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Shelley Bailey Is Bringing Accessible Fertility Care to All

In August, Veracity is celebrating our inaugural Hormone Health Awareness Month. Join the conversation at one of our virtual panel discussions throughout the month and post on social using the hashtag #ItsYourHormones.

After struggling to conceive, Shelley Bailey became interested in the role hormone imbalances play in infertility. Bailey is now the mother of two and is dedicated to helping other women have access to at-home fertility hormone testing and treatment through her company, Famlee.

I spent 20 years in the specialty pharmacy industry. My partner and I owned a pharmacy that focused on serving people with HIV and Hepatitis C. When I was 33, we decided we were ready to start a family. After trying to conceive for 10 months, my doctor said, “You should go straight to IVF since you’re considered geriatric.” I had a great ob-gyn, and I am really thankful that she straight up said, “I don't do fertility, so I want to send you to an REI (reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialist).” 

I remember being stressed about the economic toll of fertility treatment and feeling like I was broken. I couldn’t help thinking, “What's wrong with me?” IVF is a wonderful tool that I whole-heartedly support – at Famlee, we regularly refer clients to IVF if we can't help someone get pregnant. But personally, I felt like there had to be something else I could do before going straight into this intense procedure after only 10 months of trying. 

I thought, “I'm pretty healthy generally, so why don't we try to figure out if something else is really going on first?” I started working with a functional medicine doctor, who reminded me that when you work 100 hours a week – or have high stress for whatever reason – you mess up your hormones. I did blood testing and discovered that several of my hormones were imbalanced and that I wasn’t ovulating regularly.

I should have known better about the role stress plays in disrupting fertility given my background in healthcare, but I overlooked this as I was focusing on improving the lives of my patients and not on my own personal health. I had a business working with people with complex health conditions and being stressed was just my normal. I totally underestimated how much stress I was living with – how much most of us are living with on a daily basis – and how that impacts not just fertility, but also many health conditions. It was fascinating to realize that you can really change your health by how you think and how you work and how you sleep and all those things. 

Working with a functional doctor was such an empowering experience. I felt like someone was really listening to me. She made everything seem logical – that there were ways to test and treat my hormonal issues. I found out that my testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, vitamin D, and thyroid hormones were all very low. I took a break from trying to conceive for 90 days to try to balance my own hormones, which I did using affordable, generic medications and lifestyle changes. After that three-month break, I conceived the first month we started trying again. I now have a toddler and a five-month-old! 

I sold my pharmacy in January 2018, so I had a little more time on my hands while I was pregnant. During that time, my best friend had seven pregnancy losses. I kept telling her, “I really have a hunch that you need to dive more into what’s going on with your progesterone.” I would buy her at-home lab tests from different companies to try. She would take her lab results to her ob-gyn, and they would say, “Oh, they look fine. Your progesterone is fine.” But the reality was, it wasn't fine for optimal fertility. 

I finally convinced her to work with my functional doctor, who agreed that her progesterone was way too low to support a healthy pregnancy. As soon as my friend supplemented, she was able to get pregnant again and now her daughter is a year-and-a-half. She was the first of many friends I sent to that doctor. 

But, obviously, one doctor can only help so many people. I started thinking that I should use my healthcare background and my connections to try to open affordable access to this kind of care to more families. At the end of 2020, I got serious about this mission.

I'm a fan of knowing more about your body, and I really leaned on my background in HIV care where you can't use labs to give someone a positive diagnosis and then just send them on their way. Legally and ethically, you have to provide care and treatment. I thought, why are there so many companies giving lab results to women related to their fertility, but not linking those results to care and treatment? I wanted to work on that piece of the puzzle. That’s how Famlee was born.

Famlee is a virtual fertility telehealth treatment company. We provide at-home labs, fertility telehealth, and Rx delivery. Many women choose to work with us before they pursue IVF. We test for 13 hormones to look at whole-body health as well as reproductive health. Then, our team works with our patients on both medications and lifestyle changes that can help them based on their results. In certain cases, we may step back and say, “Okay, maybe you will still need to pursue IVF or IUI.” But even in those cases, we will still work with those women to get them as healthy as possible so that, if they are making the investment in IVF, they feel confident that they did everything they could to prepare themselves for the costly and grueling process.  We offer our services direct-to-consumer as well as partner with companies as an affordable step-therapy solution before IVF. 

The entrepreneur journey is really hard, but when you get emails from strangers who send you photos of their ultrasounds – women who become like part of your extended family – it's really rewarding. I hope we can open access to fertility care to as many women as possible and that we're able to help them develop the foundation for the healthiest pregnancy possible.

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