As we look back on five years we are still navigating the relationships. I never expected to educate healthcare providers or to use my relationship expertise to help with population growth.

Thanks to an educational grant from EMD Serono and CooperSurgical, we conducted a survey in 2019 to find out why people left their fertility clinics. The #1 reason? The relationship. As a long-time fertility treatment patient and a relationships author, this didn’t surprise me at all.

We worked with data scientists and a team of top fertility specialists as advisors, who helped us publish relationship guidelines and co-create a free educational workshop for healthcare providers. We united around a shared goal of using this data to improve the patient-provider relationship and ultimately improve patient retention.

I’m now working with Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany on a larger global initiative to support patients and providers worldwide. There’s a global fertility crisis in industrialized nations, which is essentially a population crisis. In many of these countries with declining population rates, governments are now funding fertility treatments, and yet, people are still dropping out. The pain point is so high. We know that infertility is an extremely stressful experience and if people don’t feel supported, they will drop out or move on to another provider.

With our deep network and insight on patients and providers, my professional background in relationships and my personal experience with infertility, I feel pregnantish can advocate for fertility treatment patients to feel more seen, heard and valued so that they are more likely to stay with a provider and for providers to get the necessary support they need as they’re also under tremendous stress. I’m so honored that the Merck team co-authored the abstract with us and saw this opportunity to help bridge the gap.

I also hope this research also helps providers. The issue isn’t solely on the people who offer this care. Fertility clinics are big business and the patients feel that. Fertility visits were reported as one of the most stressful events of their lives. The course (password: bighead) we created has scripts and a whole toolkit that offers ways to make better connections with their patients.

Shoenthal: Is this different from when you were going through your infertility experience?

Syrtash: Not really. When I was told I was about to lose my pregnancy, the first place a clinic sent me to was billing. Again, I don’t want to throw doctors under the bus, they are overloaded with demand. Everybody has the same goal. The ecosystem of what happens when you’re trying to create a science baby is fragile. If you don’t have the emotional and relational support during this incredibly stressful time, it’s going to fail.

Shoenthal: What’s your hope for the future of pregnantish?

Syrtash: When I started this, it was so disruptive. Everyone thought it was niche. But there’s nothing niche about 1 in 4 people who suffer from a pregnancy loss.

It’s projected that by 2100, hundreds of millions of people (some say 3% of the entire population!) may owe their lives to IVF or fertility treatments. The European Congress is publishing this research which shows what a global issue this truly is. If we do this right, we’re making connections globally to enable more patients to reach their goals and providers to make better connections with patients so they don’t drop out prematurely.

I don’t think we’ll single-handedly solve a population crisis, but I do feel our work here can ultimately support population growth.

I’ve always felt that if you don’t want to have a child or children, that’s perfectly fine. But, if you’re trying to build your family with the help of ART (Assisted Reproductive Technology), having a child is literally one of your highest goals and values.

If we can help those people feel more supported during this process, I think it’s a win for all.